In the headliner of next Saturday’s UFC on Fox 8 card, UFC flyweight champion Demetrious “Mighty Mouse” Johnson defends his belt against top contender John Moraga, while highly-touted Rory MacDonald faces off against Jake Ellenberger in an intensely-charged welterweight battle. Before they step into the Octagon, however, the four took time to promote the card via a teleconference, which also featured UFC president Dana White.

While Johnson and Moraga take center stage, MacDonald and Ellenberger may very well steal the show. Both men come off of dominant performances, with Ellenberger scoring a UFC 158 knockout of Nate Marquardt and MacDonald outclassing BJ Penn at UFC on Fox 5. The two engaged in a Twitter war, stemming from Ellenberger asking his followers in which round they saw him knocking out MacDonald.

MacDonald, while normally soft-spoken, did not take kindly to this, and thus, he will walk in with a brand new objective in mind. Nevertheless, Ellenberger promised a knockout win over MacDonald, and whenever “The Juggernaut” promises something, he plans on keeping it.

“I never said anything that wasn’t true,” Ellenberger proclaimed, “and my message was clear. I told him to prepare for some horizontal television time and I meant it.”

If MacDonald remains a favorite in this bout despite Ellenberger’s predictions, chalk it up to his calm demeanor, as well as the fire lit inside the Canadian since losing to Carlos Condit at UFC 115. He currently rides a four-fight winning streak, with finishes over Che Mills and Mike Pyle to his credit. Moreover, he dominated those fights without any concern about any words spoken before the bout by his opponents, so one little blurb about Ellenberger looking to finish MacDonald will not stifle him mentally.

“It doesn’t really bother me either way,” MacDonald said, “I don’t care about [others] disrespecting me. I just get in there and fight my fight. If they suffer they suffer, I don’t really care. It makes them look like an asshole.”

White, regularly the man who deems his company’s events as the best in mixed martial arts, sees the stylistic bout between the two explosive welterweights and easily finds a reason to believe that viewers will enjoy MacDonald-Ellenberger for as long as it lasts. Hence, he will say without hesitation that MacDonald will find arguably his toughest foe yet, while Ellenberger looks to continue his impressive ways, and the winner may find themselves a step closer to that all-important title shot they both seek.

“This is a great fight,” White said, “I’m really excited about this fight. Both guys are really explosive and dynamic finishers. I don’t know. Obviously, the guy who wins this fight is right up there and close to a title shot. This would be a huge win for Rory and Ellenberger’s last win was really impressive. This is his biggest test.”

Of course, when it comes to a potential UFC welterweight title fight, no one can clearly say whether MacDonald will ever go for the shot as long as teammate Georges St-Pierre holds the gold. Anything can happen, and MacDonald expects everything to change after UFC on Fox 8 ends. Therefore, he will keep his crosshairs locked onto Ellenberger now, and worry about the pressure of a title fight later.

“I’m just gonna focus on this fight for now. My whole career has been going with the flow. Everything changes after each fight. I’ll see where I am after this fight and assess the options from there.”

Speaking of seeing where a fighter stands, it remains a logical possibility that soft-spoken flyweight title contender Moraga may stand atop the UFC flyweight division as its undisputed world champion after next Saturday. After all, Moraga knows the feeling of going the distance in bouts, and he knows what happens to most other fighters when they find themselves in the championship rounds against Johnson. Therefore, skeptics should kindly forgive Moraga for choosing to do what he needs to in order to set himself apart from the others that tried and came up short.

“The thing I’ve been working on most has been cardio, making sure I’m able to go hard for all five rounds,” Moraga said, “that’s where I think he’s shown his best fighting ability, outlasting his opponents and I’m not gonna let that happen in our fight…the pressure doesn’t get to me. I want to win.”

Johnson will not come into this second title defense with much pressure on his shoulders, either. As the champion, he always comes prepared to battle, and while he did take punishment from John Dodson in his last outing, Johnson still came back to take the title home with him again. Like it or not, Johnson’s proverbial machine remains in top form with each performance, and he owes his team a deal of thanks for that.

“My last fight I fought, I think he [John Dodson] is one of the guys in the division that has that one-shot knockout power where he drops guys,” Johnson said, “You see him do it all the time. John Moraga possesses great skills. He throws great combinations but when it comes to my training and preparing for fights, we don’t bring [anybody] in to emulate my opponent. I believe in my training partners and my ability to train hard. I believe in my [coaches] and that’s what we’ve done and it hasn’t let us down yet.”

In regards to the criticisms about Johnson’s style and recent streak of decisions, don’t expect that to end unless Moraga stops Johnson. Ask Johnson, and he will not worry about what anyone says about his style because at the end of the day, he gets results.

“I don’t care. It’s his opinion [about me being boring]. Everyone’s entitled to their opinion and I don’t care.”

White echoes that sentiment as well. Though he always stresses the importance of not leaving fights up to the judges, he also does not take issue with fights that go to decision if they turn in exciting affairs. Some may not like how Johnson gets the job done, but others find it entertaining.

“I think if you look, Ben Henderson has had fights go to decisions, controversial decisions. Demetrious has gone to decisions. As long as it’s an exciting fight. There’s all different types of fighters. Some guys go in there and knock people out. Some guys pull of submissions and some guys go to decision but have exciting fights. The last fight with Demetrious was an awesome fight. I don’t know the answer to that question.”

If any questions remain with almost a week before the event, two of these four men will address them next weekend in Seattle. The eyes and ears of the world will watch as MacDonald, Ellenberger, Johnson and Moraga step into the cage and look to leave everything inside of it. When the smoke clears, however, will the landscape in MMA continue to change? Will the welterweight division’s most valuable prospect continue his ascent through the ranks of the division?

Most importantly of all, will we see a changing of the guard in the UFC’s lightest weight class, or will “Mighty Mouse” extend his reign further and cement his status as the premier athlete at 125 pounds? For all of these and more, catch UFC on Fox 8: Johnson vs. Moraga live next Saturday evening on Fox.

Photo: Demetrious Johnson (Esther Lin/MMA Fighting)

About The Author

Dale De Souza
Staff Writer

Dale De Souza is a 22-year-old kid straight out of Texas, who grew up around Professional Wrestling but embraced the beauty of Mixed Martial Arts and Combat Sports at a young age. Dale is a Featured Columnist at Bleacher Report MMA, a writer at The MMA Corner.