UFC Flyweight Champion Demetrious Johnson grappled his way to a ninth successive title defence against a gritty challenger, TUF 24 winner Tim Elliott, at last night’s The Ultimate Fighter season 24 Finale. In doing so, the P4P king climbed to one behind Anderson Silva’s record of ten for most successive UFC title defences.
The flyweight title fight which took place at The Pearl at Palms Casino Resort in Las Vegas, was closer than many people thought as Johnson (25-2-1) would take the unanimous decision victory (49-46 x2, 49-45) over the unranked Elliott (13-7-1) who had earned his shot through this season’s “Tournament of Champions” that pitted the best Flyweight regional champions against one another to see who would face Johnson.
Elliott did not let “Mighty Mouse” have it all his own way though and the unorthodox fighter, previously cut by the UFC and returning from a successful stint with Titan FC, had everyone on the edge of their seats after a surprising first round where he not only had Johnson in trouble but also won the round on most people’s scorecards.
The 29-year-old Missouri native started extremely well and caused many people to sit up and take notice as he caught Johnson in a tight guillotine choke in the first round, forcing “Mighty Mouse” to give referee Herb Dean the thumbs up before squeezing his head out to escape. On getting to his feet, Johnson was stunned by a big left hook from Elliott and would end the round on the bottom as the challenger secured a single-leg takedown with 30 seconds to go and would maintain position with heavy top pressure until the end of round.
Johnson would start to find his rhythm at the start of the second round with an early takedown on Elliott but was again forced to defend a guillotine attempt before working the transition to the back of the challenger and forcing a submission attempt of his own with the rear naked choke. The champion would then dominate the scrambles and ground positions as he started to impose his will on the resilient Elliott.
The next three rounds would go much the same way with Johnson taking it to the ground at the start of each round before using his superior grappling to smother Elliott who would continue to threaten from the bottom by landing hard shots and going for submissions to keep the champion honest. Slipping out of the crucifix position and multiple submission attempts on the ground, Elliott showed great heart and technique to take the champion the distance and the fight never looked to be the walkover that everyone expected.
“He’s a hell of a fighter, he’s like fighting a muskrat trying to neutralize him,” said Johnson about his opponent in his post-fight interview.
“Shout out to Tim Elliott, man. He deserves to be here.”
Cheered on by the crowd after his performance, a smiling Tim Elliott seemed confident having earned his second opportunity to fight in the UFC and is exploring moving up to the Bantamweight division after a tough battle to make weight for the fight.
“I’m just a guy that loves to fight, and I’m just ready to get back to that next one,” he said. “I know I’m in there with anybody. I can compete.
“Even this fight, I knew I was down when time ran out. If it’s a fight to the death, I beat everybody. I’m a little behind when the time runs out. That’s all.”
The victory was Johnson’s 11th successive win and his ninth successive defence of his Flyweight title tying him with Georges St. Pierre in second place for most UFC title defences. Anderson Silva still occupies the top spot with ten defences and it’s been a long term goal for the 30-year-old to surpass the record but after defeating most of the challengers in his division, some of them twice, question marks remain over who exactly his next challenger should be.