Demetrious “Mighty Mouse” Johnson has always been the forgotten man when it comes to UFC champions. Despite having more title defenses than all the other current titleholders combined, Mighty Mouse has always struggled to get the recognition he deserves. That could all change now, thanks to Tim Elliott.
Heading into the flyweight title clash at the finale for The Ultimate Fighter 24, it was easy for analysts and fans to discount Elliott’s chances. After all, Johnson has been so dominant for so long that he’d nearly wiped out the entire division. Elliott was getting the title shot by advancing through TUF 24, and while he’d had a good run through the Titan FC promotion, the amount of people giving him a chance of going past the first two rounds were minute.
However, Elliott came out and took it to the undisputed flyweight champ. The challenger put Mighty Mouse in a number of close calls, including momentarily stunning the champion with a hard punch. Outside of the few seconds Johnson looked in trouble against John Dodson, Elliott put the champion into some of the most dangerous predicaments of his title reign.
The rest of the fight played out with Elliott having a few moments of success, but Johnson controlled the flow of the fight by taking the title challenger to the mat. The ensuing scrambles on the ground showcased the immense talent of both champion and challenger. The fight ended as a unanimous decision victory for the UFC champion, but he also gained something much more valuable that night.
For so long, Johnson has been perceived as an unstoppable force inside the Octagon. His opponents have been unable to do much of anything during his title run, which made the UFC champ look as close to perfect as a fighter could be. Sure, there have been a few moments of trouble for Johnson, but overall the champ had reigned supreme inside the cage. And to be honest, it made his title run feel kind of stale.
Yes, Johnson is an amazing fighter. He is arguably the best pound-for-pound fighter in the game. Yet, his title fights had become afterthoughts. The result, a Johnson win, was considered a formality. However, the ability of Elliott, a fighter who many feel didn’t belong with Johnson in the cage beforehand, to take Johnson to the breaking point is exactly what the champ needed.
Johnson can throw out some quick hits in terms of headline-worthy quotes, but it’s nothing that makes fans want to see him lose. Hell, his life is one many wish they had. He’s among the best fighters in MMA, has a great family and gets paid to play video games. It’s the reason fighters like Conor McGregor and Ronda Rousey are such big stars. While they’re equally as dominant as Johnson has been in the Octagon, a great deal of people watch them in hopes they finally lose.
Johnson will never be that type of fighter, so what else is there for fans to cling to? Vulnerability.
Elliott was never considered a title contender during his UFC run. He wasn’t considered to be a stiff test against the seemingly unstoppable UFC champion. However, his ability to put Johnson in some precarious situations showed that for all the technical brilliance of Johnson’s game, he’s still capable of losing. It harps back to the “anything can happen with four-ounce gloves” line that so many of us like to use. Johnson’s reign on top has made UFC fans forget that.
Elliott and his quirky style reminded us that while Johnson has been a wrecking ball at 125 pounds, there’s still the chance his historic title reign will end. This is just what the UFC — and Johnson — needed to get fans to invest money in future UFC flyweight title bouts.