Demetrious Johnson, flyweight champion and pound-for-pound king, had just failed Saturday night on a kimura and armbar attempt in the final minute of the fourth round.
Tim Elliott, once a UFC castaway-turned-Ultimate Fighter winner – in the midst of the title shot he earned by winning the show – spent the first 20 minutes of the fight giving the champ fits.
With just seconds left in the fourth round against a stubborn Johnson, Elliott scrambled back to his feet, determined to keep pestering “Mighty Mouse” for five more minutes.
And all Johnson could do was grin.
The champion was textbook Demetrious Johnson following a shocking first round that provided an entertaining twist in the unflappable champion’s ninth title defense: Elliott was winning.
The TUF winner came out and went right at Johnson. He had the champion in some trouble with a guillotine choke and then again when a left hook landed flush that stunned Johnson for a moment.
“The first round was a little tough. Tim Elliott is a little crazy animal,” Johnson said. “That’s what people have to do is try to get on me and try to smother me. There was nothing really in the fight that was actually going to hurt. All the stuff to the top of the head and to the side of the head don’t work.”
But in true Mighty Mouse fashion, Johnson brought the grind to Elliott and stifled the upstart challenger. Johnson is now one win away from matching Anderson Silva’s title defense record, and Elliott proved that the Octagon is exactly where he belongs.
These are The Ultimate Fighter Finale Talking Points
Johnson continues to show true greatness
It’s easy to appreciate athletes like Demetrious Johnson. It’s simple to take the great ones for granted when they deliver over and over again.
When Ronda Rousey faced her most arduous situation inside the Octagon vs. Holly Holm, she wasn’t able to adjust on the fly and adapt to the environment. That’s no knock on Ronda – the greatest women’s champion in MMA history.
It’s an example of why Johnson’s invincibility is so rare. He took it on the chin late in the first round and looked frustrated as he started to react to the energetic and awkward Elliott. But then something happened that occurs in every Johnson fight:
He went back to his corner, listened to his coach and executed a game plan that allowed him to dominate his opponent.
“I felt like after the first round everything was dominant,” Johnson said. “Tim is tough. He fights and he likes to push and I think sometimes as a champion you need to have those types of fights so you can show certain things. … I’m very satisfied with my performance tonight.”
Instant flyweight classic propels Benavidez to fitting fight
Joseph Benavidez has been on a trajectory for a third fight with Demetrious Johnson for a while now. He had won five in a row before extending that streak to six with a win over Henry Cejudo on Saturday in the co-main event.
While on the subject of that fight: Whenever those two can step back into the Octagon for (hopefully) five more rounds – it will be a great one. Cejudo showed he belongs among the elite of the division after taking it to Benavidez and even knocking him down in the first round. The two flyweights slung heavy punches and kicks for 15 minutes and it was the fans who emerged the real winners in that fight.
But it’s Benavidez who took the unanimous decision, placing him at the front of the line for another title shot against his longtime rival Johnson.
It’s the perfect fight for Benavidez, who has cleared out the division below the champion. And Johnson has beaten everybody in shouting distance as well, even going so far as to take out the fighter (Elliott) the UFC went outside of its ranks to find.
It would be fitting for Johnson to go for the record-tying title defense record against Benavidez and it sounds like both are game.
“I’ve said it in all my interviews so far - that’s the only fight I want,” Benavidez said. “People said I lost twice but me and Demetrious can fight a million times and that will be a million awesome competitions between two world class fighters. Let us go at it again.”
Matt Parrino is a digital producer and writer for UFC.com. Follow him on Twitter at @MattParrinoUFC