SEATTLE — Demetrious Johnson could have coasted for the final round, knowing he was comfortably ahead on the scorecards and easily on his way to retaining the UFC flyweight title.
Johnson wanted more. So even though it put him at risk, Johnson made sure he finished with a flourish.
“He couldn’t have fought a more perfect, on point fight tonight,” UFC President Dana White said. “He just looked amazing.”
Johnson successfully defended his title on Saturday night, using an armbar on John Moraga late in the fifth round for a submission victory before a partisan hometown crowd. Making the second defense of the flyweight crown, Johnson controlled most of the fight, then ended it at 3:43 of the fifth round, bending Moraga’s right arm to the point referee Herb Dean stopped the fight.
Johnson (18-2-1) leaped to his feet with four spinning kicks in the center of the ring to celebrate his title defense.
“Even though I was ahead on the scorecards, I’ve never just relaxed and just coasted by,” Johnson said. “My job is to finish and to push the pace. I just took it and so happened it happened.”
The co-main event saw young Canadian star Rory MacDonald (15-1) take a unanimous decision over Jake Ellenberger (29-7) in a welterweight fight that left the crowd cascading boos after the much-anticipated matchup failed to live up to its billing.
MacDonald’s strategy of avoiding Ellenberger’s big punches worked as he ran his winning streak to five, even if White and the rest of the crowd were left bored.
“It was a highly anticipated fight that overshadowed the main event and didn’t live up to the hype,” White said.
In other fights on the main card, Robbie Lawler used a huge kick to floor Bobby Voelker in a second-round knockout. Liz Carmouche also had a second-round victory, stopping Brazil’s Jessica Andrade in her UFC debut.
It was a dominant performance for Johnson, fighting less than an hour from his home in Parkland. From the start, Johnson had the home crowd on his side as the chant of “Mighty Mouse! Mighty Mouse!” — Johnson’s nickname — started almost immediately.
Johnson controlled the fight with takedowns and retaining top control. He nearly got a choke submission on Moraga at the end of the first round, then pinned Moraga’s arms and unloaded punches to his stomach in the second. Johnson regularly took Moraga (13-2) to the mat and nearly ended the fight with an armbar submission late in the third round, only to see Moraga slide free.
Moraga’s best chance in the fight came late in the fourth round when he caught Johnson with a right hand that stunned the champion. Johnson stumbled back against cage, but quickly regained control, bouncing off the fencing and taking the charging Moraga to the mat. The punch left Johnson’s nose bloodied, but the champion never let Moraga mount any offense in the final round and was finally able to get the armbar on Moraga.
“Some of the stuff I got beat with today we trained to do certain things in those situations and I didn’t get it done,” Moraga said.
MacDonald entered the No. 3 ranked contender in the 170-pound welterweight division, while Ellenberger was ranked No. 4. It wasn’t an elimination bout for a shot at champion Georges St. Pierre, especially because MacDonald has said numerous times he has no interest in fighting his training partner and mentor.
The fight might have been boring, but MacDonald was determined not to get caught by Ellenberger’s noted punches.
Ellenberger got a few shots in early as blood started trickling from MacDonald’s nose late in the first round, but that was the extent of the excitement for the first 10 minutes. The tactical first two rounds drew loud boos from the unhappy crowd, with MacDonald landing most of the punches that were thrown.
Ellenberger recorded a takedown with a minute left in the fight, but MacDonald’s ground defense was excellent. MacDonald winning 30-27 on two scorecards and 29-28 on the other.
“I think I did exactly what I was supposed to do. I kept up my end and he’s a counter puncher, a very powerful counter puncher,” MacDonald said. “I was waiting for my opportunities and he wasn’t coming in at the right time and he was staying back, he wasn’t engaging.
White ripped Ellenberger, saying he “literally did nothing,” and the fighter didn’t disagree with the criticism.
“I’m really more disappointed in myself,” Ellenberger said. “It just wasn’t my night. Didn’t have a good night and didn’t pull the trigger.”
Lawler was impressive in his victory. Within the first 2 minutes, Voelker’s nose was bloodied as Lawler (21-9) landed an array of hooks, high knees and kicks to Voelker’s face. Voelker (24-10) made it through the first round barely, but didn’t last long in the second. Lawler landed a left-footed kick to the side of Voelker’s head that sent him to the canvas and two punches later the fight was over at 24 seconds of the second round.
Andrade (9-3) was making her UFC debut coming up from Brazil, while Carmouche was a headliner just a few months ago when she lost to women’s champ Ronda Rousey at UFC 157. Carmouche (8-3) gained control and started landing heavy punches early in the second round. Carmouche spent more than 2 minutes battering Andrade’s head before the fight was finally stopped at 3:57 of the second round.