Demetrious "Mighty Mouse" Johnson is one of the most dominant champions in the UFC. He has ruled the flyweight division since its inception in 2012.
More impressively, he has gotten better with each bout. Most recently, he knocked out Joseph Benavidez in the first round of their rematch back in December 2013.
On Saturday at UFC 174 in Vancouver, British Columbia, Johnson will defend his title against Russian contender Ali Bagautinov.
The challenger brings a ton of power into the Octagon—as evidenced by his five wins via KO—and the weight of a nation's expectations on his shoulders.
When asked about what it was like to carry the Russian fighting banner in the UFC by E. Spencer Kyte of The Province, Bagautinov said:
“First and foremost, it’s a lot of responsibility. It’s a huge responsibility and I feel it — I want to do my best not to let down my supporters, my fans and I want them to enjoy when they watch us.”
Even though Bagautinov has put together a nice run in the UFC (3-0), one look at the odds, per OddsShark, and there's no doubt who the favorite is.
Facing such a skilled and dominant champion only makes the task of carrying the Russian flag all the more difficult for Bagautinov.
I know what it says in the headline of this article, but don't read this as an endorsement for the challenger in Saturday's main event.
Let's make it plain—Johnson can and should successfully defend his title, but that doesn't mean Bagautinov doesn't have a plan of attack that will give him the best chance for success.
Here's what the challenger must do to dethrone Mighty Mouse.
Pick His Spots
Johnson is perhaps the fastest man in the UFC. Bagautinov doesn't have a prayer of keeping pace with him step for step. He has to try and time the champion and attempt to disturb his rhythm.
This is obviously easier said than done—especially while attempting to defend against strikes—but it's imperative to Bagautinov's cause.
If he does find an opening during an exchange, he has to make his punches count. He doesn't figure to have a ton of opportunities.
Make it Ugly
If Bagautinov allows this fight to be fought pretty, he'll lose. Johnson's movements and agility are beautiful to watch. He's truly graceful in combat, but Bagautinov has to find a way to muck up the action.
Leg kicks, clinches, knees on the inside and double-leg takedowns are all potential strategies he could employ to control the identity of the fight.
The smoother the action, the bigger the lead Johnson will have on the scorecards.
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