Demetrious Johnson looked like the epitome of the word dominant when he defeated Ali Bagautinov at UFC 174. Commentators Joe Rogan and Mike Goldberg spoke in awe of the champion's speed, technique and skill as he controlled nearly every aspect of the fight.
The UFC has Johnson sitting as the fourth-best pound-for-pound fighter in the sport, but the question has come up whether or not he has what it takes to be considered the best in MMA.
“Mighty Mouse” has continued to look light-years ahead of every other man in the flyweight division. His victory over Ali gave him his four straight title defenses since capturing the belt in September 2012. Each time he wins, he's demonstrated a level of improvement that others have yet to match. It's this continued separation that makes Johnson's reign as champion quite different from the other titleholders within the UFC.
Since becoming the UFC's first flyweight champion, Johnson has flown under the radar. He was originally tucked away on the UFC's free televised events on the Fox platform. It seemed that he was charged with leading a weight class that was struggling to catch the mainstream fan's attention. Johnson answered the call by solidifying himself as one of the best titleholders in the organization.
In four title defenses, “Mighty Mouse” has shown continuous leaps toward becoming a complete fighter. According to Fight Metric, the flyweight champion has landed more significant strikes than any opponent he's faced.
Yet, what is more interesting is the way he's surpassed that point as champion. In his five title bouts, Demetrious has nearly doubled his opponents' striking output. Many of these fights have gone into the fifth round, where Johnson looks like he's as fresh as he was in the first.
Another area of interest when speaking about Johnson is his new determination to finish opponents. Leading up to his fight against Bagautinov, Johnson talked freely about stopping challengers.
“I did it with the best fighters in the world,” Johnson was quoted as saying by Brent Brookhouse of Bloody Elbow. “Joseph, he'd never been finished. I ended up knocking him out. John Moraga, he'd never been finished. I ended up submitting him.”
Many fans have complained that some champions begin to “fight safe” to protect the title rather than entertain. Johnson is going in the exact opposite direction. Against Moraga, he had the fight secured on the scorecards but still locked in the fifth-round armbar.
Bagautinov was in the same position, but that didn't stop Demetrious from taking risks in an attempt to finish him. Johnson's fighting style should be appreciated by the fans who dislike those that don't throw caution to the wind.
The UFC has Johnson currently sitting in the fourth position in the promotion's pound-for-pound rankings. While these opinions are merely just that, it's interesting to see the development of arguments that will consider DJ the best in the sport. Demetrious Johnson may only be 5'3" and fight at 125 pounds, but he's setting himself apart as the potential pound-for-pound king of mixed martial arts.