Demetrious Johnson vs. Tim Elliott: A Head-to-Toe Breakdown
The Ultimate Fighter victor on Wednesday was Tim Elliott, and his prize is a shot at Demetrious Johnson's flyweight title on Saturday.
Johnson is the UFC's most dominant champion. He is one of the most well-rounded titleholders to date, and he has dispatched of almost every contender in the division without much issue. Elliott is a new challenge.
Elliott fought in the UFC prior to his stint on The Ultimate Fighter. He performed well but faltered against elite competitors like Joseph Benavidez. He was cut from the roster and improved on the regional circuit.
Saturday is his chance. A tournament victory has allowed him to jump the line for a title shot. Does he pull a Matt Serra and shock everyone, or does Johnson show why he's the best pound-for-pound fighter in the world today?
Statistically, these two are equals. And that's where statistics can be misleading, because on a technique basis, they are anything but.
Elliott has a higher output of significant strikes landed and almost a matching defensive percentage (per FightMetric). But the video shows the discrepancy between the two.
Elliott has an odd style that is effective, but he doesn't have the technical acumen of Johnson. The technique Johnson brings into the cage allows him to not only be effective, but to finish his opponents systematically. Ask Henry Cejudo or Benavidez.
Johnson finished both of those top contenders violently. He put Benavidez to sleep with punches and doubled over Cejudo with knees. He has a full arsenal of punches, kicks, elbows and knees. He can finish with any of them.
Elliott's high-pressure style may give him a small chance early as Johnson tries to figure it out, but once Johnson finds a hole or two, it's a wrap.
Because of his wealth of techniques, wrestling isn't the first thing that comes to mind when you think of Johnson. But it is one of his best attributes.
Elliott is a former high school state champion and collegiate wrestler. He has quality skills that have transitioned well to the Octagon.
Is this a battle of equals? No.
Johnson has demonstrated his ability to defend and recover quickly against Cejudo, the top wrestler in the division. He has also outgrappled other top wrestlers, such as Benavidez and John Dodson. In his last five defenses, he has a 19-5 takedown ratio.
Elliott is a decent grappler, but Johnson is simply better at applying his grappling skills to MMA—much better.
Another category goes to the champ.
Elliott has shown off some submission skills during his career, but he has never been successful with them inside the Octagon. Johnson has.
Johnson has defended his title three times via submission.
Elliott would have to surprise Johnson with a quick guillotine or have him hurt before finding another submission. That may be the only shot he has to make the champion tap on Saturday. If this fight ends with someone tapping out, there's a much greater chance it's Elliott than Johnson.
Elliott's X-Factor: Surprise
Elliott left the UFC after three consecutive losses but rebounded with three wins on the regional scene. He showed sustained progress and continued to show it on The Ultimate Fighter.
Elliott is a very good fighter, but this is a whole new challenge. To win, he'll have to surprise Johnson in some way. A takedown attempt out of nowhere, a flying knee or a sudden guillotine. Something has to come from nowhere to pull off the upset.
He's capable, but it's a tall order.
Johnson's X-Factor: Not Overlooking Elliott
It's not likely Johnson will fall into this trap, but it's still a possibility. It happened to Georges St-Pierre against Matt Serra. It has happened to many fighters fighting down in competition.
Johnson will probably not overlook Elliott, but he may think it's the right time to try out new things inside the Octagon. He cannot get careless.
As long as he treats Elliott like another top contender, it's difficult to envision Johnson losing his belt.
He is the champion for a reason, folks. He is the pound-for-pound best fighter on the planet.
Elliott will make things interesting with his unique style, but he won't threaten Johnson in any meaningful way. This will be a look at how long it takes Johnson to figure out Elliott's weaknesses and then exploit them.
It shouldn't take more than three minutes.
Johnson will break Elliott down and finish him in the championship rounds. Elliott is a fantastic fighter, but he isn't elite. He sits just outside that grouping. Johnson will prove it by dominating a game Elliott from bell-to-bell.
Prediction: Johnson def. Elliott via submission (armbar) in the fourth round