Wednesday night saw Demetrious Johnson get his chance to become world champion once again.
After losing his UFC flyweight title in a close split decision with Henry Cejudo in 2018, Johnson, widely considered one of the best fighters of all time, left the UFC in a widely-publicized “trade” with ONE Championship for Ben Askren. The deal seemed like a bargain for ONE: Askren had been retired. Johnson was the best lower-weight fighter on the planet. And he fought like it when he arrived in ONE, going on to win the promotion’s flyweight grand prix.
That tournament win, complete with oversized belt, punched Johnson’s ticket to a title fight with champ Adriano Moraes. And at ONE on TNT 1 on Wednesday, after a year of pandemic-induced delays, their showdown finally arrived.
Johnson found some adversity in the opening round. After some back-and-forth early, Moraes was able to get the upper hand on the ground, getting on top of “Mighty Mouse.” Eventually, Moraes settled into Johnson’s guard, looking to pass, while Johnson threw a few strikes, including an elbow, from the bottom.
Moraes’ size advantage, however, one of the bigger questions heading into the fight, seemed to have announced itself early.
Round two saw an exchange of kicks, and plenty of back-and-forth on the feet. Johnson fluidly switched stances, employed feints, and gave Moraes all sorts of different looks. But the champion never seemed to be in much trouble. And when he caught Johnson with a right hand, it was the begging of the end. Johnson went down. On the way up, he ate a nasty knee — one that would have been illegal in Johnson’s old home in the UFC, but which was perfectly legal under the ONE Championship ruleset.
That was it. Johnson’s title hopes, hopes for a second belt, were dashed. With Eddie Alvarez suffering a DQ loss earlier in the night, it was a rough outing for the American contingent at ONE on TNT 1. Instead of a title, it was the first stoppage loss of his career for Johnson. And the biggest win yet for Moraes.
Official result: Adriano Moraes (c) def. Demetrious Johnson by knockout, Round 2, 2:24