By Adam Martin
The UFC revealed over the summer that season 24 of The Ultimate Fighter would feature 16 flyweights, and the winner of the tournament would win a title shot against UFC Flyweight Champion and #1 pound-for-pound fighter Demetrious Johnson.
Although the news was broken on Twitter before the show even aired, it was announced this week that Tim Elliott won the tournament and will fight Mighty Mouse in the main event of The Ultimate Fighter 24 Finale tomorrow night at Palms Casino Resort in Las Vegas, Nevada.
As expected, Johnson is massively favored to defend this title, as he's currently a 10-1 favorite to beat Elliott. Johnson, the best fighter in the sport not named Jon Jones (who is currently suspended), has won his last 10 fights and is 12-1-1 overall in the UFC. He has essentially cleaned out the flyweight division, so much so that the UFC had to sign 16 fighters from competing promotions to fight in a tournament for a title shot.
Ultimately that ended up being Elliott, who was already in the UFC, and who went only 2-4 in the UFC before being cut. In fairness to Elliott, he only lost to ranked flyweights and he probably shouldn't have been cut in the first place. The fact that he went to Titan FC, won the flyweight title there, and defended his title twice shows the UFC made a mistake releasing him in the first place, but then again, maybe being cut lit a fire under him and motivated him to improve his game. Either way, Elliott has gone 7-0 in Titan and in the TUF house since being cut, and in a division where contenders are hard to come by, having him fight Mighty Mouse for the title isn't the worst thing in the world.
On one hand, it's very hard to see Elliott winning this fight, as Johnson is just too damn dominant. Johnson is about as perfect of an MMA fighter that there is. He has a great wrestling base. His striking is solid. His submissions are slick. He has elite cardio. He has an iron chin. He has championship experience. He has momentum. He is just an amazing fighter. There is literally nothing you can say about Mighty Mouse's game that could criticize it. He's just so well-rounded and elite in nearly every area of the game that even though #2-ranked Joseph Benavidez is a great fighter himself, Johnson is just so much better in every area of the game that he's already beaten Benavidez twice, and it's hard to see another flyweight give Johnson a chance.
But can Elliott be that guy to give Johnson problems?
Elliott's Twitter handle is @Awkward_MMA, and that's the perfect way to describe him. He has a very weird, funky fighting style and he's a hard guy to get a hold on. Look at his fight with John Dodson. Dodson was an incredible flyweight but Elliott was able to give him major problems in that fight with his unique movement and striking attack. He also gave problems to Benavidez, who he took down and was controlling on the ground before getting caught in a choke.
Since moving to Titan, Elliott has taken his awkward style to a whole new level, and he improved even more in the TUF house. He has strong wrestling, a weird, yet effective striking attack, an underrated submission game, and fantastic cardio that allows him to set a great pace. He also has a great chin, but he doesn't have great submission defense, which might come back to haunt him against Johnson, who has an elite submission game.
For Elliott to win, he will need to keep on his bike, stick-and-move, and maybe land an occasional takedown on Johnson, while avoiding takedowns himself and not getting hit on the feet. It will be hard for him to do that in a 25-minute fight, but Elliott does have elite cardio, so if there's ever someone who might be able to implement a stick-and-move gameplan on Johnson, it's Elliott. He would also need Mighty Mouse to have a bad night, maybe overlooking his opponent, and he could also use some questionable judging. Or, he could just land a haymaker and knock Johnson out or catch him in a scramble and tap him out.
At the end of the day, though, it's just hard to see Elliott winning this fight, even if he has the best performance of his career. That's because Johnson is just so damn good, and it's hard to see him faltering in any area of the game. As nice as it would be to see Elliott pull a Holly Holm and upset Johnson, it's just hard to see it happening. Look for Johnson to win this fight and continue his trek toward's Anderson Silva's UFC title defense record, and hopefully he will move to 135 lbs in the future and attempt to join Conor McGregor as the only fighters to win multiple titles at once.