Johnson has been nothing short of a purely dominant force. Widely regarded as the top pound-for-pound fighter on the planet, he came into Saturday’s bout on a 10-fight winning streak and with a stranglehold on the UFC flyweight championship.
Elliott’s path to the fight was a precarious one. He left the UFC in early 2015 on the heels of a three-fight losing streak. But he went outside of the Octagon to Titan FC, where he won three consecutive fights, which included winning and defending the promotion’s flyweight championship. That made him eligible for the recent TUF season that determined Johnson’s next challenger.
Considering his path to this title shot, not many people gave Elliott much of a chance, but after the first round, he had everyone’s attention, including Johnson’s.
After a brief feeling out period, Johnson got the fight to the ground, but in a scramble, Elliott sank a guillotine choke that appeared to be tight. Johnson defended, trying to escape, but Elliott transitioned to a D’arce choke. Johnson waited it out, and eventually escaped.
Elliott looked a little tired as the round played out, but he had effectively served notice that he wasn’t just trying to make a good showing. He was trying to beat the best fighter in the world.
“I wasn’t going out,” Johnson said after the fight. “It was a tough first round. I stayed composed like a champion.”
From the second round on, Johnson’s composure helped him execute to near perfection, as he refused to let Elliott come as close to a victory as he did in the first frame.
Round after round, Johnson took Elliott to the canvas and worked from side control, attacking with punches, elbows, and submission attempts. Elliott never gave up, trying to reverse the champ, but every time he did, Johnson would counter and regain control.
Elliott was constantly fighting, even throwing punches and elbows from his back, but being on his back didn’t allow for him to do much damage. Johnson remained calm and continued to control the fight, round by round. He couldn’t find a finish, but his smothering attack – constantly grounding and pounding and attempting submissions – didn’t allow for Elliott a chance at a finish either.
Johnson kept his streak alive, the judges awarding him a unanimous decision, but Elliott certainly left his mark in the Octagon. He not only went the distance with the champ, he had him in trouble at times and kept him on his toes.
“Tim Elliott is a hell of a fighter,” Johnson said. “It’s like wrestling a damn muskrat, man. I just had to neutralize him.”