Preview: UFC on FOX – Johnson vs. Reis

The Sprint Center in Kansas City, Missouri is the venue for a truly wonderful UFC on FOX card this Saturday night as the world’s biggest fight promotion put on a tremendous show for the terrestrial TV fans in the States.

This one is filled up and down with exciting prospects and fun names while being topped by a fight for the UFC’s flyweight title.

In that match-up, Wilson Reis is the latest challenger who will attempt to delete the seemingly unstoppable title run of the only ever flyweight champion, Demetrious Johnson.

Now the undisputed greatest of all time at 125 lbs, it was at 135 lbs where Demetrious Johnson first made his name. At bantamweight, Johnson fought for the title in a losing effort to Dominick Cruz but also beat the likes of Kid Yamamoto and Miguel Torres in his time there.

But it’s at flyweight where he has really taken himself to another level. After controversially drawing with Ian McCall in the tournament semi-final, Johnson beat him in the rematch to get a place in the inaugural flyweight title fight. That ended in a tight decision win over Joseph Benavidez and was followed by wins over John Dodson (twice), John Moraga, Benavidez again, Ali Bagautinov, Kyogi Horiguchi, Chris Cariaso, Henry Cejudo and, last time out, TUF winner Tim Elliott.

Reis, similarly plied his trade outside of the lowest men’s division for some time. Entering MMA as a former jiu-jitsu world champion in the brown belt division, the Brazilian earned three submission wins in his first four fights as a pro. Wins in the now defunct EliteXC against the likes of Zach Makovsky and Brian Caraway look even better in retrospect but even at that time saw him signed to Bellator and their growing roster of fighters.

Four losses in nine Bellator fights saw him cut from the Bjorn Rebney led promotion but four wins in a row on the regional scene, the last of which came against Irish MMA legend Owen Roddy, made the UFC acquire his services. A win and a loss in his first two fights were followed by Reis moving down to flyweight, and he hasn’t looked back since. In six fights at 125 lbs Reis has only lost to Jussier Formiga and enters Saturday night with Dustin Ortiz, Hector Sandoval and Ulka Sasaki on his hitlist in the last fifteen months.

Despite that form, this match-up is likely to be a big task for Wilson Reis.

As a fighter he has some of the major qualities that you need to stay around the top in the UFC. He’s strong, he’s dangerous and he is allergic to a bad fight.

Reis’ best weapon is obviously his jiu-jitsu. Once on the floor he is a monster the likes of which Johnson hasn’t faced before. He is a quick and slick passer, he is excellent in scrambles and his submission game is varied and often used.

His wresting too is phenomenal. He has a magnificent blast double, dainty trips and an ability to grind an opponent to the floor if he has to. While on the feet Reis is a southpaw who will take three to land one, and sometimes has to, in search of the ground.

His opponent, simply put, is the greatest technical fighter mixed martial arts has ever seen. He truly can do it all.

His striking is fast, fluid and crisp. He has power in both hands. He switches stances without giving up any semblance of quality. He throws devastating knees to the body. And does it all while being brilliant defensively.

After that you have to deal with his grappling. Again, his speed plays a huge part. Like Reis, Johnson can blast you with a double leg, toss you on your backside with a single or trip you up in the blink of an eye. With nine career wins by submission, it doesn’t get much easier from that point on.

Throw that all together and what you should have here is another routine defence of the flyweight title for Demetrious Johnson.

But when has MMA ever worried about what is routine?

Johnson’s well rounded game is obviously a step ahead of everyone else, but make no mistake about it – Wilson Reis is a dangerous opponent wherever this fight goes.

On the feet you would expect Johnson’s cleaner work to see him through but on the floor this is as close to a 50-50 fight as you can get expect when “Mighty Mouse” is in the discussion. Wilson Reis will go hard to get that title and it won’t be easy.

The biggest issue for Reis though, is getting Johnson into a bad enough position to win. Even if you do take him down, keeping him down is another story. Can the same be said the other way around? The answer probably gives you the winner here.

Outside of that there are some other brilliant fights on this one.

In the women’s strawweight division, Rose Namajunas and Michelle Waterson battle in a fascinating fight right up at the top of the rankings. Namajunas started out as a submission artist but has developed a really good technical striking game while Waterson, as “The Karate Hottie” nickname might give away, went the opposite way as she started mainly striking but now is extremely well rounded as she showed when submitting Paige Van Zant last time out.

This is a really close one for me which I expect to be three enjoyable rounds long, despite both women being dangerous. At a push I’m taking Namajunas because of her size advantage and more importantly her ability to use it.

The next middleweight title challenger could also be decided (but probably not) on Saturday night as Ronaldo “Jacare” Souza takes on Aussie Robert Whittaker. On the feet this one could be really interesting as the muay-thai of Jacare meets the slick kickboxing of Whittaker. But on the ground Jacare eats him for lunch. I think it hits the ground at some stage and if it does you can start the car.

Aljamain Sterling, Louis Smolka, Bobby Green, Roy Nelson and Jeremy Stephens are also on this card but the man everyone needs to be looking out for here is former triple BAMMA belt holder Tom Duquesnoy in his UFC debut.

The Frenchman, who trains under Greg Jackson in Albuquerque, has legit UFC championship potential already and has been long touted as the best young prospect in the world. His defensive, speed, power and wrestling are all phenomenal while his style is one of the most aesthetically pleasing in the sport. It’s one not to be missed.

FIGHT PICKS

Demetrious Johnson vs. Wilson Reis – Reis is dangerous but Johnson is the best
Rose Namajunas vs. Michelle Waterson – I’m going with Rose via the judges
Ronaldo Souza vs. Robert Whittaker – Jacare via submission
Jeremy Stephens vs. Renato Moicano – Stephens KO

Alexander Volkov vs. Roy Nelson – Nelson
Patrick Williams vs. Tom Duquesnoy – Duquesnoy
Bobby Green vs. Rashid Magomedov – Magomedov
Tim Elliott vs. Louis Smolka – Smolka

Aljamain Sterling vs. Augusto Mendes – Sterling
Anthony Smith vs. Andrew Sanchez – Sanchez
Devin Clark vs. Jake Collier – Clark
Zak Cummings vs. Nathan Coy – Cummings
Ashlee Evans-Smith vs. Ketlen Vieira – AES

BET OF THE WEEK

This week I’m going with Louis Smolka to win which is around 2/1

START TIMES

Early Prelims – 9pm on Fight Pass

Prelims  – 11pm on Fight Pass & BT Sport

Main Card – 1am on BT Sport

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.

Follow me on twitter for updates @SeanSheehanBA and on Facebook Facebook.com/seansheehanmma