Heading into his flyweight title fight against champion Demetrious Johnson, relatively unknown John Moraga had repeatedly said that he was going to be the “bully,” when he and “Mighty Mouse” met in the cage.
In front of a packed house at the KeyArena in Seattle at UFC on Fox 8, Moraga never stopped trying, he never stopped moving, but a bully he was not.
Earning 11 of 11 takedowns and using an all-world technical ground game, UFC flyweight champion Demetrious Johnson dominated the West Phoenix native for the majority of the 25 minutes, earning his second consecutive title defense.
Moraga opened round one looking to establish himself in the cage. Prior to his scrap with Mighty Mouse, Moraga had been regulated to the preliminary card in his previous UFC outings.
Johnson dealt with Moraga’s early disruptive pressure like the veteran fighter that he is. Each time Moraga peppered him with leg kicks, or confusing lateral movement, Johnson remained calm and picked his shots.
With two minutes remaining in the first round, Johnson earned his first takedown on a slick, well-timed double leg takedown – and that basically set the course of action for the remainder of the contest.
Rounds two and three were more of the same. As each round began, the 29-year-old challenger looked for openings on the feet, as the hometown favorite, Johnson, waited patiently for his opportunity.
And when Johnson was given any chance to capitalize, he took it. Every time Moraga left the slightest hole in his defense, Johnson snapped with ultra-quick reflexes, time and time again earning slick takedowns.
It wasn’t that Moraga wasn’t in the fight; he was just simply outclassed by a superior technical fighter. This was only his third UFC fight, and most would chalk this up to a much needed learning experience.
Moraga, who came into the bout as a 4-to-1 underdog, had his best chance at securing an upset during the waning moments of the fourth frame. As Johnson was moving in for one of his deceptive takedowns, Moraga landed a perfectly placed overhand counter right that drilled Mighty Mouse square on the nose just as the round was coming to an end.
The fifth and final frame began with a bloodied Johnson trying to stave off an, understandably, confident Moraga, who undoubtedly needed a finish to secure any hopes of earning UFC gold.
The Washingtonian and Matt Hume product had a completely different outcome in mind. Using more of his top-notch head movement and wrestling prowess, Johnson earned his eleventh and final takedown midway through the round and began to slowly work for a finish.
First came side control. Then came back control. Moraga managed a quick stand-up, but Johnson ripped him back to the canvas and moved into side control. As Moraga tried to wiggle free from a key lock submission attempt by Johnson, he left himself open during the transition and the champion locked up a arm bar.
Moraga strained to escape, but it was too late, and shortly after the scramble ensued, he was forced to tap. And at 3:43 of round five, not only did Demetrious Johnson defend his flyweight title, he also earned the latest finish in a main event title match in the history of the company.
A victorious Johnson was asked after the fight by UFC commentator Joe Rogan if he felt any pressure headed into the final round to go for the finish.
“It wasn’t important to me at all,” said the 26-year-old champion.
“I’m here to fight. Like I said, if the finish comes to me, I’m gonna take it. I felt great and it’s just a sign of things to come.”
Johnson now adds a new notch to his belt in one of the most hectic weeks a professional fighter could ask for.
It was just days ago that Johnson welcomed a newborn baby boy, Tyren. His son sitting at home, Johnson found himself fighting in a cage for his championship in a nationally televised title tilt just eight days after his first child was born.
Talk about pressure.
It was a textbook performance by Mighty Mouse, and an entire division now awaits word as to who will be next to challenger to the 125-pound technician’s throne.
For Moraga, this is unquestionably a difficult pill to swallow, however, with just three UFC fights on his resume, this is an outing that likely increased his name value and gives him something to build on for the future.
(Follow @RyanMcKinnell on Twitter)