Each week, ESPN.com writer and MMA Live Extra analyst Brett Okamoto provides his take on the hottest topics in the world of mixed martial arts.
This week, Okamoto squares off with UFC flyweight champion Demetrious Johnson to debate the latest news and trends. Johnson, 29, defended his title against John Dodson at UFC 191 in dominating fashion.
Demetrious Johnson: Not when Jon Jones comes back. There are a lot of guys in MMA who don't understand this, but he's one of the guys who doesn't just go out and fight. He understands the way he moves, how he mixes s--- up, how he always keeps his opponents thinking. This is why he's so far ahead of the curve. Once Jon Jones comes back, he will reclaim what was taken from him by his own damn stupidity and he'll keep it. If he fights Anthony Johnson, Jon has the wrestling ability that Daniel Cormier already showed is Johnson's downfall. And he's already beaten Ryan Bader once. I like both of those guys, but at the end of the day, Jon Jones is so long and athletic, that's an obstacle to get over in itself.
Brett Okamoto: I would agree with DJ on this -- not as long as Jon Jones is in that division. If/when Jones moves up to heavyweight, then maybe this is a different story. But as long as Jones is at 205, I don't really consider ANYONE to be a legitimate threat to the UFC title. Could Johnson land a big overhand right in the opening minute of a title fight against Jones? He could. I don't think he would, though.
2. When Cain Velasquez is healthy again, should he still get a UFC title shot or fall back in line in the heavyweight division?
Johnson: Depends on what the UFC wants to do -- but Cain is 33 years old. I would like to see [Fabricio] Werdum take on Stipe Miocic or Alistair Overeem and Cain Velasquez can fight somebody else. Just to keep him fresh, not have him sit out and wait for these title fights. You look at other guys doing that -- Frankie Edgar, he's willing to wait for Conor McGregor. I don't think that's a good idea. McGregor is calling the shots. Frankie doesn't work for the UFC anymore. He works for McGregor Inc. That's what Frankie should say. I don't think he should sit around and wait for a title shot. I think he should fight Max Holloway or Jose Aldo. At the end of the day, you're getting paid to fight. I'm taking every paycheck I can get.
Okamoto: From the start, I was in the minority on this. I was fine with the UFC giving Velasquez a rematch after he lost to Werdum in June. I felt there was reason to believe that wasn't the best version of Velasquez when they fought and frankly, when I looked around the heavyweight division, I didn't see an obvious title challenger that HAD to be granted a shot immediately. So I was good with the rematch. Now? Not really. I'm not as eager to give Velasquez the title shot this time, whenever he comes back from injury. Part of that is because now there ARE other title contenders who have earned it. Miocic has earned it. Overeem has earned it. Ben Rothwell is in that conversation as well. It's unlucky for Velasquez, but I think he needs to get back in line this time.
3. Jose Aldo's coach has stated the former champion would be willing to sit out an entire year for a UFC title shot. Is this a good decision?
Johnson: For me, after I got done fighting John Dodson (Sept. 5), I was healthy. I did a tour in Japan, Mexico and then I was like, "Dude, I'm ready to go." I'm only getting older and Dana White is straight up about this; my window of opportunity to make as much money as possible is very, very short. So I think for Aldo, once he's healthy, get back in camp and take on a challenger. Keep yourself fresh. The more Octagon time you get, the better you are. Fight somebody with a different style. Don't always train for Conor McGregor. This is why I respect (UFC female bantamweight champion) Holly Holm. She said, "I don't give a f--- about Ronda Rousey. If she's ready, cool -- but if not, line them up."
Okamoto: I could not be more against this decision. Don't get me wrong -- I understand it. If any champion has done enough to warrant an immediate rematch after a loss, it's Aldo, but he's been inactive due to injury. He doesn't help himself out by volunteering for media opportunities, especially in the U.S. You can say, "That's not his job; his job is to win fights" and that's all well and good, but the reality is this: If Aldo doesn't get the right markets to CARE about his McGregor rematch, he's unlikely to get it. And sitting out for an entire year isn't going to get anybody to care. I respect what he's standing for: "Hey, I was a champion for six years. I deserve a title fight and I'm not taking anything less." I don't disagree with that, but if it calls for Aldo to sit out an extended period of time, I don't think he's doing himself a favor.
Johnson: I'm sure he cuts a lot of weight to get to 155. It's like Conor McGregor fighting at 155. He probably walks around at 170. Him making 145 is absolutely daunting on the body. If Sage is going to welterweight, is he truly fighting the bigger guys in the division? Is he going to fight a guy who weighs 190 pounds between fights? Is he fighting a guy like Robbie Lawler, Carlos Condit or Tyron Woodley -- a legitimate welterweight? Or is he fighting a guy who should probably be fighting at 155 pounds anyway? Either way, kudos to him. Keep it going, super Sage.
Okamoto: In his last fight, he struggled (a little) with the wrestling-heavy game plan of Cody Pfister. That's doesn't inspire a ton of confidence in a move up in weight to a division stacked with talented wrestlers much bigger than Pfister. That said though, Northcutt is still in the developmental stage of his career anyway. If he runs into a 170-pound wrestler who manages to hold him down, so what? He's 19. He has six or seven years before he even reaches his "prime." If he's already having some difficulty cutting to 155 pounds and believes his future is at 170, then by all means, he might as well be fighting at the higher weight now, acclimating to it and not killing himself cutting a ton of weight during fight week.
Johnson: I haven't re-watched them but in the moment, I scored the fights for Condit and Dominick. When I was an amateur, the referee each time I'd fight would come to the locker room and go over the rules so when you get into the fight, there's no question about what they are. I think judges need to sit down before every fight and do the same thing. Say, "This is what we're looking for." Does it matter who's active? Who's throwing harder shots? What is a harder shot? In the Lawler-Condit fight, people were saying, "Oh, Robbie landed the harder shots." What the f--- does that mean? I don't know how hard these guys are hitting. Does a judge care if you're trying to finish a fight? If you're pushing for that, do you get credit for it? It gets me fired up because judges don't look at a fight the same way I do. It's a s--- show, it really is. If a judge came to me and asked, "How do you win a fight?" I'd say, "Well, you have to finish your opponent." If they then said, "Well, what if you can't finish your opponent? What do you have to do to win?" I honestly don't know and that's sad, when you consider how long I've been fighting.
Okamoto: Lawler and Dillashaw. Wow, look at that. Complete opposite of DJ. And that's not uncommon. The bottom line is MMA has evolved into a science. It's not surprising to me that UFC title fights are getting closer and closer. That's because the guys at the top are very, very good these days. They're evenly matched. And the current MMA scoring system doesn't provide a way to accurately reflect what's going on in many of these rounds. If a round is neck and neck, virtually dead even, judges are awarding one of the fighters a 10-9 score. If the very next round is decisive but not one-sided, they're giving that same 10-9 score. So, in other words, I can barely beat you for five minutes, you can CLEARLY beat me for five minutes, and at the end of two rounds, we're tied. There are plenty of problems, in my opinion, with MMA scoring, but that is the one that stands out the most. The 10-9 system simply doesn't apply or reflect the complexity of MMA.