The UFC’s flyweight division is one of those weight classes where no clear impediments exist between the champion and the rest of its competitors.
This isn't necessarily bad news for anyone not named Demetrious Johnson. While it may seem impossible to dethrone the champion, it’s very possible to at least fight him.
That’s how Paddy Holohan sees it anyway.
"Demetrious Johnson has cleared out the division, so people are working their butts off to become contenders," said Holohan on Monday’s edition of The MMA Hour "But I think you can fight anyone and all of a sudden find yourself fighting for the belt."
As things stand, the current top three threats to the 125-pound title are Joseph Benavidez, Jussier Formiga and Ian McCall.
Both Benavidez and McCall have failed to win in two tries against the champ, while Formiga — who’s never faced Johnson — has three losses on his record, all to opponents Johnson has already defeated. Because of the situation, fighters who aren't currently top contenders can sneak into a title shot.
In fact, four out of the Johnson's seven title defenses have been against opponents ranked lower than the top four. Ali Bagautinov and John Moraga were each ranked fourth when they faced Johnson. Chris Cariaso was ranked eight, and Kyoji Horiguchi, despite coming into the title-fight showdown with an undefeated UFC record, was just seventh in the promotion’s official rankings.
Holohan recognizes this fact, and says it’s part of what makes opportunity so ripe in the division.
"It’s not really about who’s in what position," said Holohan. "It’s not as clear cut as the other divisions."
Holohan (12-1-1) will face Hawaiian prospect Luis Smolka (9-1) in the main event of this Saturday’s UFC Fight Night 76 in Dublin, Ireland. With the featured bouts between Stipe Miocic and Ben Rothwell, as well as the main event between Dustin Poirier and Ireland's own Joseph Duffy being cancelled, Saturday becomes a big spotlight chance to make a bid for Holohan.
Should he get by Smolka to make it three wins in a row — and four out of five in the UFC — his credentials will become that of a contender in the UFC's wide open flyweight division.