It’s not an easy thing to take a top five rated fighter and dominate them over the course of five rounds on the way to a shutout victory on the scorecards but that’s exactly what Demetrious Johnson did to Ali Bagautinov on Saturday night at UFC 174.
While the Dagestani fighter was a game opponent, ultimately he had no answer for Johnson’s striking or clinch game where he lost the significant striking battle in lopsided fashion 133 to 36.
This is the fourth straight title defense for Johnson and third in a row where he’s overwhelmed his opponent by either winning across the board in the decision or finishing the fight all together as he did with both Joseph Benavidez and John Moraga.
The one anomaly in that mix of four title defenses is the fight Johnson had against former Ultimate Fighter winner John Dodson. Now make no mistake, Johnson won the fight, but Dodson gave him the toughest battle of his flyweight career and still stands as the only person in the division to knock the champion down during his reign. Dodson has also won his past two fights in a row since the loss to Johnson and a rematch seems like the next course of action in the division.
Or does it?
"Obviously it’s up to the UFC. Sean Shelby and Joe Silva, they do a great job matchmaking, Ali Bagautinov he’s a guy that came out of Dagestan, Russia, he had three wins in a row against top contenders. There’s a lot of challenges in this weight class that I need to fight. Dodson, I overcame him, he was a challenge, but there’s plenty of guys in the division. There’s a guy who has a win over me (Brad Pickett), there’s Zach Makovsky, so I’m just looking for new challenges," Dodson told FOX Sports after his win.
It’s no secret that Johnson isn’t exactly the head of Dodson’s fan club, especially after his win last week where the New Mexico native proclaimed he was the best flyweight in the world and he was coming for the title. Johnson would certainly accept the fight against Dodson if that’s what the UFC wanted, but he believes there are plenty of other deserving names in the division that he hasn’t fought yet who could just as easily slide into the No. 1 contender spot.
"I’m not trying to avoid that fight. It’s up to the UFC to make that decision," Johnson said. "Dodson isn’t the only person in this division. There’s a lot of guys in this division."
Rory MacDonald wants the title but not superstardom
Prior to UFC 174 taking place, UFC president Dana White said on several occasions that the co-main event on the card would be the biggest fight of Rory MacDonald’s career. The Canadian welterweight has come close on previous occasions to earn a title shot, but facing the No. 3 ranked fighter in the world in Tyron Woodley, it was time for MacDonald to put up or shut up.
MacDonald showed up in a big way as he battered Woodley for three straight rounds in a one-sided performance that left no doubt who won the fight. Following the victory, MacDonald was gracious enough to understand that the UFC has already stated the winner of the upcoming fight between Robbie Lawler and Matt Brown would get the next title shot, but he’s ready for the challenge if the opportunity presents itself.
"I think this is probably my best performance of my career so far. I’ve got to watch the tape, but the feeling I have right now I’m pretty happy with myself except for closing the fight I didn’t get to finish, but things went well," MacDonald said.
"It’s not that I don’t want the title shot, I want it to be clear that I want that. But I respect the decision there’s two guys ahead of me that have been promised it. If that fight’s a stinker, I’m ready to step in."
As far as the reaction he got from the Vancouver crowd on Saturday, there’s no doubt MacDonald was the fan’s choice of all the fighters on the card. It’s hard to ignore the fact with Georges St-Pierre currently out of the sport that MacDonald is not only one of the best welterweights in the world, but he’s the fighter who could easily take over as the next great Canadian mixed martial artist.
Having the support of Canada turned St-Pierre into the biggest pay-per-view cash cow on the entire UFC roster, but as much as MacDonald has been compared to his teammate, being a superstar just like GSP is where he draws the line.
"I want them to like me, but I don’t want to be a superstar," MacDonald said. "I just like to fight, hopefully I’ll be a dominant champion and represent Canada well."
Ryan Bader vs. Ovince St-Preux?
On Saturday night, both Ryan Bader and Ovince St-Preux had equally impressive performances to pick up wins at UFC 174. St-Preux mangled Ryan Jimmo’s arm en route to a verbal submission victory while Bader took down and then pounded Rafael ‘Feijao’ Cavalcante before taking home a unanimous decision win in his fight.
St-Preux has now won five fights in a row, with four of them in the UFC. Bader has now picked up two wins in a row as well, and with both fighters coming away victorious on the same night, why not match them up?
"That’d be a good matchup," St-Preux said about facing Bader. "I broke the top 15 and hopefully I’ll be top 10 now and then after that top five, top two and then the championship."
Bader also seemed to like the matchup. While facing St-Preux would technically be another guy below him in the rankings just like Cavalcante, with his win streak and the ride his one right now, Bader had no problem accepting the matchup on the spot.
"Let’s do it OSP," Bader said. "He’s been on a four fight win streak, outside of (Jon) Jones, the longest win streak in the division which is tough to do, a bunch of killers in there. We fought on the same card tonight, we both got wins, and he’s looked impressive and all respect to him but why not?"
Following UFC 174 there were a few walking wounded as a result of the show. According to UFC executive Tom Wright, three fighters in total ended up making a trip to the hospital after their fights.
Brendan Schaub was treated and released although the details of his injuries were unknown. He did have a large laceration over his eye and his cheek was swollen following his fight with Andre Arlovski so he could be dealing with a broken or fractured bone in his face, but it’s unknown at this time.
Valerie Letourneau stated after her fight that she believes she suffered a broken orbital bone in the first round of her matchup against Elizabeth Phillips. Letourneau had a noticeable mouse under her left eye for a big portion of the fight, and a broken orbital bone would definitely explain that.
And finally Ryan Jimmo suffered a broken arm in his fight against Ovince St-Preux. Jimmo’s coach Aaron Simpson confirmed Jimmo’s injury, but he was still being checked out and presumably receiving x-rays to reveal the full nature of the break but it was his forearm that was affected.