Demetrious Johnson may have stunned the MMA world with the unprecedented sequence that led to his record-breaking victory over Ray Borg at UFC 216 — a suplex-to-armbar finish that Dana White called the best submission in UFC history — but the move wasn’t anything out of the ordinary for “Mighty Mouse.” According to Johnson, he’s been regularly training the submission for the past several years. He’s just never had the chance to use it against a world-class opponent.
“It’s always been in my back pocket, in my toolbox, but I never try to force submissions,” Johnson said Monday on The MMA Hour. “When you start trying to force things, that’s when you over-extend, you make mistakes. And so for that, it was just the perfect timing, man.
“(Head coach) Matt (Hume) has been working with me on shifting people’s weights when they’re trying to be heavy. And then once Ray Borg threw that back elbow, he took his weight off, he went to focus on planting, so I purposefully started kneeing him in the legs, just getting his mind on something else. So once he goes, ‘back elbow,’ thank you, you just moved your weight for me, now you just became lighter. Then threw him up and that’s why I was able to execute that.”
Johnson, 31, established a new standard for consecutive UFC title defenses (11) with his victory, breaking the previous record held by Anderson Silva. And he did so with the same kind of masterful performance that’s become his modus operandi over the course of his run as UFC flyweight champion, outclassing Borg in every regarding before ending things with his jaw-dropping fifth-round submission.
Johnson admitted he’s already watched the armbar sequence “probably four or five times” and he gets a chuckle out of seeing the fight world freak out about a move he’s done hundreds of time in the gym.
In total, Johnson has now finished seven of his last 10 fights, all against top-tier competition. And while he couldn’t remember for sure, Johnson said he wouldn’t be surprised if he has been perfecting that suplex-to-armbar sequence under the direction of Matt Hume since before he even debuted inside the Octagon.
“Because I got in the UFC in 2011, and I started training when I got out of high school, so about 2006 or 2007, so it’s definitely possible,” Johnson said.
“When I’m in the fight, there’s never a gameplan. Like, we know what my opponent is going to do well, we know what their strategy is, and then I just go out there and let the fight unfold, and then if I get into a position where I know I can take advantage of them, then I’ll open my toolbox and see which shiny tool I can use to get the job done. And obviously, the Mighty Wiz-bar was the perfect one to pull off.
“I’m always looking for the finish,” Johnson added. “I’m never going to skate by on the judges’ scorecards. The judges, they might as well just go home when I’m fighting.”
Johnson first dubbed his submission the “Mighty Wiz-bar” during his appearance on Monday’s show, but then changed course after hearing UFC featherweight champion Max Holloway suggest “The Mighty-plex.”
Regardless of what Johnson wants it to be called, though, his ridiculous feat will be a fixture of UFC highlight-reel packages for years to come, and Johnson admitted that Borg’s pre-fight talk — which largely centered around Borg’s claims that he would beat Johnson in the scrambles — played a part in how the fight turned out.
“Ray Borg is tough. Very, very tough,” Johnson said. “I hit him with some good shots, some good knees to the liver, a couple liver kicks, and I felt that he was always going to be tough. And that was the thing when I fought him. When you look at his previous fights, the thing he’s really good at that people don’t appreciate is, one, he’s very tough, two, he’s very good at the scrambles. So it almost kinda reminds me of Tim Elliot — Tim Elliot will let you get his back. He’ll let you have his back, that way when you go down for the choke, he’ll scramble and end up on top, and then next thing you know, you’re on your back and you have to get off.
“So when I was with Ray Borg, I was like, ‘Dude, you’re letting me have this, that’s fine. I’m going to let you think I’m going to go for it, and then you when you try to scramble, I’m going to be ahead of you in the scramble, because you think you think you’re a better scrambler than I am, because I remember you saying that my scrambling ability is horrible.’
“I didn’t bother me (that he said that), it’s just that I just wanted to prove a point.”
Johnson added that because of the history involved, his UFC 216 victory over Borg “one-hundred percent” meant more to him than any of his past successes. Now it’s up to him to extend his record far beyond the reach of any future challenger to his all-time UFC throne — something he will look to do next year after taking a bit of a break for the remaining few months of 2017.
“To go through 11 title training camps is just hard on the body, man. I put more miles on my body (in training) than I do fighting, so this was a huge one for me,” Johnson said. “And I told everybody, like, ‘Dude, I don’t even want to think about fighting my next fight until the beginning of the year.’ So this one was [important]. Nobody in the history of mixed martial arts itself, DREAM, Pride, ONE FC, LFA, Titan, Strikeforce, I can just go on, Rizin — nobody, not even one champion, has defended a title eight times as a male or female, and I just did 11?
“So this is a big f*cking deal and it means a lot to me.
“For me, I just like to be able to have my name above all the other champions. I mean, we’ve had some great champions. Anderson, GSP, Jon Jones, Daniel Cormier, Joanna Jedrzejczyk, Ronda Rousey, Conor McGregor, and we all offer something totally different to the table as a champion. But for me, to bring consistency as a champion, pass all my drug tests as a champion, probably one of the easiest champions to work with in the UFC — that goes a long way in my book. So I’m happy.”