Who Takes It? UFC 186: Demetrious Johnson vs. Kyoji Horiguchi

Tonight, in the noted fight town — if not, fight capital — of Montreal, Quebec, Canada, UFC comes to town for UFC 186!

The city is well known for being the hometown of MMA icon Georges “Rush” St-Pierre, and perhaps a bit less so for being the childhood home of boxing’s “ultimate blood-and-guts warrior,” the late Arturo “Thunder” Gatti.

But tonight? Tonight belongs to the man they call “Mighty Mouse!”

Or, as the song goes:

Here he comes, that Mighty Mouse…
Coming to vanquish the foe with a mighty blow
So don’t be afraid anymore
Cause things won’t be like they’ve been before!

So let the trumpet players play
For Mighty Mouse is here today!

UFC 168 is headlined by Demetrious “Mighty Mouse” Johnson’s sixth defense of his UFC flyweight championship. He is, as they say, one for the hard cores — the shows he has headlined have attract to excite casual fans, but to many MMA aficionados he’s a “can’t-miss.”

The native of Washington state Johnson, 28, is an extraordinary talent, considered by many to be the sport’s pound-for-pound best — or as one of those hard cores, Robin Black, puts it, “the world’s most modern mixed martial artist.”

Here’s a great video from Black:

“I try to make sense of the ever-evolving organism, that is the global game of hand-to-hand combat,” Black bellows. “To me, a Demetrious Johnson fight is not just a chance to see the best fighter in the solar system show his magic, it’s also a chance to see displays of the up-to-the-minute combat weaponry of the present, and get a glimpse into the future of the fully evolved martial artist.”

Another analyst, Jack Slack, describes the narrative of Johnson as “just too damned talented for his own good.” The UFC has clearly struggled to find worthy challengers for him.

Tonight, Johnson’s opponent is a rising star from the Land of the Rising Sun, Kyoji Horiguchi. The 24 year old Horiguchi, who splits his time between his home in Japan and a training camp in California’s Bay Area, currently enjoys a nine fight winning streak — including all four of his UFC appearances.

It’s the established star, the only champion the UFC’s 125 lb. division has ever known, against a young upstart who finds himself the next in line.

So, is he next to get beat, or a viable contender?

A visit to BestFightOdds reveals Johnson, 28, to be an almost prohibitive favorite, with some betting sites listing him at around ten-to-one odds.

Horiguchi comes from a a karate background. He is a good all-around fighter but is mostly noted for his quickness and punching power. Watch him in his recent fights and you’ll see attacks from a distance something like Lyoto Machida’s, but Horiguchi’s style is less elusive and more violent. Instead of drawing opponents in and waiting for a counter, Horiguchi blasts in with combination punching and bounces away.

Fighting at flyweight, he has only recorded one stoppage, however, and that fact may be relevant here.

Johnson has also become known for darting in and out for striking combinations, switching stances often and taking advantage of his speed in the huge, 30′ Octagon where he plies his trade. (Incidentally, I’m a proponent of putting a smaller cage in place for these bouts. A smaller area will force a little more action — maybe a little more Gatti? — and hopefully bring in some of those casual fans to appreciate the lighter weight classes. But, that’s for another time.)

Johsnon also has wrestling base from his youth in Washington State. Watch his bouts, from a 2011 victory over Hamaguchi’s mentor Norifumi “Kid” Yamamoto, to his dominant recent defense against Chris Cariaso, for quick drops to double leg takedowns off striking exchanges.

Horiguchi will likely land a few punches, and maybe even that graceful flying knee attack he has favored in recent bouts. But Johnson’s proven and polished standup skills should be able to avoid too much trouble.

So, watch for Johnson’s wrestling skills to prove key to earning a wide decision victory, as Horiguchi narrowly avoids submission or too much ground-and-pound damage and hangs on to the final bell.

As always, enjoy the fights!