The pound-for-pound best fighter in MMA will be on full display later tonight (Sat., April 15, 2017) at UFC on FOX 24 live on FOX from inside Sprint Center in Kansas City, Missouri, as UFC flyweight champion Demetrious Johnson puts his title on the line opposite Brazilian contender Wilson Reis. Johnson will be looking to lock down his record-tying 10th consecutive UFC title defense while Reis aims to capture his fourth-straight win inside of the Octagon.
Considering Johnson has demolished the entire division over the course of five years, Reis may very well represent the champ’s final flyweight obstacle before taking his talents to 135 pounds for some good old fashioned superfights. But before that happens, the two must go to war tonight in Kansas City.
What will each fighter do? How can they walk away with victory? Look no further. Here are the keys to victory for both Johnson and Reis.
1. Protect ya neck…
In his last Octagon outing, Johnson ran into some early trouble against Ultimate Fighter winner and resurgent title contender Tim Elliott. Elliott was able to threaten “Mighty Mouse” with a deep guillotine choke and force the champion to scramble and defend, nearly sinking it in along the way. It was the first time in a long time that Johnson looked mortal, although he got out of harm’s way and won a lopsided five-round decision.
Against a more seasoned grappler like Reis, “Mighty Mouse” must protect his neck at all times. This doesn’t just apply on the ground, but also in the clinch and during any takedown attempts. Because if the Brazilian gets a chance to lock in a guillotine choke and squeeze, that could mean the end of Johnson’s trek towards history.
2. Turn it on early…
Whenever “Mighty Mouse” is able to turn it on early and implement dizzying offense on unsuspecting foe, the results are tremendous. Just look at quickly Johnson was able to put away Henry Cejudo at UFC 197 and Joseph Benavidez back in 2013. He’s a methodical fighter for sure, but Johnson is extremely dangerous when he goes for broke early.
While Reis isn’t a quick starter that you need to disrupt, Johnson will find it very beneficial to attack early and pour it on in heaps. That’s because Reis is entering the biggest fight of his career and most likely going to rely on a specific gameplan. If the champion can ruin that early and force the Brazilian to fight reactionary instead of intelligently then he could exit the Sprint Center victorious earlier than expected.
1. Set traps inside…
Reis wants Johnson to get as close to him as humanly possible. He isn’t going to win a battle of striking with one of the quickest and defensively-clad champions the promotion has ever seen. Instead, the challenger must welcome the champ inside in hopes of tying him up, dragging him to the canvas and softening him up with world-class grappling.
In order to do this, Reis must invite Johnson in. He may have to eat a few shots here and there, maybe even a knee or two, but the closer the champ gets the better chance Reis has to take over the fight. Even if Johnson ends up in top control that bodes well for the submission artist. Any point in the fight that isn’t being contested on the feet is a victory in itself for Reis.
2. Conserve and concentrate…
Seems easy, right? All Reis has to do is conserve his energy and concentrate on the gameplan he and his team put together for the most well-rounded champion in the sport today. It seems like the best way to win a title and shock the world in the process, but Reis is going to find it more than difficult to retain cardio and resiliently stick to his own strategy.
The reason being that Johnson isn’t an ordinary fighter. He’s going to force Reis to expand loads of energy by chasing the champion around the cage and connecting his punches to air. Johnson has done it time and time again to the very best flyweights in the world. Once an opponent finds themselves exhausting more energy than they expected to, all gameplans fly out the window. Johnson will pressure and pick apart any challenger incapable of lasting deep into the championship rounds with an offensive and defensive strategy in tact.
If Reis doesn’t want to burn out like John Dodson or lose all strategy like Ali Bagautinov, Kyoji Horiguchi, and just about every fighter Johnson has faced at 125 pounds, he must fight patient, wait for his window of opportunity and not get goaded into the champ’s desired realm of combat.
Prediction: Johnson via unanimous decision
MMAmania.com will deliver LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the entire UFC on FOX 24 fight card, starting with the Fight Pass “Prelims” matches online, which are scheduled to begin at 4 p.m. ET, then the remaining undercard balance on FOX at 6 p.m. ET, before the FOX main card start time at 8 p.m. ET.