UFC flyweight champion Demetrious Johnson is back in action on Saturday, September 5, headlining the UFC 191 main card against a familiar foe, challenger John Dodson.
Johnson (22-2-1, 10-1-1 UFC) and Dodson have history; the two fought to a five-round decision, won by Johnson, in January 2013. But in retrospect, it was Dodson (17-6, 6-1 UFC) who pushed Johnson to his furthest limits during his reign at flyweight, dropping the champion on three occasions with his blistering power and uncanny speed.
"Mighty Mouse" would eventually regain his top form in the championship rounds, outstriking and outlasting Dodson over the course of 25 minutes. However, if not for a questionable knee to Dodson's head in the fourth round, the outcome may have very well been different.
Since their last bout, Johnson has won five straight contests, stopping four opponents inside the Octagon. In his most recent fight, Johnson set a UFC record for latest stoppage, forcing Kyoji Horiguchi to tapout with just one second remaining at UFC 186.
Meanwhile, Dodson has gone 3-0, including a recent win at UFC 187, to earn a second crack at the belt, although his road back to title contention has been marred by injury, after Dodson tore his ACL in June 2014.
This bout certainly has the potential to be one of the most competitive fights of Johnson's unprecedented run at flyweight. Dodson possesses phenomenal striking technique, along with impeccable takedown defense. But, by this point, Johnson has proven himself to be, at least, one step ahead of his peers, demonstrating one of the most well-rounded games in professional mixed martial arts.
Look for Johnson to win the fight by decision and tie featherweight champion Jose Aldo for fourth place on the UFC's successful title defense list with seven. Ultimately, Dodson will prove to be too much of a veteran to be stopped, but Johnson will use his footwork and wrestling to control the pace of the match and secure the victory.
Co-Main event: Frank Mir vs. Andrei Arlovski
An appealing matchup in the heavyweight division, this bout between former champions Mir and Arlovski is a fight a decade in the making, as a previous attempt to book the pair in 2005 never materialized after Mir suffered a broken femur.
While both veterans were seemingly near the end of their careers just a few years ago, both Mir and Arlovski have experienced a resurgence of late, winning consecutive bouts inside the Octagon via knockout.
For Mir (18-9, 16-9 UFC), his MMA renaissance has come with a newfound boxing acumen, which complements his already stellar jiu jitsu skills. On the other side of the cage, Arlovski (24-10, 13-4 UFC) has demonstrated improved striking defense since returning to the UFC, to go along with his heavy handed punching power.
Like many heavyweight fights, this bout appears to favor whoever can land the first significant strike. And while Arlovski has a proven ability to storm out of the gates, Mir's ground game will be the difference.
And after exchanging on the feet for the first round, look for Mir to bring the bout to the floor in the second frame, when he will sink in the submission.
Anthony Johnson vs. Jimi Manuwa
Just three months ago, Anthony Johnson was near the top of the UFC's light heavyweight division, fighting for the title at UFC 187. But after tapping out to a Daniel Cormier rear-naked choke, Johnson now finds himself (19-5, 10-5 UFC) back in the mix at 205 pounds.
A decorated striker, Manuwa (15-1, 4-1 UFC) is a rising talent with loads of power and accuracy, but without the ground game to complement.
This bout is a likely candidate for Fight of the Night, as both Johnson and Manuwa are known to come out swinging and kicking.
And while the action will begin on the feet, look for Johnson to move into close range and land hooks and uppercuts against the cage wall, before bringing Manuwa to the ground for a pounding.
Anthony Johnson takes this one via first-round TKO.
Corey Anderson vs. Jan Blachowicz
Another bout in the light heavyweight division, this contest between Anderson (5-1, 2-1 UFC) and Blachowicz (18-4, 1-1 UFC) is likely to go the distance.
A former winner on The Ultimate Fighter, Anderson is known for his phenomenal cardio and conditioning, as demonstrated in a three-round decision win at UFC 181. However, Anderson's toughness occasionally makes him susceptible to punishment, as seen in his most recent loss to Gian Villante in April.
Blachowicz, who enters the bout as a slight betting favorite, is part of the UFC's new movement in eastern Europe, and will make his debut on US soil.
Look for Anderson to come out early and pressure Blachowicz. But again, like his last bout, Anderson will punch himself out, leaving an opening for Blachowicz to finish the fight in the third.
Paige VanZant vs. Alex Chambers
Kicking off the main card, strawweights VanZant and Chambers will go head-to-head for a chance to climb up the divisional ladder.
With both competitors coming in off of wins in their previous contests, this bout is expected to be a showcase for VanZant (5-1, 2-0 UFC), who enters as a 16-to-1 favorite. Her cardio and wrestling pedigree have made VanZant a hot prospect in the strawweight division, but the promotion is slowly building her up before even considering a championship bout.
Chambers (5-2, 1-1 UFC), who debuted last winter as part of the cast of The Ultimate Fighter, is primarily a grappler, who came from behind to top Kailin Curran via third-round armbar in her last bout. The win earned Chambers a Performance of the Night bonus.
Look for VanZant to attack from the opening bell and avoid grappling exchanges; she'll do damage on the feet while avoiding Chambers' attempts to clinch and drag the contest to the mat. And while the first round will be dominated by VanZant, Chambers will survive into the second frame. However, VanZant earns the TKO in the second.