For the eighth installment of UFC on Fox, the promotion brings fans the second title defense for the inaugural UFC flyweight champion, Demetrious “Mighty Mouse” Johnson. He will be defending his title against The MMA Lab’s John Moraga, who has only one blemish on his three-and-a-half-year pro record.

Johnson won the UFC flyweight tournament in 2012 after fighting three decision bouts between March and September for a total of 55 minutes of cage time. Mighty Mouse entered the UFC after a 2-1 run in Zuffa’s smaller WEC promotion. He came in as a bantamweight after the merger, but immediately entered the flyweight tournament when that new division was added.

Moraga came into the UFC on a five-fight winning streak, which he has since extended to seven wins in a row. A training partner of UFC lightweight champ Benson Henderson, Efrain Escudero and the Meza brothers, Moraga comes from a great camp and has finished his opponents in eight of his 13 wins. His two fights in the UFC have ended in stoppages.

Johnson, on the other hand, has yet to finish an opponent in the Octagon. Of his seven UFC fights, all have gone to decision, but he has fought UFC bantamweight champ Dominick Cruz, Joseph Benavidez, John Dodson and Ian McCall twice. Of the flyweight and bantamweight matches he has had, he has only fought the best. He may not be able to stop his opponents, but he has also proven unstoppable.

The flyweight champ may be three years the younger fighter, but he has a ton more big stage experience than Moraga, who has three less years of pro fighting experience. Both fighters will be poised to put on a great display of high-paced fighting on Saturday night at the Key Arena in Seattle, Wash., for UFC on Fox 8: Johnson vs. Moraga.

Let’s take a deeper look at the match-up. And as a reminder, this is a side-by-side comparison of how the fighters’ skills match up against one another using similar scoring to the unified rules.

Wrestling: Johnson – 9, Moraga – 10

Wrestling is going to be a big factor in this bout. Johnson not only has a solid wrestling background from his high school days, but he has done a great job of transitioning this skill into the MMA ring. He has displayed his skills against a dominant wrestler in Benavidez, but it was in a fight he won by a closely contested split decision. This could pose a problem for the champ against a guy like Moraga.

Moraga is a two-time All-American NCAA Division I wrestler out of Arizona State University, where he was a teammate of UFC veterans Ryan Bader, C.B. Dollaway, and current heavyweight champ Cain Velasquez. With a longer frame, Moraga should be able to dominate the clinch position when he has Johnson up against the cage. On the ground, it will be difficult for Johnson to deal with Moraga’s superior wrestling skills, because, unlike Benavidez, Moraga will have a distinct size advantage.

Moraga definitely dominates in the wrestling game.

Striking: Johnson – 10, Moraga – 9

Johnson’s footwork and lateral movement are amazing. While Moraga’s wrestling skills could prove cumbersome for the champ to defend against the cage, Moraga must first get Johnson there, but that’s no easy task. The quick in-and-out punching schemes make it tough for a wrestler to get a hold of Mighty Mouse.

Moraga may be the taller fighter at 5-foot-6, but he does not have the same multilateral patterns that the champ displays. Moraga’s strength lies in his explosive power. As he proved in his win over Ulysses Gomez, he packs the wallop to finish a fight with strikes, which is rare in the flyweight division

Although Moraga may have more power, the champ gets the nod in striking. He went the distance with McCall twice and is the more elusive and mobile striker.

Submission Grappling: Johnson – 9, Moraga – 10

The real testament to a grappler’s prowess lies not in his submission win column, but in his submission losses. Neither Johnson nor Moraga has a single submission loss. However, the two former wrestlers combine for a total of 12 submission wins, most of which came via choke. However, this is a fight where every little bit counts, and the training camp is a huge factor in this aspect of the game.

Johnson trains out of Matt Hume’s AMC Pankration in Washington and will be the hometown favorite. His camp is pretty much MMA all the way around. Moraga trains out of The MMA Lab in Arizona with John Crouch, a first-degree Gracie black belt. Moraga is training with the top of the heap when it comes to BJJ, and Johnson is training more in “BJJ in MMA.”

Moraga displayed a nice third-round submission in his last fight with Chris Cariaso. The champ hasn’t finished an opponent by way of submission since 2010. Moraga should have better transitions and positions should this one hit the mat.

Durability: Johnson – 10, Moraga – 9

As mentioned previously, Johnson has been the distance in all of his fights in the Octagon. That may seem like a problem, being that he has not been able to finish an opponent, but it also proves that he is nearly impossible to finish.

Moraga has never been finished in his short career, but his two UFC fights were against guys who have yet to win in the Octagon and his one loss was to top UFC contender John Dodson. In such a limited career, it is difficult to know just how durable he is.

Johnson has been the distance with limited damage enough times to know he can take a beating and keep coming full speed ahead.

Aggressiveness: Johnson – 9, Moraga – 10

Mighty Mouse might have crazy lateral movement, but Moraga is much more aggressive with his stand-up. As Gomez found out, Moraga can come out guns a blazin’, no problem.

The champ is more calculating. Johnson’s movement is always crisp, but it’s also patient. He doesn’t just go in for the kill every time, because he spends his time picking his opponents apart.

Johnson might be fast, but he fights much more calmly than Moraga. Moraga’s aggressiveness rivals McCall’s, and that could put Johnson in a cluster of trouble.

X-factor

The X-factor here is clearly Johnson’s experience. Mighty Mouse worked through the ranks of WEC’s bantamweight division to eventually earn a shot against UFC bantamweight champ Dominick Cruz after the merger. He began fighting for Zuffa with a perfect 10-0 mark when Moraga was only six months into his pro career. Johnson’s level of experience on the big stage will clearly give him the advantage in this fight.

Total: Johnson – 48, Moraga – 47

Verdict: This fight seems on the surface like it should go the way of the champ, if for nothing else than quality of past opponents alone. However, it’s not that easy. Moraga’s two main strengths are the type that could change this match-up completely. With Moraga’s aggressive nature and wrestling superiority, he could overwhelm just about anybody. However, Johnson is not anybody. This guy fought three decision fights, one a five-rounder, in just six months. His stamina and durability are a challenge to anyone, even at bantamweight. Moraga might have some momentum, but Mighty Mouse has a champion’s momentum, and that’s tough to mimic. Look for the champ to go the distance again and take this one by unanimous decision.

Photo: Demetrious Johnson (L) (Heavy MMA)

About The Author

Dan Kuhl
Interview Coordinator