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Monday, January 28, 2013
Johnson proves flyweights can be fun

By Josh Gross
ESPN.com

This is for people who doubted the flyweight division, as if high skill at a blazing beat will turn off casual fans: Do 125-pound mixed martial artists literally need to float and sting, or are you satisfied?

Demetrious Johnson and John Dodson put on the most memorable flyweight contest the UFC has produced, though I suspect 125 will deliver better MMA several times this year. How many times did referee "Big" John McCarthy inject himself into the 25-minute title match? I don't recall one time in the name of slow action. Only the champ's two illegal shots, both ruled accidental, broke up the flow. With McCarthy mostly working out of frame, champion and challenger could have just as easily come across five divisions heavier to the viewer at home.

If you're still not convinced, I don't know what to tell you except watch Saturday when Joseph Benavidez meets Ian McCall. If you're going to complain about that one before it happens, just admit to yourself that you don't like MMA.

For the open-minded: Don't be surprised if flyweight earns a reputation for allowing fighters' styles to shine.

Guys this size slug it out, take big shots and soldier on more often than other weight classes. That means bouts will consistently go later. How much have we seen Demetrious Johnson over the past 10 months? Sixteen rounds. All decisions. This is the best guy in the world at 125. From top to bottom, flyweight should produce MMA that challenges fighters to be their best for however long the bout agreement states. And that's good news insofar as the division producing chrome-polished MMA.

In keeping with the theme, six of the eight fighters graded this week compete at 155 pounds and under. Lightweight and featherweight -- to a lesser extent 125 as it pushes through the early stages of its UFC development -- are primed for a major string of fights. The results from this weekend will play out in a significant way throughout 2013.