Ranking Demetrious Johnson’s top-5 UFC title defenses

Demetrious Johnson reacts after defeating Tim Elliott during a mixed martial arts flyweight bout Saturday, Dec. 3, 2016, in Las Vegas. (AP Photo/John Locher)
(AP Photo/John Locher)

After years of believing that nobody but Jon Jones would ever come close to Anderson Silva’s seemingly untouchable record for consecutive UFC title defenses, Demetrious Johnson has arrived. The greatest flyweight fighter the world has ever known, and the only 125-pound champion the UFC has ever seen, Johnson is without peers in his native weight class.

He’s embarking upon his 11th consecutive defense as UFC flyweight champion, hoping to put Silva’s record in the rearview mirror with a victory over Ray Borg in the main event at UFC 215 on Saturday. A win over Borg wouldn’t just give Johnson the record, it would also earn him a win over six out of the top-10 contenders in the flyweight division (and seven out of the top 11, had John Dodson not fled back to bantamweight).

Currently with 10 straight wins as champion, we take a look back at the top victories among his near-historic reign.

5. Demetrious Johnson vs. Tim Elliott 

There wasn’t much going for Elliott in his title shot against Johnson in late 2016. He’d enjoyed a great deal of success on The Ultimate Fighter” to earn a shot at the champion, based on the irregular set of rules placed upon that season of the UFC’s reality show. But he wasn’t necessarily the prototypical opponent to give Johnson issues inside the cage.

But after one round of action, we realized how wrong we were — even if our predictions were only in turmoil for a period of five minutes. It turned out that Elliott’s size, combined with his awkward, Dominick Cruz-esque footwork, did give Johnson some issue, providing some flashbacks to the last time Johnson lost a bout in MMA (ironically, against Cruz himself).

That was about as much success as Elliott would have, though, ceding the remaining four rounds to the champion, who simply adjusted his game plan a bit to eliminate his latest target at the time. Equipped with the better cardio of the two, Johnson did away with the biggest title challenger of his dominant UFC run, proving that opponents would need more than sheer size to force the champion to relinquish his crown.

4. Demetrious Johnson vs. Kyoji Horiguchi

Horiguchi is undoubtedly one of the best fighters in this division, and certainly could have fared better in a rematch against Johnson had he stuck around in the UFC long enough to receive one. The Japanese fighter was just 24 when he first met Johnson, and still had a ways to go before he could hone his craft well enough to contend with arguably the greatest fighter of all time.

He took his chances anyway, unable to do much along the way.

Horiguchi landed just 31 significant strikes to Johnson’s 66 (61 to 149 in all) over the course of the fight, failing to connect with the sort of power that’s netted him a fairly impressive 50-percent knockout ratio as a flyweight in MMA. Horiguchi’s biggest issue, however, was the fact that he couldn’t do much to stop Johnson from controlling where this fight would take place. Mighty Mouse” secured a total of 14 takedowns throughout the fight, keeping Horiguchi on his back for a majority of the contest.

In defeating Horiguchi, Johnson set a record no other fighter will ever be able to break, submitting his opponent at the 4:59 mark of the final round to net the latest stoppage victory in UFC history.

3. Demetrious Johnson vs. Wilson Reis

For the first time in a while for Johnson, the flyweight champion was tasked with taking on a specialist inside the cage. Reis, while being a fairly well-rounded fighter, is known for his penchant for the submission arts. A Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt who stands tall among other black belts in the craft, Reis was essentially given the grappling form of a puncher’s chance against Johnson. Should he get to the fight to the ground, things would have been interesting. Should he fail to do so, well, you know …

Johnson fought intelligently that night, avoiding all of Reis’ grappling invitations. He went six for six in takedown defenses, out-landing the Alliance MMA fighter 108 to 16 in significant strikes over the course of nearly three full rounds.

And just when we thought Johnson would drag Reis into the deep waters of the championship rounds and force him to quit on the feet, he finally dropped his hips and went to the canvas to join the grappling specialist on the mat. He peppered Reis some more, before becoming the first man to submit the BJJ black belt inside of mixed martial arts competition. It was as stunning a victory as it was impressive, sending a clear message to the rest of the division: Have more than one tool if you want to win, otherwise he’ll use that tool to defeat you altogether.

2. Demetrious Johnson vs. Joseph Benavidez II 

In many ways, Benavidez is still seen as the greatest threat to Johnson’s flyweight throne. And that should say a lot about the state of the division, considering how soundly the champion defended his title in a rematch with Benavidez just a little over a year removed from their original dance inside the cage.

Johnson vs. Benavidez I, the bout that ultimately crowned the UFC’s inaugural flyweight champion in 2012, resulted in a split-decision win for Johnson. It was a fairly closely contested fight, but not nearly as close as a split verdict would lead one to believe. Johnson won that fight, but did leave a tinge of doubt as to whether Benavidez could succeed in reaching the mountaintop with a second try. After three straight wins featuring two dominant T/KO finishes, Benavidez got the championship rematch he was after.

It didn’t go nearly as well as he would’ve hoped.

Johnson, believed by many to lack any sort of knockout power at 125 pounds, clipped Benavidez with a perfectly placed right hook that put him out just 2 minutes, 8 seconds into the bout.

1. Demetrious Johnson vs. Henry Cejudo

After storming his way through just about every viable contender in the flyweight division, Johnson was supposed to be facing his toughest test to date in Cejudo, the  undefeated former Olympic gold medalist. Cejudo hadn’t quite starched every other contender in his path upon reaching a title shot, but he was believed to have some of the necessary tools to give Johnson a difficult night inside the Octagon.

Wrong. Very, very wrong.

Cejudo did manage to secure an early takedown against Johnson, but Mighty Mouse” popped right back up to essentially nullify one of the strongest assets the undefeated wrestler brought to the table. Then came the clinch, another area Cejudo was expected to excel in against a well-rounded champion. But after just a few moments featuring the two fighters in close quarters, Johnson landed a vicious knee that sent Cejudo crumbling down to the canvas.

It took Johnson just under three minutes to hand Cejudo his first career loss.

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