Yes, yes... we all know the reasons you aren't allowed to like Demetrious Johnson. He's too small. He's too short. Your seventh grade daughter outweighs him. He's "boring." He has no personality. Etc. etc. As much as I respect all that, and I don't -- here are ten reasons I absolutely love to watch Demetrious "Mighty Mouse" Johnson fight.
10. He's ridiculously fast!
I know big shocker there, but as much as some of you love watching power and bombs, I am in awe of his speed.
9. He's so smooth.
The way he transitions between various aspects of his game is just pretty. Even the way he capitalizes on his failures is smooth. Ever watch the guy shoot a single or double leg, miss badly, and then take his opponent's back? He does it all the time! Whereas most of his peers shoot, miss, take a deep breath, reset, and hope for another chance later.
8. He's incredibly well-rounded.
The only thing the guy doesn't do well is keep his opponents at bay with a long reach, but considering that he stands five foot three, I'm inclined to give him a pass here. Obviously, I'm in the minority.
7. He is second to none at making adjustments during a fight.
The ability to adapt to his opponents skills and game plan has shown itself on multiple occasions. The fact is, we aren't talking about a guy who has never been hurt, rocked, or in trouble. He's actually been bested in exchanges many times. What makes him so deadly is that when an opponent shows that they may have found a weakness to exploit, he quickly closes the hole. Not only does he close the hole, he seems to find a way to use it against his opponent.
6. He proves that coaches have a real purpose in your corner.
The truth is that a lot of good coaching is given (and a lot isn't) in the corner of fights, but the vast majority of guys seem to forget the advice their coaches gave them as soon as they get up from their stool. And if they haven't, the information is gone within 10 seconds of the following round or when their opponent lands his/her first punch. Mighty Mouse not only respects and listens to The Wizard, but he goes out there and applies the tutelage in the way you should.
5. His level changes are quite phenomenal.
You might not think that a sub 5 foot 7 inch guy has different levels with which to change. DJ is happy to prove otherwise. High, low, high, low, in, out, low, high... he never gives his opponent a still target to hit nor a common position from which to defend his own attacks.
4. His post fight celebrations.
What? If you guys can choose not to like him for reasons other than merit, I am free to like something he does other than his mma skills. So maybe he doesn't talk a ton of trash or have an abundance of bass in his voice, but the guy DOES have a personality! And I for one like to see happy people who are enjoying themselves and find pleasure in what they do. Even if he is a bit "geeky" at times, I actually find his exuberance to be infectious.
3. I dig the nickname and the fact that he has chosen to keep it.
Again, this isn't about what he does in the cage, and I doubt this has actually been considered much let alone discussed. But lets face facts... a good many people don't enjoy watching the flyweights. They don't respect the little guys the way they should. Having a nickname that reminds everyone that you're awfully small is probably not the best way to combat the unfair bias. And while his nickname may not be doing much to quell the haters, I think it's a fantastic sign that he doesn't take himself too seriously and is able to enjoy a laugh at his own expense. Both are rarities in this day and age and I believe admirable. There's another plus in his personality portfolio.
2. His ability to evolve from fight to fight and not be daunted by adversity.
The list of fighters that show as much improvement in their game as DJ from fight to fight isn't a very exhausting one. He doesn't allow momentary stumbles to thwart his greatness either. For instance, coming back to fight Ian McCall three months after their draw (a fight Mighty Mouse clearly lost in my estimation), he demonstrated in the second encounter that they really weren't that close at all. I really enjoy seeing what he has added to his repertoire or improved since his last outing. Being the champion and continue to evolve isn't only a sign of dominance but a sign of hunger. It's nice to see a champion still hungry, wanting to win, and refusing to settle for "good enough."
1. He wants to finish for and excite a crowd that refuses to embrace him.
This one is sort of an extension of number two because it points back to that hunger that DJ has. What's incredible here is that in spite of finishing four of his past five opponents the public is quick to label him a "decision machine" and hold his past against him. This is crazy to me for a couple of reasons. Chief among them is that what Demetrious is doing goes against the norm. The normal criticism of champions is that they learn to "coast" or play it safe and "ride out a decision" after becoming champion to hold on to the gold. This is the exact opposite of what Johnson has done. He went from being a fighter with only one finish in his first ten WEC/UFC fights to a man who has finished all but one of his last five opponents.
More to the point of his absolute refusal to simply coast to victory is that he now has two submission victories in the final two minutes of his fights, both coming in five round bouts that he had clearly won every round. He could have easily decided to "take the last couple minutes off" and ride into dominant 50-45 scorecards to defend his title. In fact, that's what most of his contemporaries do when they know they have secured a victory in the fifth round. But not DJ, nope -- as evidenced by putting John Moraga away with only a minute and seventeen seconds remaining and then besting that on Saturday night by submitting Kyoji Horiguchi in the contest's final second, Demetrious demonstrated that he desperately wants to finish and prove his superiority over his peers and give the crowd in attendance something to cheer about. It doesn't seem to matter to him that they won't or refuse.
He may not be the slugger that you have batting third or fourth in your line-up, but he is very much the scrappy utility player that you know is going to sprint down the first base line whether he hits a double into the gap or pops the ball up for an easy out. He may not be a threat to knock the ball out of the park every time he comes to the plate, but you can rest assured he is going to give you the best he's got each and every time out, without ever taking a play off. I don't know, but I think you have got to respect that hustle. The guy flat out brings it, and I for one find it a privilege to watch him in action!