Since the UFC introduced the flyweight title two years ago, Demetrious Johnson is the only champion the division has ever known, but it was John Dodson who came closer than anyone else from snatching the belt away from him.
Dodson nailed Johnson with a picture perfect punch early in their title fight in January 2013, but paused for a moment as the champion fell, which gave him just enough time to get his senses back and recover. There’s no doubt that moment haunts Dodson to this day, but as he approaches his next fight against John Moraga this weekend in Albuquerque, there’s a pep in his step about what comes after Saturday night if he’s victorious.
While the UFC hasn’t made any kind of announcement about it, most believe Dodson should earn another shot at the flyweight title with a victory. As excited as Dodson would be for that opportunity he knows winning isn’t always enough so he has to make an example out of Moraga to ensure there’s no chance anyone else could jump in line in front of him.
"He fought for the title and he didn’t do too well and maybe he’s changing his tune if he wants to step it up. Maybe, if I can finish John Moraga in the first round or just finish him all together then it’s a good fight," Dodson told the Great MMA Debate podcast. "If I go to a decision, you don’t know how the UFC’s going to look at it."
Dodson knows how to get a win over Morgan because he’s already done it once before. In 2010 just prior to joining The Ultimate Fighter, Dodson beat Moraga by unanimous decision. It was a one-sided affair that Dodson dominated from bell to bell and his memories of the fight could definitely give him a mental edge over Moraga come Saturday night.
If I beat Moraga on June 7, and they give me a call and say ‘Ali got hurt’ can you fight for the title, I’d say yes. I’d automatically say yes
— John Dodson
"Me punching him a lot," Dodson answered when asked when he remembers about facing Moraga previously "It was both of us fighting and I got the better of him. He tried to some takedowns and realized he couldn’t get them, then he tried to out box me and boxing wasn’t his strong suit at the time anyways."
It’s been just over three and a half years since that fight and both of them of improved since that time, so Dodson is expecting a better Moraga this time around. Not that it matters much because Dodson doesn’t even plan on allowing the judges to play a part in this fight.
If he wants to earn a title shot, Dodson wants to crush Moraga and prove to the UFC that he belongs back in a championship main event.
"I’m hoping he’ll give me a run for my money this time," Dodson said about Moraga. "If he goes for some takedowns, I’ll take him down and control him, I’m going to show everybody why I’m the most dominant flyweight out there. I’m going to try to have the heaviest hands, hit him as hard as I can, and I’m going to watch him fall. I’m not going to do the same thing I did with Demetrious — I’m not going to just watch him fall, I’m going to crack him, jump on him and finish it."
And then it comes full circle back to Johnson once again.
Assuming Dodson does come out on top Saturday night, he won’t have to wait long to see Johnson back in action as he takes on his part-time teammate Ali Bagautinov in the main event of UFC 174 in Vancouver. Dodson’s not one to make predictions, but no matter who comes away with the belt, he wants Johnson next.
"I would love to face the winner, but at the same time I really want to fight D.J., even if he does lose," Dodson said. "I need to run that back."
Dodson would even be willing to step in on short notice if Bagautinov stubs his toe between now and next week, preventing him from taking the fight. The last thing Dodson would do is wish injury on anyone, much less a teammate, but if something opened up he has Joe Silva on speed dial.
"Somebody should be listening to this because I would love to go ahead and get that title around my waist like any time soon, I ain’t going to lie. If I beat Moraga on June 7, and they give me a call and say ‘Ali got hurt’ can you fight for the title, I’d say yes. I’d automatically say yes," Dodson said.
"It’s like ‘John do you think you can do it? Yes. Are you sure? Positive’."