Demetrious "Mighty Mouse" Johnson looks to defend his title for the fourth consecutive time on Saturday night in Vancouver, Canada's UFC 174 main event, but this one won't come easy against Ali Bagautinov.
The Russian fighter has only three UFC showings to his name but won all of them convincingly. The 29-year-old hasn't lost a fight since 2011 and has been turning heads ever since his UFC debut in 2013.
Meanwhile, the 27-year-old Johnson has been dominating his opponents as of late. He knocked out Joseph Benavidez in December 2013 just two minutes into the first round.
Let's break down the upcoming flyweight championship bout between Johnson and Bagautinov.
When: Saturday, June 14
Where: Rogers Arena; Vancouver, Canada
Start Time: 8 p.m. ET (preliminaries), 10 p.m. ET (main card)
TV: FX (preliminaries), pay-per-view (main card)
Johnson vs. Bagautinov Preview
It's not all smiles for both fighters heading into Saturday's title fight, as UFC captures:
Sure, Johnson enters the weekend as a massive favorite over Bagautinov, as told by a line as high as minus-600, per OddsShark.com. The champion is getting better and better each time he enters the Octagon, and that's unlikely to change Saturday night.
But with few challenges left in the flyweight division, Johnson's next task could be the toughest one he faces before he explores another division or rematches an opponent he's already beaten.
Bagautinov is somewhat of a mystery man, as he's only fought in three bouts in the UFC and two in North America. But every appearance has been captivating. From a technical knockout of Marcos Vinicius to a recent unanimous-decision win over John Lineker, he has put his talents on display plenty of times.
But when in doubt, Johnson has no problem relying on his elite speed and ability to outhustle opponents, per Fightline.com's Dana Becker, via UFC Tonight: “He looks like a very durable guy. If I need to beat him up for 25 minutes, I will. The speed advantage, that’s what I’m known for.”
Bagautinov makes his opponents pay by sitting back and attacking on the counter, but that likely won't be an option against Johnson, who is undoubtedly the fastest fighter in the flyweight division. That will force the Russian out of his comfort zone, and Johnson will be keen on taking advantage.
Plus, the champ has a big advantage in title-fight experience. Bagautinov has only seen four of his fights go to three rounds and has never competed in a five-round affair. Meanwhile, Johnson has seen four fights go the full five rounds.
For Bagautinov to pull off the shocker and come away with the title belt, it will take something we haven't seen from the Russian. It will also take something we haven't seen happen against Johnson in years—an opponent truly proving to be a serious test.