Demetrious “Mighty Mouse” Johnson entered ONE Championship with an unrivaled reputation among mixed martial arts fans.
The American is widely heralded as the greatest athlete to have ever competed in the cage, and he has justified the praise with his track record.
Johnson was a record-breaking World Champion in North America, thanks to his amazing 11 defenses of his UFC flyweight crown, but the AMC Pankration athlete is not just a proven winner. He is as exciting as he is dominant.
For fans of the world’s largest martial arts organization, the potential match-ups that he could be thrust into in Asia are tantalizing – beginning with his ONE Flyweight World Grand Prix bout with Yuya “Little Piranha” Wakamatsu at ONE: A NEW ERA.
When that bout takes place at Tokyo, Japan’s Ryogoku Kokugikan on 31 March, these are four attributes fans may see that could show why “Mighty Mouse” is without equal in mixed martial arts.
The flyweight division is known for its lightning-fast athletes, and Johnson may be quicker than them all.
Previous opponents have commented on just how rapid he is when the cage door shuts. It means he is first to the punch, and he can shoot for takedowns before his rivals have had a chance to adjust and defend.
Combining his speed with his footwork, he has left plenty of his opponents feeling dazed and confused. He can dart in to attack and be out of range again in an instant.
The American is known for swift combinations, which allow him to land several shots without reply before he moves out of range of a counter, or transitions smoothly into a takedown.
Dangerous As Long As A Bout Lasts
In his championship tenure, Johnson finished seven of the challengers to his throne. Even more incredibly, he was able to remain dangerous from the first bell to the last.
Five championship rounds are strenuous for most athletes. As a match progresses, physical and mental fatigue means finding a finish can be tough. However, “Mighty Mouse’s” super-human gas tank and sharp mind mean he is always searching for a way to stop the bout in the final stanza – even when he is ahead on the scorecards and could cruise to a decision victory.
He landed three finishes in the fifth round during his UFC Flyweight World Title reign, including an armbar of Kyoji Horiguchi with just one second remaining in the contest.
It is a testament to his character. Johnson commits himself 100 percent to finding a finish at any point in a contest. If his opponents switch off or cannot match his pace in the later rounds, he will find a way to dispatch them.
A Master In Every Range
One of the main reasons Johnson is often cited as the greatest of all time is for his efficacy in every area. He has been able to match all of his adversaries as an elite striker, wrestler, and submission artist.
The 32-year-old has knocked out opponents with punches, kicks, and knees; he has submitted them from the top, from the bottom, and from scrambles; and he has dominated them with takedowns and a robust clinch game.
This means Johnson has been able to exploit any weakness in a challenger’s armory. By having sharp tools in every range, he can draw on any of them as part of his game plan.
If plan A doesn’t work, he is adaptable enough to go to plan B, C, or D to get his hand raised – though most opponents have struggled to fend off his first line of attack.
The confidence “Mighty Mouse” has from his impeccably well-rounded game allows him to experiment and innovate.
His 2017 submission of Ray Borg was a sublime combination of wrestling and opportunistic BJJ. A belly-to-back suplex started Borg’s descent to the canvas, but then Johnson stepped off and switched his attack to catch his opponent’s arm in mid-air, and land straight into an armbar to finish the contest.
He has not just offered up unique submissions, but innovative striking and clinch work, too. In one of his contests against John Dodson, he was pressed up against the fence, but managed to climb his way up Dodson’s body and land elbows to the top of his rival’s head to turn a defensive position into an attacking one.
His mastery in combining individual arts give him the foundations to express himself creatively in the cage, which makes his bouts even more exciting.