Demetrious Johnson's résumé makes him a strong contender for the unofficial title of best pound-for-pound fighter in the world. The seven-time defending flyweight champion was his typical, masterful self in a five-round decision against John Dodson on Saturday. He's in a league of his own at 125 pounds.
UFC 191 won't be remembered as the top event of the year, but there's plenty to unpack from this weekend in Las Vegas. Check out my full list of fighter grades below.
He's the best fighter in the world. Coming into this weekend, I had Jon Jones and Jose Aldo ahead of Johnson on the pound-for-pound list, but that's about to change. Any way you want to measure this guy, he comes up No. 1. Johnson completely separated himself from the rest of his division. He's the most technical, well-rounded athlete in the sport. He's active (and would probably fight even more frequently if the UFC needed him to). He's a finisher (although he rarely gets credit for it). Johnson is the closest thing to "perfect" there is. I expect him to remain at flyweight long term and rack up exactly 387 title defenses.
Pretty straightforward grade here. Anderson did exactly what he needed to do. He took away the distance against his kickboxing opponent, getting into Blachowicz's face early and repeatedly taking him to the ground. He broke him by the second round. I think people sometimes forget Anderson's background is in college wrestling, as both a participant and a coach. Everything about this performance was on point. He literally removed any path Blachowicz had to victory. He's definitely still learning, but he's collecting wins in the process.
Difficult to find much to nitpick here. Johnson is such a freak athlete, man. We say it every time he fights, and yet every time it's worth saying again. The blast double leg he hit in the first round? The torque he generates on his combinations in the pocket? It's nasty, nasty stuff. If he closes the holes in his defensive wrestling and endurance that Daniel Cormier exposed, there's nothing preventing this guy from winning a UFC title. He is that talented. As far as his callout of the media's coverage on him, I mean, trying to victimize himself isn't a great move, in my opinion. Anthony, if you lash out at women on social media, people notice.
Bang. What a bantamweight debut. Lineker deserves high marks for this win, 100 percent, but the overall takeaway isn't completely a home run. The former flyweight did look small on fight night. Very small. He stalked Rivera and drew him into his kind of fight, but one has to wonder how Lineker will fare when he faces an opponent who's unwilling to fight him on those terms. As much as Lineker had to move up in weight due to his issues at 125, it's hard to see him as a serious title contender at 135 pounds. He could always prove those expectations wrong, but if we're being honest, he'll have a hard, hard road to the top of that division.
I thought Pearson was destined for nap time in this one. I think many of us did. One thing Pearson isn't short on, though, is experience, and he used it here. This was a professional performance. He picked up Felder's rhythm and always seemed to be popping in on the offbeats. When Felder turned it up, Pearson slipped, countered and circled. When Felder told himself to calm down and fight smart, Pearson was in his face, popping him with a left hook to get him frustrated again. This has to be considered one of the best-executed upsets of the year.
VanZant says it's much too early for comparisons to Ronda Rousey (and she's absolutely correct on that), but there is one parallel to be drawn between them. At this point in her career, VanZant is making plenty of mistakes, but her athletic gifts are more than making up for it. The same could have been said about Rousey earlier in her career. You can break VanZant's film down and criticize her technique if you want, but that somewhat misses the point. She's so much action, and her opponents are withering under it. Joanna Jedrzejczyk would blow VanZant out of the water right now, but again, that's not the point. The energy she's bringing into her performances, like this one against Alex Chambers -- that's going to translate to a higher degree of skill over time. For where she is in her career, this was a fine performance.
UFC 191 (lightweight)
Lost to Ross Pearson (SD)
Felder's biggest problem in this loss might have been that he was just thinking too much. Felder seems like one of those "flow" fighters. Once he finds his groove and is going off pure reaction, he's lethal. But if an opponent can disrupt that long enough to get him thinking in the Octagon, he gets a little stiff. We saw this in his loss to Edson Barboza, in which he just sort of stopped in the third round, and we saw it again here: Felder searching for the perfect way to attack Pearson rather than letting his hands go and reacting to what came next.
Let's not kid ourselves: this was an ugly fight. It doesn't erase the feel-good, comeback stories both Arlovski and Mir have written in 2015 -- but wow, was this an ugly fight. Arlovski did have to dig deep to reverse that takedown in the final round, and that was admirable. If Mir had been able to get into top position on that scramble, Arlovski would have almost certainly lost. As hard as it was on the eyes, Arlovski deserves credit for sneaking this one out, and he did flirt with a knockout in the final minutes. Did it help his case for a title shot, though? Probably not.
UFC 191 (bantamweight)
Lost to John Lineker (Sub1/2:08)
He said it after the fight. "My game plan went out the window." On one hand, how do you give Rivera a bad grade for having the guts to stand and participate in one of the most unbelievable exchanges of the year? On the other, how do you not? He took his significant height and reach advantage and just flushed it, opting to get into a coin-flip type of brawl with a man nicknamed "Hands of Stone." And he did it in the first round, when Lineker was still very fresh and at his most dangerous. Lineker deserves some credit for cornering him and sucking him into it, but Rivera deserves an equal amount of blame for allowing it to happen.
UFC 191 (flyweight)
Lost to Demetrious Johnson (UD)
If Dodson has improved since the first time he fought Johnson more than two years ago, it was difficult to see exactly where. He seemed happy with the fact he defended the bulk of Johnson's takedowns, but personally, I don't really see that as cause for great celebration. Hitting hard was never going to be enough to dethrone Johnson. There's a lot more to it. And after knocking Johnson down multiple times in 2013 and still not winning that fight, one would have thought Dodson would have already learned that. Fighting for a UFC title -- twice -- is a coveted opportunity. It didn't feel like Dodson made the most of this one.
UFC 191 (heavyweight)
Lost to Andrei Arlovski (UD)
The quick turnaround was a factor here. The UFC needed a co-main event and Mir (who had just fought in mid-July) stepped up to the plate. Asking him to jump from one fight camp directly into the next, at this stage of his career, was inviting trouble. He wasn't in great shape. He wasn't even in good shape. He was actually in pretty rotten shape -- and it showed. The greatest heavyweight submission artist in UFC history gets a key takedown in the second round and is so inactive the referee is forced to stand him up? It was a sad end to a nice two-fight comeback for Mir. He's better than what he showed on Saturday.
UFC 191 (light heavyweight)
Lost to Corey Anderson (UD)
When you're on the short end of multiple 30-25 judges' scores, that usually means you have a significant hole in your game. Watching Blachowicz essentially close his guard and pray for a standup any time he was on his back was frustrating, especially for a fight on the main portion of a pay-per-view card. He allowed Anderson to push him around, both on his feet and on the ground, and it looked like he had all but given up by the third round. He might not be long for the UFC world.