Saturday, July 27, 2013
UFC on FOX 8 Johnson vs Moraga
MAIN CARD (FOX, 8 p.m. ET)
* Champ Demetrious Johnson vs. John Moraga - for UFC flyweight title
* Jake Ellenberger vs. Rory MacDonald
* Robbie Lawler vs. Bobby Voelker
* Jessica Andrade vs. Liz Carmouche
PRELIMINARY CARD (FX, 5 p.m. ET)
* Michael Chiesa vs. Jorge Masvidal
* Danny Castillo vs. Tim Means
* Mac Danzig vs. Melvin Guillard
* Daron Cruickshank vs. Yves Edwards
* Ed Herman vs. Trevor Smith
* Germaine de Randamie vs. Julie Kedzie
If John Moraga's goal is to cut off the cage and force the fleet-footed Demetrious Johnson to fight, he'll need to add speed to his power in order to make that happen.
Of those two oft-spoken qualities that divide opponents, UFC flyweight champ Johnson (17-2-1 MMA, 5-1-1 UFC) possesses the edge in ability to strike, retreat and switch directions, which leaves title challenger Morgaga (13-1 MMA, 2-0 UFC) with the task of catching his foe at UFC on FOX 8, which takes place Saturday at Seattle's KeyArena. The event's main card airs live on FOX (8 p.m. ET/5 p.m. PT) following prelims on FX (5 p.m. ET) and Facebook (4 p.m. ET).
Johnson, a former bantamweight title challenger, attempts the second defense of the flyweight title he won this past September with a decision win over Joseph Benavidez. The lesser-experienced Moraga, meanwhile, takes a steep step up in competition after two wins inside the UFC octagon.
The two share a common opponent in John Dodson, who handed the 29-year-old challenger his first professional loss at an ill-fated event in the Dominican Republic in 2010. Meanwhile, Johnson, 26, surmounted his toughest flyweight test to date by overcoming several knockdowns from "The Ultimate Fighter 14" winner to win a unanimous decision in January at UFC on FOX 6.
The difference-maker in that fight was not only Johnson's endurance, which surged in later rounds as his opponent's flagged, but his ability to transition from striking to clinching to grappling. And that could provide a blueprint to the action contained in Saturday's fight.
Or, the heavy-handed Moraga could finish the job that Dodson couldn't if he's able to land the power shots he favors over his opponent's rapid-fire combinations.
In the buildup to the fight, the challenger has claimed the champ runs to avoid fistic conflict. But in reality, it's that Johnson doesn't provide a stationary target to hit. In the limited stats available for a side-by-side comparison of the fighters, they're virtually equal in such things as striking accuracy (50 percent for Johnson to Moraga's 44 percent) and striking defense (66 percent for Johnson to Moraga's 67 percent). They diverge, however, in strikes absorbed, with Moraga absorbing significantly more blows than Johnson (3.68 to 1.97).
That means that more often than not, Johnson sticks and moves while Moraga marches in and looks to trade.
Looking at early footage of Moraga compared to his work in the UFC, his punches have gotten straighter while his defense is tighter. But more often than not, he strikes with bad intentions. But that could leave him open to quick counters from the champ as well as tire him out the later the fight goes.
That power might come in handy if he intends to use his NCAA Division I collegiate wrestling skills to put Johnson on the ground and grind out a decision, but in all likelihood, the fight won't spend too much time in one place. None of Johnson's fights thus far has favored one range over another. It's more a constant flurry of movement from one position to another.
Because the flyweight division is the newest and most shallow of those within the UFC, Moraga is getting a shot at the 125-pound belt earlier than he would in other divisions. But he's facing a far more experienced opponent on Saturday, and thus, he needs to catch a break early in the fight to break the champ's furious rhythm.
Other main-card bouts
Jake Ellenberger (29-6 MMA, 8-2 UFC) vs. Rory MacDonald (14-1 MMA, 5-1 UFC): The mostly saccharine buildup to the main event thankfully has been offset by a lively interplay between welterweights Ellenberger and MacDonald, who could follow Johny Hendricks on the road to champ Georges St-Pierre. The two have gone back and forth on Twitter, though their initial friction has dissipated as Saturday's event has drawn near. Ellenberger, whose six-fight win streak was interrupted by Martin Kampmann, might have cut in line for the title if not for a shakeup at UFC 158. Slated to fight Hendricks, he instead fought Nate Marquardt when MacDonald withdrew from a bout with "Big Rigg," who went on to beat Carlos Condit and secure a title shot. Rebounding with back-to-back wins, Ellenberger now gets a chance to secure the No. 1 contender spot by beating MacDonald, who, despite his stated refusal to fight St-Pierre, is in the running for the title. It's the most relevant challenge of MacDonald's career after a one-sided beatdown of the expiring B.J. Penn this past December, and it should measure whether he's truly ready to face championship-caliber talent. Ellenberger, meanwhile, is faced with the challenge of not letting his ambition get the best of him, as he did against Kampmann, whom he admits he underestimated. He very well may have the advantage in punching power and wrestling, though MacDonald is skilled at blending all of his skills together in the octagon. Expect "Fight of the Night" action.
Robbie Lawler (20-9 MMA, 5-3 UFC) vs. Bobby Voelker (24-9 MMA, 0-1 UFC): The fight represents the third option exercised by the UFC when former Strikeforce champ Tarec Saffiedine was injured prior to booking a date with Lawler, and replacement opponent Siyar Bahadurzada also fell by the wayside. Voelker, a Strikeforce veteran, lost a dubious decision to Patrick Cote in his octagon debut at UFC 158, and he's got nothing to lose against the hard-swinging Lawler. With the prestige of his opponents dwindling, Lawler is merely looking to maintain his momentum following a recent knockout of Josh Koscheck in his first UFC fight in nine years. They've got a similar number of fights, but they're an ocean apart in experience in pedigree. While possessing heavy hands, Voelker just isn't as seasoned as Lawler, who's got some of the hardest punches in the business and owns a list of high-profile knockouts. But then again, such a matchup could be ripe for an upset in the topsy-turvy world of MMA.
Liz Carmouche (8-3 MMA, 0-1 UFC) vs. Jessica Andrade (9-2 MMA, 0-0 UFC): This bantamweight fight holds significance not just for being an injury replacement fight, but the first to feature two openly gay women in the octagon. Carmouche was slated to fight Miesha Tate before an injury to Cat Zingano brought her a coaching spot and title shot against champ Ronda Rousey, who submitted Carmouche in February. That gives the young and well-rounded Andrade the chance to make a big splash if she can manage the pressure of first-time octagon jitters.