After a very enjoyable season of ‘The Ultimate Fighter’ (TUF) things are brought to a close this Saturday night with the, now traditional, live finale. But this time there’s a twist.
Instead of fighting for the crown of TUF winner, the top contestant from the season will fight for the UFC world title belt. In this case it’s the flyweight belt held by Demetrious Johnson which is up for grabs when he takes on season winner Tim Elliott.
A native of Wichita, Kansas, 29 year-old Elliott has been a known name on the MMA scene for many years after taking up the sport with a solid high school and college wrestling career already behind him.
In May of 2009 Elliott made his debut inside the cage but it didn’t go too well. In his first three fights Elliott didn’t pick up a single win as he lost twice following a draw in his debut. As things turned out, that ended up being a learning experience as he went on a run of eight straight wins – one of which came against former UFC champion Jens Pulver.
That run saw Elliott signed by the UFC and he was immediately put amongst the hounds. In his debut he lost a decision to John Dodson but bounced back with two nice wins. At UFC 167 Ali Bagautinov got the better of him as did Joseph Benavidez at UFC 172 and Zach Makovsky a few months later. That slide saw him cut by the UFC.
Upon his release, Elliott was signed by Titan FC and became champion in his very first fight with the promotion. After two defences the call for TUF came and Elliott has never looked back with four impressive wins in the house earning him a shot at the title.
Now all he has to do it go out and beat Demetrious Johnson.
Having spent all of his time at bantamweight early in his career, “Mighty Mouse” Johnson has been the unmovable king at flyweight since winning the inaugural UFC 125 lbs belt in 2012.
After drawing with, and then beating, Ian McCall to earn his shot, Johnson hasn’t looked back since. A win over Joseph Benavidez in a close decision (he later beat him a second time more emphatically) for the title was followed by Johnson going on to take out John Dodson (twice), John Moraga, Ali Bagautinov, Kyogi Horiguchi, Chris Cariaso and Olympic wrestling gold medalist Henry Cejudo. Now with eight title defences behind him, Johnson is on his way to becoming the most decorated champion in UFC history.
As a fight, this isn’t a particularly difficult one to pick but could be fun purely because of what Tim Elliott will bring.
Usually when Demetrious Johnson fights he comes up against an opponent with a good game plan, a solid technical style and a real hope of being the one who will be able to beat him. Tim Elliott brings none of that.
What he does bring is the attitude of a guy with nothing to lose which, incidentally, suits how he fights. To put it simply, Tim Elliott is a mad-man.
Loosely described as a southpaw, Elliott could throw anything time from anywhere at any time. Front kicks to the body, hard leg kicks, wild hooks and flying knees are all regularly thrown shots by Elliott who comes out immediately at 100 mph. From the very start of fights Elliott will switch stances and make it as difficult as possible with striking and wrestling entries coming from both sides.
To say Demetrious Johnson is a more orthodox fighter is a fair statement because, compared to Elliott, everyone is but it’s a little misleading.
Yes, Johnson does everything with perfect technique and precision but his quickness and level of relaxation inside the cage makes him very different.
Johnson can switch from a slow paced game where he throws leg kicks and jabs into something much different, very quickly. In the blink of an eye he can have you reeling from a combination, clinched against the fence or wrestled to your back.
Many fighters try to achieve greatness in all areas but Demetrious Johnson has done it.
For Tim Elliott that doesn’t leave much hope. His best chance is probably to swing hard early and hope for the best, which he kind of does anyway, or to get one of his big takedowns. That’s all unlikely to work. Look for Johnson to dodge everything, land at will and take Elliott down when he wants. If he does that, the finish will come.
Outside of that you have a few more of the TUF contestants on the card – the best of which is Brandon Moreno – as well as tremendous fights like Sara McCann vs. Alexis Davis, Jorge Masvidal vs. Jake Ellenberger and Gray Maynard vs. Ryan Hall. In those I fancy the wrestling of McMann, the power of Masvidal and the experience of Maynard to see them through.
The pick of the bunch though is the co-main event between TUF coaches Joseph Benavidez and Henry Cejudo. As mentioned above, both men have lost title fights against Demetrious Johnson and will be using this as a springboard to get another one.
Benavidez is the consensus second best flyweight in the world but two losses to “DJ” mean he needs something extra special. And, he has the ability to produce that. He has powerful, lightening quick hands, very good wrestling and a tremendously dangerous submission game which is tough for anyone to deal with.
Cejudo, on the other hand, is much more basic as an MMA practitioner. As an Olympic gold medal winner in wrestling that’s obviously a very solid part of his game. With that, he has a very good clinch and trip game and also a developing, boxing-style striking arsenal which is more than just a tool to set up his grappling.
In this one I think Cejudo will need to use his clinch and wrestling more than ever before. Against Benavidez, he’s going to have a big disadvantage on the feet in terms of both speed and variation. Because of that, and his brilliant footwork, you would have to fancy Benavidez to do enough to 1. Keep it standing and 2. win if he remains there.
Demetrious Johnson vs. Tim Elliott – DJ any way he wants
Joseph Benavidez vs. Henry Cejudo – JoBe gets the decision
Jake Ellenberger vs. Jorge Masvidal – Masvidal‘s power wins out
Ion Cutelaba vs. Jared Cannonier – Cutelaba decision
Sara McMann vs. Alexis Davis – McMann decision
Brandon Moreno vs. Ryan Benoit – Benoit decision
Gray Maynard vs. Ryan Hall – Maynard
Rob Font vs. Matt Schnell – Font
Kailin Curran vs. Jamie Moyle – Curran
Josh Stansbury vs. Devin Clark – Stansbury
Elvis Mutapcic vs. Anthony Smith – Smith
Dong Hyun Kim vs. Brendan O’Reilly – Kim
BET OF THE WEEK
Benavidez via decision at 7/5
Early Prelims – 12am on Fight Pass
Prelims – 1am on BT Sport 2
Main Card – 3am on BT Sport 2
Lead MMA writer and analyst for SevereMMA. Co-host of the SevereMMA podcast, out every Tuesday. Economics and Mathematics graduate from UCC. Previously of hov-mma and fightbooth. As heard on 2FM, Red FM, Today FM and more.
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