By Raphael Garcia
Ask anyone familiar with the sport to tell you the big stories heading into UFC on Fox 24 and you’ll get a few different responses: Michelle Waterson’s coming out party and Ronaldo “Jacare” Souza fighting out his UFC contract are just two possible reasons people are intrigued by this weekend’s event. However, the main event features a fighter making a run towards history, a run that is going largely unnoticed in the days before it.
The lead up to Saturday night’s main event shows that Demetrious Johnson is still struggling to become a star for the promotion. The man that many regard as the pound-for-pound best in the sport consistently fails on PPV. Johnson’s become more vocal about his promotional power (or lack thereof) but that hasn’t helped. Johnson has shown the ability to draw numbers on Fox, but this main event hasn’t received the level of promotion that a nine-time defending champion would expect.
Since the title was created in 2012, “Mighty Mouse” has ruled over the flyweight division with an iron fist. He’s defeated all of the top challengers sent his way, one after another. Tim Elliott created some intrigue in December at The Ultimate Fighter 24 Finale, but in the end, he too would fall short.
Now Johnson is looking to tie Anderson Silva for the most UFC title defenses in a row. Experts have him as the betting favorite to do so. However, Brazilian grappling ace Wilson Reis stands in his way, offering skills on the mat that could put Johnson in danger. With 10 submission victories in his back pocket, Reis knows how to control a fight and advance position once it hits the ground. Johnson is known for creating scrambles that he uses to maintain position, but against a BJJ black belt of Reis’s level, those scrambles could create dangerous openings.
That danger is what Johnson needs. He experienced a bit in his win over Elliott, but not enough to create a compelling foil. Johnson’s looked like such a dominating force at flyweight that it’s hard for the UFC to generate interest in his opponents. As he looks to break Anderson Silva’s record, Johnson needs his Chael Sonnen. It was Sonnen that caused many mainstream fans to pay attention to the greatness that Silva embodied. As Sonnen’s brashness and bravado turned heads, Silva’s skill kept him at bay and helped Silva become legendary.
Demetrious Johnson continues to display a legendary level of excellence as a fighter, but he has yet to face a man that can not only put him in a bad spot, but can let the world know that he intends to do it. His UFC on Fox 24 opponent, Wilson Reis, may not be that man, but the potential surprise moments he could provide as Johnson pursues history may still provide a reason for people to watch. Unfortunately, thus far, that potential for a surprising outcome hasn’t provided a compelling reason for people to pay to watch.
April 14, 2017
By Raphael Garcia