ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. -- John Dodson thought he had it. With 5.2 million sets of eyeballs watching, the 28-year-old TUF winner dropped reigning UFC flyweight champion Demetrious Johnson to the canvas with hard lefts and rights several times throughout the opening 10 minutes at UFC on FOX 6's main event back in January.
Yet it just wasn't enough. Johnson stormed back strong, turning the tide during a close third frame before owning the championship rounds to squeak past Dodson for his first title defense on national television.
Even now, months later, Dodson can't believe he let the moment slip through his fingers.
"I've watched it over and over again," Dodson sighed while speaking to MMAFighting.com. "There's things I should've capitalized on, that I was yelling at myself for not doing. But also there was some things that I know of, that I've practiced a million times, and I don't know why I [didn't do them], being held down or controlled in certain situations. I wasn't pulling the trigger.
"I know I've done it in practice, why don't I do it in a fight? So that's my own fault for doing that, for not following through with it. I should've stayed a little bit more focused for the last few rounds. But hey, I gave the champ the fight of his life and everybody in the MMA community believes that I'm his toughest opponent yet."
Between their styles and personalities, Dodson and Johnson couldn't be more different, which made the loss that much harder to swallow. Johnson is low-key, mild mannered and P.R. friendly. Dodson is wired to be on 11 at all times. Johnson grinds out decisions -- nine in 10 contests under the Zuffa banner. Dodson hunts for the finish, claiming four knockouts in six UFC outings if you count his stint on The Ultimate Fighter 14.
"I understand his fighting style," Dodson said of Johnson. "He's technical, he just makes sure he holds a single area and he just sits there. He was talking s--t about how I'm just explosive and that's it. S--t, apparently my explosiveness caught him for three of the rounds and he only won two. Well, in everyone else's eyes he won three.
"But you know what?" Dodson paused before continuing, "I'm still a fan of him. I'm a fan of his fighting style because he knows how to recover and actually kind of dictate the pace. It threw me off my game. Fans may not like it, but s--t, he came out to fight."
Dodson isn't one to offer excuses, but this particular loss doesn't sit well with him.
"I thought I won three [rounds], man," he admitted. "In my mind, I thought I had the first three rounds, and then when I watched it, I still thought I had the first three rounds. Because it was the third round where he took me down. I slipped and I fell, and he sat on top of me, and then I stood right back up. I was like, come on, come at me again. I actually dropped him in that third round, and you guys don't count that. You guys count him coming and landing on top on me as more impressive than me dropping him."
All three judges disagreed, yet as Dodson recounted the pivotal third round, he couldn't help but grow frustrated by what he perceived to be flaws in the system.
"If you take somebody down and they get right back up, that shouldn't be counted as anything," he explained. "That should be counted as getting jabbed or hit with a straight. Like, if you take the man down and don't do s--t with it, and he pops right back up, that means you wasted all your energy and he's perfectly fine."
Ultimately none of it matters. What's done is done, and just days after the fight, Dodson was right back at Jackson-Winklejohn's, working through his mistakes and making sure that next time things will be different.
Dodson isn't sure when or where he'll fight next. He's ready to go tomorrow, if that phone call comes. But without a bout lined up, he's simply carrying on with his own special brand of fun, whether it's participating in the 12-mile Tough Mudder obstacle course or trying out for NBC's American Ninja Warrior. "I'm an American. I'm a ninja. I'm a warrior," he joked. "I got every single one of these words in my vocabulary."
The list of contenders at flyweight isn't the longest, so Dodson's road back to the title may be shorter than most fallen challengers. But he's ready for whatever the UFC wants to throw at him, regardless if it's a year from now, next month, or next week.
"If it were up to me, it'd be right now," Dodson finished with a grin. "Shoot, I was ready to go last week. Or the week after the fight, I was ready to go.
"I wanted to go right away, but since [Johnson] already has a fight, I don't care who I have to fight to lead up to that. I'm going to go back there, I'm going to win every one of my next fights including my next title fight. I will get that rematch, and I will win."