By Hal Estep
Just like any other sport, mixed martial arts has a polarized debate surrounding who the greatest mixed martial artist of all time is. Today, I will begin a series discussing each weight class’s greatest fighter of all time to determine the pound for pound greatest female and male mixed martial artists of all time.
I’ll start with MMA’s most overlooked division, the flyweights. Lately, the flyweight division has found itself in limbo. While Dana White has assured fans that the flyweight division will remain open, the Flyweight Champion Henry Cejudo seems more inclined to defend his bantamweight championship instead of defending the title of the weight class he claims to have saved. The flyweight division is not the most storied division, nor does it have the most entertaining fights in the world. However, there’s no denying the skill of the top flyweights in the world.
When discussing who the greatest flyweight of all time is, there’s only two men that can stake a legitimate claim: Demetrious “Mighty Mouse” Johnson and the Olympic gold medalist, Henry Cejudo. Those two men are the only fighters to hold the UFC Men’s Flyweight Championship.
Cejudo won the Flyweight Championship from Johnson in the co-main event of UFC 227, in a controversial split decision victory. After winning the title, Cejudo was challenged by bantamweight champion TJ Dillashaw for the flyweight title. Dillashaw hoped to become a double-champion, much like Daniel Cormier and Conor McGregor. The fight between Cejudo and Dillashaw sparked fears that Dillashaw’s victory could lead to the closing of the flyweight division. Dillashaw did himself no favors in the court of public opinion when he said that he didn’t care about the future of the flyweight division.
In the last stand for the flyweights, Henry Cejudo knocked TJ Dillashaw out in 32 seconds, cementing himself as the savior of the flyweight division. The win became even more impressive when Dillashaw was suspended for use of EPO, a performance-enhancing drug. Due to the suspension, Dillashaw relinquished his bantamweight championship. This opened the door for Cejudo to fight for the now-vacant bantamweight title, and attempt to takeover Dillashaw’s division after his attempt to shut down the flyweights.
Cejudo took on No. 1 contender Marlon Moraes at UFC 238 for the bantamweight championship. Cejudo struggled in the early rounds but made some mid-fight adjustments that led to him TKOing Moraes at the end of the third round. Cejudo officially became the fourth UFC fighter to simultaneously hold championships in two different weight divisions. Cejudo’s rise to glory may be unmatched, but is it the resume of a GOAT? He’s a double champion, he’s beaten the best in the bantamweight division, but this isn’t the argument for the bantamweight GOAT.
The man Henry Cejudo defeated to take the flyweight championship has a much better claim. Demetrious Johnson was the most dominant champion in the UFC from 2012 to 2018. Johnson was the first flyweight champion, winning the title at UFC 152 by beating Joseph Benavidez. For the next six years, Johnson would defend his championship 11 consecutive times. In doing so, Johnson set a UFC record for consecutive title defenses.
Not only did Johnson defend his title 11 times, but he defeated Henry Cejudo the first time they fought. Johnson’s only issue was that he didn’t “wow” the viewers when he fought. Johnson’s technique was almost perfect, but great technique doesn’t entertain the audience as much as an overhand right knocking someone out. However, by the end of Johnson’s title reign, he had secured arguably the greatest submission of all time when he locked in a flying armbar on Ray Borg for his 11th defense.
Demetrious Johnson’s biggest knock on his resume is that he never had his super-fight with TJ Dillashaw. Before Cejudo ever won the title, there were rumblings of a potential fight between TJ Dillashaw and Demetrious Johnson. However, the fight never materialized and the rest is history.
When comparing the two resumes, it’s obvious that Demetrious Johnson is the flyweight GOAT. Both Cejudo and Johnson have beaten each other, but the manner of victory was more impressive for Johnson. Johnson won via TKO in the first round, while Cejudo won via controversial split decision. It may be unfair to use Johnson’s 11 title defenses against Cejudo because Cejudo hasn’t had the opportunity to defend the championship that many times, but he hasn’t defended it more than once in the year that he’s held it.
Let’s be clear, Demetrious Johnson’s resume is insane and he’s easily the most dominant champion of the 2010s. That alone makes him the GOAT. Add in his prior victory over Cejudo, along with his two victories over the current No. 1 contender Joseph Benavidez, and it’s not even a real debate. Overall, Johnson is 27-3-1 and Cejudo is 15-2. Cejudo’s two losses are the aforementioned loss to Demetrious Johnson and another loss to Joseph Benavidez. A loss that Cejudo has yet to avenge. Until Cejudo actually defends his flyweight championship and avenges his loss to Joseph Benavidez, any talk of Cejudo being the flyweight GOAT should be treated as heresy. It’s rare for an opinion to be wrong, but if you don’t think that Demetrious Johnson is the flyweight GOAT, you are wrong.
Edited by Emma Moloney | firstname.lastname@example.org