The only UFC flyweight contender who could presumably beat Demetrious Johnson left the Octagon wearing a look of deep dejection Saturday night.
John Dodson is a gritty fighter, tough and fast and powerful. But even at his very best, he didn’t have enough.
It’s possible no one does. “Mighty Mouse” Johnson is arguably the best pound-for-pound fighter in MMA, so efficient and talented that it’s unlikely anyone – at least in the near future – can challenge his reign.
At UFC 191, he controlled the pace, pressed Dodson throughout and came away with his seventh consecutive title defense. Just business as usual.
“I wanted to make sure I pushed him and made him work, and now it’s on to the next one,” Johnson said. “I’ll go on to my eighth title defense; it’s just another fight. I’ll beat that guy, then it’s nine, 10, 11, 12, 500. It’s just another fight.”
It seems that way. Johnson is now 23-2 and has nine consecutive wins. He has beaten his two closest rivals – Dodson and Joseph Benavidez – twice each. As UFC President Dana White said afterward, there will always be another contender waiting in the wings, but it doesn’t seem there is anyone capable of challenging Johnson.
“He looked unbelievable tonight,” White said. “Anyone who knows anything about the sport knows Dodson was the guy to fight him. But Demetrious Johnson dominated him. He absolutely destroyed him.”
It was very much a clinic. Dodson did a good job avoiding takedowns, but Johnson was still able to control the fight by pushing him against the cage and landing knees and punches while in clinches. Over five rounds, he wore down Dodson, who was beaten, bloodied and helpless.
At times, Johnson landed big right hands at will. Twice, he lifted Dodson off his feet and dropped him to the canvas. His face was unmarked.
After the final horn, Dodson raised his arms in hopeful triumph, but there was no doubt that Johnson had won easily. He led 50-45 on one judge’s scorecard, 49-46 on two others’.
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His only regret was an inability to end the fight early.
“My ultimate goal was to finish him,” he said. “I knew I had the cardio to finish him, but I just couldn’t get to that point.”
Dodson doesn’t want to be considered just another fighter in the flyweight class. He believes he can still earn his way back to a rematch, although White said it’s difficult for a fighter to get a third crack at a belt after losing twice. As proof, he pointed to Miesha Tate, who was passed over a title bout with Ronda Rousey after losing to her twice previously.
But Dodson still wants in, whatever it takes.
“I’m gonna come back stronger,” he said. “If Dana gives me the opportunity to go ahead and beat up a bunch of people that seem worthy of fighting Demetrious, I will do it and make sure I make another title run.”
Johnson will be there, waiting. Despite talk about moving up to bantamweight, he seems more intrigued by the notion of breaking the record of 10 title defenses set by Anderson Silva.
If he wants it, it’s doubtful anyone can stop him.
Michael Martinez is a longtime sports journalist and former staff writer at The New York Times, the San Jose Mercury News and FOX Sports. Follow him on Twitter at @ByMMartinez