UFC 186 Flyweight title fight preview: Champ Demetrious Johnson vs Kyoji Horiguchi

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UFC 186 Flyweight Championship Demetrious Johnson vs Kyoji Horiguchi
UFC 186 Flyweight Championship Demetrious Johnson vs Kyoji Horiguchi

UFC 186 will be happening this Saturday, April 25th, 2015 at the Bell Centre in Montreal, Quebec, Canada featuring flyweight king Demetrious Johnson defending his belt against Japanese phenom Kyoji Horiguchi.

Back when UFC 186 was first announced there was a lot more buzz, considering it featured a rematch for the bantamweight title between champion TJ Dillashaw and Renan Barao and a clash of two top five welterweights, Rory MacDonald and Hector Lombard.

After Lombard got popped for PEDs and a rib injury sustained by the bantamweight champion, this card will now have two of the speediest fighters in the world, Flyweight Champion Demetrious Johnson and challenger Kyoji Horiguchi, moving up from the co-main event slot to collide in the main event for UFC gold.

For the champ, “Mighty Mouse”, this will be another day at the office. He will be defending his title for the sixth time and it is his second time taking on main event duties in Canada. To say the least, Johnson has become comfortable in the spotlight and is not affected by the pressure of headlining a pay-per-view.

When “Supernova” Horiguchi, formerly the Shooto World Champ, steps into the Octagon this Saturday night, he will be among a limited few – i.e. Jung Chan-Sung and Yushin Okami – hailing from Asia to achieve the feat of challenging for a UFC title. On top of that, he will have an opportunity to make history by defeating Johnson and becoming the first ever UFC champion from the Far East.

Defeating Johnson will not only give Horiguchi the strap, but the 24-year old will become one of the pound-for-pound best in the world since Johnson is ranked third on that list. These are mammoth accomplishments for any fighter no matter what corner of the globe he hails from.

Johnson vs Horiguchi: Fight Analysis

Demetrious “Mighty Mouse” Johnson
MMA Record: 21 Wins (4 KO/TKOs, 8 Submissions, 9 Decisions), 2 Loses (2 Decisions), 1 Draw
Team: AMC Pankration (Kirkland, Washington, USA)
Years Pro: 8 years
Measurements: 161cm Tall / 168cm Long

Ways to Win: The flyweight champ has a different game plan every time he steps into the Octagon and therefore he is very unpredictable. This element of surprise has allowed Johnson to dominate every challenger.

Just like in the Ali Bagautinov fight at UFC 174, DJ used speed and pressure to cut off most of the cage and made the Russian work from a confined space. He will likely need to do the same with Horiguchi since he likes to fight from distance and dart in and out against his adversaries.

Furthermore, when Horiguchi has his back to the fence or jumps in with strikes, that is when the champ will employ his wrestling. The ground is where Johnson has the most probability of finishing the fight. Horiguchi is not known to be a threat off his back, so the American could soften him up with punches and then transition into optimal positions to look for submissions.

Another aspect is how low Horiguchi keeps his hands; it is comparable to Joseph Benavidez. And we all know what happened to Benavidez – the only fighter who was even close to beating the champ – in their rematch. Be sure that Johnson will be looking to expose that in the stand up exchanges.

Kyoji “Supernova” Horiguchi
MMA Record: 15 Wins (9 KO/TKOs, 1 Submission, 5 Decisions), 1 Lose (1 Decision)
Team: Krazy Bee (Tokyo, Japan)
Years Pro: 4.5 years
Measurements: 163cm Tall / 168cm Long

Ways to Win: Horiguchi possesses the same tools of many of Johnson’s previous victims but two components that can take him over the top will be his diverse striking attack and his overall power in his hands and feet.

One facet of Horiguchi’s arsenal that is staggering is his power. He has nine TKO/KO wins under his belt and that is a testament of how dangerous he is on his feet. Even on the ground from top position, he can throw down some seriously devastating punches as seen in his fight against John Delos Reyes at UFC Fight Night 52.

Despite his power, it will be arduous to put away the champ so a diverse striking attack would be most advantageous. His kicks and punches come from all angles and that is something Johnson has not yet seen in his title reign. Of course, “Supernova” needs to put together combinations and different ones to keep the American guessing.

To stay on his feet, lateral movement will be vital. In the Louis Gaudinot fight, Horiguchi did a great job staying away from the grappler by always being on the move and a step faster. He also executed precise counters when he would step to the side. This will be more troublesome against Johnson because he is much faster and a better wrestler, but it will not be impossible.

Something new that he will have to display against “Mighty Mouse” is his defensive wrestling. If Horiguchi cannot stay off his back, then it will be a long night for the Japanese fighter. Although he has shown the capacity to get back up in prior outings, none of those fighters were the caliber of wrestler as the champ. Knowing this, he recently went to American Kickboxing Academy in San Jose to learn from UFC light heavyweight contender Daniel Cormier. We will only know on the night of the fight if anything Horiguchi learned will be useful in winning the strap.

Final Thoughts

Every MMA fan knows that on any night, any champion can lose. Recently, it has happened to both Renan Barao and Anthony Pettis. The question is, “Will it be that type of night for the flyweight champion?”

Johnson, the champ, is one of the most intelligent fighters to ever grace the Octagon and this is due to his coaching staff and his ever growing appetite to improve in all aspects of the fight game. Looking back at his previous title defenses, it is obvious he never fights the same way. Of course, his coaches have formulated a game plan, but it is his knack to see the patterns set out by his opponents and the ability to transform during the fight to combat every move that sets him apart from the rest of the flyweight division.

Horiguchi, the challenger, has stayed unblemished since entering the UFC back in 2013 by dominating every single opponent that he has faced. Nonetheless, he is coming into this title fight not having been tested by any of the other top ten fighters in the division. As a result, he is a massive underdog and it is going to take the perfect night for the Krazy Bee product to win. He carries the weight of not only Japan but all of Asia on his shoulders like his predecessors to bring back the first ever UFC crown. “Supernova” has nothing to lose so he can just go out there and take chances, because even if he does not get his hand raised, he is young enough that he can work himself back up to get another crack at the title.

This fight is a miniature version of the Light Heavyweight title match between champion Jon Jones and Lyoto Machida in many ways. Jones is comparable to Johnson as they both have a wrestling foundation and became dominant forces in their weight classes once they took over as champion. Machida and Horiguchi are similar in that they are strikers with karate backgrounds who had and have a legitimate chance at dethroning the king.

There are many other comparisons that can be made but those are good enough to grab the attention of any MMA enthusiast. If you were intrigued by the Jones versus Machida fight, then you should tune in to this contest because it will just be a much faster and more technical rendition.