The UFC is finding out the hard way that their relatively new 125-pound division isn’t catching on just yet. Flyweight titleholder Demetrious Johnson may indeed be one of the promotion’s best pound-for-pound fighters, but he’s simply not a major draw at this stage.
“Mighty Mouse” turned in a masterful effort against Ali Bagautinov in their five-round main event at UFC 174, but unfortunately it wasn’t enough for the fans in Vancouver. Many spectators were streaming out of the building before the fight was over, not waiting to hear Johnson announced as the winner by 50-45 margins on all three scorecards.
The attendance figure of 13,506 and the gate total of 1.14 million were the lowest in the promotion’s three visits to the city. Those numbers would have been even lower if not for the presence of British Columbia native and welterweight contender Rory MacDonald in the co-main event.
The flyweight division seems to be saddled with the pre-conceived notion of athletic but smaller guys who can’t produce finishes. That’s not true of the champ, as Johnson produced a stunning one-punch knockout of Joseph Benavidez in one of his four successful title defenses and submitted John Moraga in another. He could very well have gotten the finish against Bagautinov if not for the “Puncher King’s” tremendous toughness. Despite that fact, there’s still the general feeling that a flyweight fight isn’t rife with danger and can’t produce a finish at any moment.
Benavidez and John Dodson are two exciting former title challengers who pack a punch, as does John Lineker. They’ve all shown the ability to end fights. As for Johnson, he’s been a dominant champion to this point, and it’ll be critical for other fresh challenges to emerge.
Brad Pickett and Zach Makovsky could be elevated into title consideration by producing victories in their next fights. “One Punch,” who has a previous win against Johnson as a bantamweight, has a tough date at Fight Night 46 in Ireland against Ian McCall, while “Fun Size” tangles with Jussier Formiga at UFC 176. Talented 23-year-old Japanese fighter Kyoji Horiguchi has emerged as a fresh face to keep an eye on in the future after recently entering the top-15 rankings.
It will be very interesting to see the buy rate produced for the Vancouver show. The event itself seemed to suffer from a lack of promotion, and there wasn’t an overall buzz surrounding it. While Johnson was able to shine in his first PPV headlining effort, the promotion is very likely to find out that fans are fine seeing him headline a free event on FOX, but aren’t willing to part with $50-60 to see him as a PPV headliner.
Johnson’s only other appearance on a pay-per-view was back at UFC 152. He defeated Benavidez in the co-main event to become the first and so far only flyweight belt holder.
“Mighty Mouse” is an exceptional talent, but for whatever reason, the 125-pound division seems to be lost in the shuffle and isn’t resonating with fans just yet. Maybe the expected Johnson-Dodson title rematch will be the fight that can finally get them on board with what the flyweight division has to offer.
Rick LaFitte is an MMA Writer for Rant Sports.