Demetrious Johnson's Armbar Was Crazy, but to Be GOAT He Needs New Challenges

Chad Dundas@@chaddundasMMA Lead WriterOctober 8, 2017

LAS VEGAS, NV - OCTOBER 07:   Demetrious Johnson secures an arm bar submission against Ray Borg in their UFC flyweight championship bout during the UFC 216 event inside T-Mobile Arena on October 7, 2017 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC/Zuffa LLC via Getty Images)
Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC/Getty Images

Demetrious Johnson's quest for history was finally realized Saturday at UFC 216.

As usual, he made it look easy.

Johnson systematically demolished the overmatched Ray Borg in their co-main event fight at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, securing a one-of-a-kind flying armbar three minutes, 15 seconds into the final round.

The win boosted Johnson past Anderson Silva for most consecutive title defenses in UFC history, at 11, and reinvigorated the discussion about whether he may already be the greatest MMA fighter of all time.

As a cherry on top, Johnson also pulled off one of the most impressive finishing sequences ever seen in the Octagon.

With roughly three minutes gone in the fifth round, the champion slipped behind Borg and tossed him in the air as if trying to take him down with suplex. As Borg came back to earth, Johnson slung his legs over the challenger's shoulders and locked up the arm bar.

Borg tried to fight through the pain and escape, but finally tapped out and conceded the win—and history—to Johnson.

"I'm not in the business of getting hit and taking concussions," Johnson told UFC color commentator Joe Rogan in the cage when it was over. "That s--t's way overrated, I'm telling you. I'm the business of getting in here and making a fool of you, throwing you in the air like a bag of potatoes, throwing you down between my legs and breaking your arm."

We've never seen a fighter quite like Mighty Mouse in the UFC.

Johnson is too good for any other flyweight to handle. He's so technically flawless, so well-rounded and so smooth that he's made child's play out of picking off the division's top contenders one by one since winning the belt in 2012.

Johnson already has many observers convinced he's the best to ever lace four-ounce gloves. If anything, however, his dominant performance against Borg—and the unorthodox way he ended the fight—only underscored the problem with his all-time great title reign.

Perhaps partly because he faces no close competition, Johnson has toiled in relative obscurity while surpassing Silva for sheer number of consecutive championship defenses. 

As the Octagon's smallest male titlist (5'3", 125 lbs), he hasn't connected with a large portion of the UFC audience. Hardcore fans celebrate his fights, but they typically fetch mediocre TV ratings and poor pay-per-view buyrates.

Dana White puts the belt on Demetrious Johnson...again.
Dana White puts the belt on Demetrious Johnson...again.Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC/Getty Images

Even as he broke Silva's record Saturday, Johnson did it as the co-main event in support of Tony Ferguson and Kevin Lee's scrap for the interim lightweight title.

If Johnson is ever going to convince his doubters he is the greatest and have a chance at locking down the popularity he deserves, he needs bigger challenges.

There has been talk that his next fight might be against the winner of the men's bantamweight title bout between Cody Garbrandt and TJ Dillashaw at UFC 217 next month. By all means, it's time for the UFC to book—and for Johnson to accept—that fight.

If not Garbrandt or Dillashaw, perhaps a rematch with former 135-pound champion Dominick Cruz would be in order. It was Cruz, after all, who handed Johnson his most recent professional loss, back in 2011 when Mighty Mouse was still fighting at 135 pounds.

It's time for Johnson to take on the biggest challenges he can find, even (maybe especially) if that means stepping outside the flyweight rat race. He's outgrown it, and it's time to book him in higher-profile matchups while he's still in his athletic prime.

Johnson takes Borg's back in their fight at UFC 216.
Johnson takes Borg's back in their fight at UFC 216.Brandon Magnus/Zuffa LLC/Getty Images

Even this victory over Borg seemed to come at a cost for Johnson, as it took longer than first planned for him to pass Silva on the all-time title-defense list.

Johnson and Borg were originally scheduled to square off at UFC 215 in September, but Borg withdrew during fight week due to medical reasons. The bout had to be rescheduled for four weeks later at UFC 216.

Meanwhile, Johnson's relationship with the UFC appeared strained during the lead-up to this bout. He clashed with UFC President Dana White while trying to find an opponent. UFC brass wanted Johnson to fight Dillashaw, but the champion insisted on breaking the consecutive title-defense record against a bona fide member of the flyweight class.

Now that Borg has been dispatched, there's no reason to put it off any longer.

Johnson lands an elbow on Borg.
Johnson lands an elbow on Borg.Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC/Getty Images

Granted, 125-pound contenders Henry Cejudo and Sergio Pettis are scheduled to meet at UFC 218 on December 2. Barring an injury or other unforeseen complications, that bout will produce a worthy No. 1 contender in the flyweight division.

But Johnson just defeated Cejudo via first-round TKO in April 2016, and it seems impossible the 24-year-old Pettis could be ready to dethrone Johnson so early in his UFC career.

Either guy would be a fine next opponent for Johnson, but they lack the sizzle of a bout with Garbrandt or Dillashaw.

For now, Johnson has proved all he can by taking on the flyweight rank and file.

It's high time he and the UFC put their heads together and figure out how he can go big.

Or bigger, at least.

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