Johnson vs. Dodson: What Went Right for Johnson?

Craig AmosFeatured ColumnistJanuary 26, 2013

Jan 26, 2013; Chicago, IL, USA; Demetrious Johnson (left) celebrates after defeating John Dodson (not pictured) during UFC on FOX 6 for the world flyweight championship at the United Center.  Mandatory Credit: David Banks-USA TODAY Sports
David Banks-USA TODAY Sports

Flyweight champion Demetrious Johnson retained his title by defeating challenger John Dodson in the main event of UFC on Fox 6 via unanimous decision.

The result itself may not have come as some grand surprise to MMA fans, but how the fight played out was indeed quite interesting.

Johnson is known for frustrating his opponents by utilizing his otherworldly quickness to cause damage and retreat before return fire gets near, but heightened velocity was not what he relied on Saturday night from the United Center in Chicago.

It was quite the opposite, actually—with Johnson fighting a very physical fight, mauling Dodson for the better part of five rounds. The champion’s strategy coming into the bout was clearly to keep “The Magician” off balance by blanketing him without pause. The only time Dodson was really given any room to breathe was in between rounds.

Johnson’s unwavering pressure limited Dodson’s offensive opportunities, which were restricted to a few big left hooks in the fight’s second round, and kept him on the defensive.

By constantly engaging Dodson against the fence, pursuing the Muay Thai clinch and aggressively searching for takedowns, Johnson forced his foe to reroute all of the energy he had reserved for doing damage toward protecting himself.

The nonstop need to fend off Johnson’s grueling attacks clearly took its toll on Dodson as the action wore on. Slightly beyond the fight’s midway point, the whole of Dodson’s physical exertion seemed to manifest in a semi-effectual attempt to keep his palm flat on the mat so that Johnson would be disallowed from kneeing to the head while holding a tight front headlock.

He was totally focused on surviving, offense seeming to be almost inconceivable given the circumstances.

The worst part was, when Dodson was lucky enough to find himself out of Johnson’s hold, he was either eating knees from the Thai clinch or fighting tooth and nail to prevent a double-leg takedown.

Johnson’s physical domination of Dodson is what decided the outcome of the fight. It took away Dodson’s offense and kept him from either looking for a finish or scoring points.

But it also did more than just decide the outcome—it entirely defined the fight. And not just to objective viewers watching the fight from afar, but to the fighters themselves.

You see, though Johnson and Dodson may have entered the Octagon as opponents, they could hardly be called such by fight’s end. The word “opponents” implies a sense of equality and competition, but that’s not what characterized the match by the fourth round. Consider that nearly all of Dodson’s efforts were directed at defending himself, at surviving. And nearly all of Johnson’s were directed in attacking.

That’s not a dynamic of opponents. It’s one of hunter and prey.

Once Johnson’s remarkably consistent pressure had sufficiently debilitated Dodson, he was indeed more prey than opponent.

Overall, the champion’s performance was outstanding. He showed the capacity to prevail over a top-notch opponent even when his primary skill—his speed—was marginalized.

That he was forced to rely on other means to emerge victorious in a tough battle will only make him more dangerous moving forward.