Demetrious Johnson makes UFC history with 11th straight title defense

Kevin IoleCombat columnist
Demetrious Johnson made UFC history on Saturday night at UFC 216. (AP)
Demetrious Johnson made UFC history on Saturday night at UFC 216. (AP)

LAS VEGAS – Demetrious Johnson pulled off perhaps the most remarkable submission in UFC history, submitting Ray Borg with an arm bar Saturday at T-Mobile Arena to retain his flyweight title and set a UFC record for most consecutive successful title defenses in the co-main event of UFC 216.

Johnson was brilliant from the opening bell to Borg’s agonizing submission, but set the record in style. He picked Borg up and flipped him back in a suplex. What was remarkable was that while they were in the air, Johnson spun and grabbed Borg’s arm and locked the arm bar.

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Borg, who fought well and was good enough on this night to beat perhaps every other flyweight in the world, fought it as long as he could, but it was cinched, as the grimace on his face told.

Johnson never let off the torque and rather than dislocate his elbow and injure himself, Borg tapped at 3:15 of the final round.

“I worked on that so many times in the gym,” Johnson said.

The move paid huge dividends, allowing Johnson to surpass the legendary Anderson Silva and defend his belt for the 11th consecutive time.

Since decisioning Joseph Benavidez at UFC 152 in Toronto on Sept. 22, 2012, to win the belt, Johnson has won by knockout twice, by submission five times and by decision four times. He’s never really come close to losing and hasn’t even lost many rounds in that span.

He’s easily the greatest fighter in the sport, with an unmatched combination of terrific conditioning, incredible speed, near-perfect technique and an unmatched mind for fighting.

He spun and wheeled and slipped and moved and had Borg on the defensive all night, usually with the challenger on his back trying to fend off peril.

That he hasn’t been hugely popular says more about the fan base than it ever does about him.

It’s been an uphill climb for Johnson from the minute that UFC president Dana White decided he wanted to add a 125-pound division.

He’s not the physical freak of nature like ex-light heavyweight champion Jon Jones, the man most often mentioned along with Johnson as the greatest of all time. He’s not the deadly and cobra-like knockout artist Silva was during his amazing reign as the middleweight champion.

Johnson, who is barely larger than a jockey, looks like a guy who works 9-to-5 for a living, which he did as a forklift driver for much of the first half of his career.

This is a guy who never dreamed of becoming a pro fighter and only went to the gym to learn how to defend himself.

It was a boon for the sport, as he came along as the MMA boom hit its peak and showcased what the sport could be.

But few have ever come close to pulling off what Johnson did Saturday with his submission. Unheralded Ryo Chonan once submitted Silva with a flying scissor heel hook. Chan Sung Jung, aka “The Korean Zombie,” submitted Leonard Garcia with the only twister in UFC history in 2011. And Nick Diaz scored a rare gogoplata victory over Takanori Gomi in a PRIDE show in Las Vegas in 2007 that was later overturned because of a drug-test failure.

None of them required the strength, speed, timing and imagination that Johnson’s did, though.

And Johnson’s move came under championship pressure and with the streak on the line.

There haven’t been many like Johnson in the history of the sport, and it’s probably a fair guess to suggest there won’t be another like him any time soon.

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