While the flyweight division is in a state of flux as champion Demetrious “Mighty Mouse” Johnson vents his frustrations and UFC President Dana White counters with insults, it still moves on with new contenders and challengers for to Mighty Mouse’s throne.
Ben Nguyen has stepped up as the latest of these up-and-coming contenders seeking to take on arguably the best champion the UFC has seen in some time. Nguyen has fought mainly on the UFC’s trips to Australia and now New Zealand, and as a flyweight, he slips under the radar. However, Nguyen’s recent performance against Tim Elliott makes him a difficult fighter to ignore.
Nguyen showed fans what they can expect from the next crop of challengers to rise up in the 125-pound division. It wasn’t long ago that he stepped in to face fellow prospect Louis Smolka. Nguyen suffered his first loss in nine fights when he was dropped by strikes in round two against Smolka. The Smolka bout was Nguyen’s only fight away from Australia to that point in his career. Since that fight, he has worked on some of his shortcomings from the fight and turned them into great assets that could help him climb to the top.
It wasn’t just his “Performance of the Night” bonus that gives him an extra gleam after UFC Fight Night 110. Nguyen took on Elliott, who had been on a warpath since his run on [i]The Ultimate Fighter[/i] that led to an actual title challenge against Johnson. Elliott gave Johnson all he could handle in their title fight, and he has proven himself to be a great addition to the division. In the minute it took Nguyen to secure the submission, he showed dominance against a guy who could have been challenging for the title again very soon.
As Nguyen climbs the ladder, he will need to keep up the performances like he displayed in his fight with Elliott. Nguyen showed great ability to stuff the takedown, a quality he will need against the top fighters in the division who have a heavy wrestling base. He was winning the scrambles against Elliott, too. Nguyen countered Elliott’s wrestling beautifully and was able to turn one of those scrambles into the fight-ending rear-naked choke.
Nguyen’s win over Elliott was a huge upset and a big change for the division. Nguyen didn’t look fazed at all by the end. In fact, it looked like just another day at the office for him, easy as can be.
In the year and two fights since his loss to Smolka, Nguyen has definitely improved. The Elliott fight proved it. For his next fight, Nguyen won’t be fighting a debuting fighter or a low-ranked guy anymore. He has demonstrated his readiness for a top-10 flyweight opponent. He deserves the jump up in competition. Nguyen took on the challenge against Elliott admirably and displayed a great change in being able to counter the wrestling of one of the better fighters in the division.
The next couple of fights should be telling as Nguyen keeps developing his striking to help combat some of the better fighters. He needs to build on his last display. While Elliott is a great fighter in his own right, men like Joseph Benavidez provide a more difficult task if Nguyen truly wants to contend for the division title. However, if his last fight is any example, Nguyen is up for the task ahead.