Top 10 UFC Fighters of the Decade: #1 Demetrious Johnson
By Ross Markey
Taking the #1 spot on this Top 10 list is former UFC flyweight champion, Demetrious ‘Mighty Mouse’ Johnson. Despite trading the promotion for Singapore’s ONE Championship back at the beginning of the year – Johnson still leapfrogs the other nine competitors on this highly competitive list, to stand out at the very summit.
Arguably the most well-rounded mixed-martial-artist on the globe, Demetrious Johnson is a technically proficient striker, grappler, and wrestler.
Beginning his Octagon stint back in 2011, the Kentucky native is undeniably the most successful champion the UFC has ever seen – with record after record stacked high in a rather large trophy cabinet.
Under the tutelage of Matt Hume, Johnson became the inaugural UFC flyweight champion, before lodging a mind-boggling eleven consecutive successful title defenses – breaking former middleweight king, Anderson Silva’s record of ten straight.
Even in his exiting of the promotion, Johnson made some rather surprising history. The AMC Pankration trainee made his way to ONE Championship in a multi-fight deal, as he was traded for the then-undefeated, ‘Funky’ Ben Askren.
Askren has since retired – having narrowly beaten Robbie Lawler, and losing to Jorge Masvidal, and Demian Maia. On the other hand, Johnson made an instant impact on his promotional bow for ONE Championship. Returning to bantamweight for the first time since his 2011 title defeat to Dominick Cruz, the 33-year-old has since picked up victories over Yuya Wakamatsu, Tatsumitsu Wada, and Danny Kingad on route to his crowning as the inaugural ONE Championship flyweight Grand-Prix victor.
During his reign as UFC flyweight champion from 2012 to 2018, Johnson was almost untouchable, and rarely, if ever troubled inside the Octagon.
A lot of people, rather bizarrely question the level of competition Johnson was paired with at 125-pounds during his heyday in the division – but a quick rundown of some names Johnson has faced puts that argument to bed. Johnson has twice beaten Joseph Benavidez – a well-rounded challenger who holds a victory over the current bantamweight champion, Henry ‘The Messenger’ Cejudo. Benavidez was realistically denied flyweight gold during his prime, due to the simple fact that Johnson was the gold-holder.
Even when paired with the EPO-ridden Ali Bagautinov, Johnson looked comfortable on his way to a unanimous decision victory.
Bagautinov had been flawless so far in the promotion, having handed eye-catching defeats to Tim Elliot, and John Lineker. Against Japan native and former RIZIN FF and Bellator MMA flyweight best, Kyoji Horiguchi, Johnson lodged the tied latest finish in promotion history, as he latched up an armbar with a single second remaining in the five-round fight. Johnson has also twice overcome the powerful, John Dodson, in his eleven fight streak.
Ahead of their UFC 227 rematch, Demetrious Johnson held bragging rights over the aforementioned Henry Cejudo – stemming from their UFC 197 meeting where he finished the Olympic gold-medalist with a first-round barrage of knees and strikes.
With submissions over the stern Wilson Reis, and Ray Borg to end his Octagon reign as flyweight champion – Johnson’s record-beating win over Borg is most likely the most memorable submission win the organization’s brief history. In the fifth and final round of a dominant, wrestling heavy display from Johnson, ‘Mighty Mouse’ took Borg’s back in a clinch exchange. Launching the Arizonian over his head, Johnson caught Borg midair and locked up an armbar before forcing an eventual tap.
This list has been incredibly difficult to put together in terms of ranking each fighter – but I’m quite confident my placement of Demetrious Johnson at the top of the pile is the right pick.