John Moraga was an unheralded challenger heading into his flyweight title fight with Demetrious Johnson at UFC on Fox 8 from Seattle. His relative lack of fame was mostly due to the fact that his only two UFC appearances came on Facebook-streamed preliminary cards; fights that air solely on the Internet isn't the best place to build up a potential title challenger.
But the flyweight division resembles a wasteland when it comes to new challengers, and so Moraga was given the opportunity of a lifetime: to introduce himself to UFC fans and then, if Lady Luck smiled on him, perhaps take a little bit of gold back home to Arizona.
Suffice to say, that didn't happen.
From the opening bell, there were few moments where Johnson was not in control. He's constantly heralded as the fastest fighter in the UFC—a believable claim, unlike the moment on the pre-show when Chael Sonnen said that Johnson is faster than Floyd Mayweather and Manny Pacquiao.
But Johnson is also excellent at executing a game plan, and his coach Matt Hume is pretty good at drawing them up. Knowing that Moraga's most effective weapon is his power and striking, Johnson tried early and often to render that portion of Moraga's game ineffective by keeping the challenger planted on his back.
He succeeded, for the most part.
Midway through the fourth round, Johnson had landed seven takedowns on Moraga. When the champ planted the challenger, he often went directly into side control. Johnson maintained position, but that wasn't the only thing he did; he wanted a Kimura and nearly had it secured in the third round before Moraga escaped.
Moraga had a brief, shining moment of success in the fourth round when he staggered Johnson and opened up a cut on the champ's nose.
Moraga attempted to follow up with a flying knee, but Johnson grabbed his legs and planted Moraga back on the canvas. For those keeping count, that gave Johnson nine takedowns on nine attempts. He got the 10th just a minute later.
It was that 10th takedown that led to one of the rarest of mixed martial arts accomplishments: a submission in the fifth and final round. Johnson worked hard to secure an armbar, and got it without much time left in the fight.
When it became apparent that Moraga was not going to submit to the hold, even with Johnson wrenching back with all the power in his body, Herb Dean mercifully stopped the fight. Moraga may have suffered damage to the arm before the stoppage; it was difficult to tell from watching on television, but it looked a bit like Moraga's arm popped.
Moraga did not embarrass himself here.
He came in as an unheralded underdog, and he'll leave with some recognition. He didn't strip the belt from the champ. But with the exception of Joseph Benavidez, there probably isn't another challenger in the flyweight division that has a hope of doing so.
Johnson has openly discussed the possibility of going up to bantamweight for a superfight with Dominick Cruz or Renan Barao. I can't see matchmaker Sean Shelby being too thrilled with that idea.
But at the rate he's going, Johnson may not give the UFC much choice in the matter.
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