The reaction by some fans to the UFC’s flyweight title fight between Demetrious Johnson and Joseph Benavidez was less than stellar. Regardless, the division is moving forward and the hard-hitting John Dodson could be first in line as a title challenger. Will an exciting fighter like Dodson sway public opinion in favor of the flyweights?

Dodson made a name for himself by winning The Ultimate Fighter 14 at bantamweight. He blitzed through the competition with a TKO of Brandon Merkt to get into the house, then claimed a unanimous decision over John Albert and knocked out Johnny Bedford to punch his ticket into the finals. He reached a wider audience on the show’s live finale, where he scored a TKO of Team Alpha Male standout T.J. Dillashaw. It’s those kinds of fan-friendly performances, not to mention the finishing rate from a smaller fighter fighting above his weight class, that made people take notice.

Before he can test himself against the newly-crowned flyweight champion, he must get through a fellow top-ten ranked flyweight in Jussier “Formiga” da Silva at Friday’s UFC on FX 5. The winner could find himself with an opponent as soon as the fight concludes, seeing as the UFC is ready to get the ball rolling on its flyweight division.

In May of this year, Dodson returned to flyweight with a win that put him on the map in the budding weight class. Outside of the four competitors in the inaugural UFC flyweight tournament and a few of the TUF 14 cast that dropped to 125 pounds, fans would be hard-pressed to name a challenger to Johnson’s title. With Ian McCall and Joseph Benavidez forced to build their way back to a title shot with losses to the champ, Dodson is fresh in the fans’ minds as the next challenger, though Formiga should not be forgotten before he gets his chance.

I don’t blame the fans that weren’t overly enthused by the UFC 152 flyweight championship fight. I wouldn’t have booed the fight, which is a ridiculous thing to do when the fighters are actively working, but I wasn’t overly entertained either. Well into the second round, I had the thought that this fight would go the distance much like all of Johnson’s fights in the UFC. His fights hold action that is fast and furious, but decision-heavy or “point” fighters aren’t usually the most popular. That’s just the kind of fighter Johnson has shown to be up to this point. I don’t believe it is an issue of fans not appreciating flyweights, but more so fans not appreciating the style of Johnson.

Dodson brings the prospect of finishing a fight on the feet, and that draws interest from fans that aren’t on board with the division. In no way does that take away from the incredible pace or skill being displayed by flyweights such as Johnson, but the urgency that the next exchange could end the fight holds more interest for the uninitiated. The flyweights need more time to grow on the UFC audience, and Dodson is a fighter whose skills can bridge the gap for fans that weren’t pleased with Johnson’s last outing.

I’ll admit I’m still warming up to the 125-pound division. It’s as though the weight class warrants a learning curve for fans to ease into. But fans don’t need to learn how to watch a good fight, and that is why Dodson is getting the attention of being the first UFC flyweight title challenger before he even fights for that right.

Photo: John Dodson (Dave Mandel/Sherdog)

About The Author

David Massey
Staff Writer

David Massey studied Humanities and Art History at the University of Central Oklahoma. He first found interest in MMA from the first TUF show and has been hooked ever since. He began posting on mmajunkie then submitting Sunday Junkie entries and that began his interest in writing about MMA. Through twitter David found other MMA enthusiasts and began contributing articles to marqueemma.com. He looks forward to growing as a writer and being a part of the sport he loves.