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 entering UFC 200 on July 9 in Las Vegas. Johnson (24-2-1), ESPN.com's No. 1-rated pound-for-pound fighter, returns to the Octagon on July 30 when he defends his title against Wilson Reis at UFC 201.
1. Which fight are you most looking forward to at UFC 200?
Demetrious Johnson: I would say the Jon Jones-Daniel Cormier fight. I know it's kind of cliche to pick that one, but I felt like neither one of them really got the best of the other the first time they fought. DC lost but he didn't get destroyed. I'm excited for Jose Aldo-Frankie Edgar and Amanda Nunes-Miesha Tate, but no matter what happens with those, life will go on. The hard one that everyone is going to be taking about is Jones-DC. There's a lot riding on that. I think DC needs this. His career has led up to this. If Tate were to lose her belt to Nunes it would be like, "OK, you lost, but it's all right, go get the next one." I feel the same thing with me. If I were to lose a fight at this point, it'd be like, "All right, let's get this next one." With Jones-DC, if Jones loses, everyone will be like, "What the fudge?" And if DC loses, people will say, "See? I told you he wasn't a real champion anyway." There's a lot at stake for both guys.
Brett Okamoto: Aldo-Edgar for me. Aldo seems somewhat forgotten based on one 13-second knockout loss to Conor McGregor in December. He's still the most dominant champion in featherweight history. How does he look after that humbling of a loss? I'll be honest, I haven't agreed with every step he has taken since then. The way he talks about that loss, chalking it up as a complete fluke and then calling McGregor out on social media only to not take the fight at UFC 196 when it was offered on short notice -- I don't think some of those actions have benefited him in the public. But he's a great martial artist and has been for a very long time. If he comes back and looks confident against Edgar, I would want to see a rematch against McGregor. And Edgar is pound-for-pound one of the best, in my opinion. So, this fight does it for me
2. There are seven former UFC champions fighting on that card (including Jon Jones, who is an interim champion). How many of those seven will win a title again?
Johnson: [Bantamweight] T.J. Dillashaw, yes. [Welterweight] Johny Hendricks, no. [Heavyweight] Cain Velasquez, no. [Featherweight] Frankie Edgar, I don't know. We don't know if Conor McGregor wants to defend it. [Featherweight] Jose Aldo, same thing. [Heavyweight] Brock Lesnar, no. [Light heavyweight] Jon Jones, yes. I think Dillashaw, watching his last fight against Dominick Cruz, that fight could have gone either way. I think if you ran it back things could be different. Edgar and Aldo, who knows? Conor might say, "F--- it, I'm making money regardless of being a champion," and vacate it. Then you'd have Aldo beating Edgar, Edgar beating Aldo. I'll say yes on both of them, why not? Hendricks, I just think you've got "Wonderboy" [Stephen Thompson] up there now, "T-Wood" [Tyron Woodley], Robbie Lawler. And Cain, I feel like the injury bug will hold him back, man. That's my honest opinion. It's not even about winning his fights, it's him staying healthy enough to get fights, and I think he'll have a problem with that.
Okamoto: Agree with Johnson on everything, except Lesnar. Lesnar is definitely getting that belt back ... all right, maybe not. But yeah, Dillashaw is right there with Cruz. They are neck and neck. I think their next title fight (there will be a second one eventually) needs to be seven rounds instead of five because it's going to be just as hard to score as the first one. I'm pretty confident Dillashaw will have a belt around his waist again. Hendricks and Velasquez are no's for me as well, for the reasons DJ provided. The tough ones here are definitely the featherweights. There's a lot of unknown with the "McGregor situation." I'll say yes to Edgar and probably for Aldo. If I had to pick one or the other, I'd pick Edgar, even though he's older.
3. If you could add one matchup to UFC 200, what would it be?
Johnson: I don't know. Probably just [McGregor] fighting. One of the biggest fight cards I've ever seen was UFC 189 when Conor fought Chad Mendes. The Irish fans were there and it was f---ing absolutely insane. I don't know. The card is pretty stacked as it is. I might say Nick Diaz fighting somebody, but I don't really care. I think it's a good card to begin with.
Okamoto: Yeah, you'd have to add Diaz-McGregor II, right? That's one of he most attractive main events of the year. On the other hand, I think there is such a thing as overkill when talking about one card. Diaz-McGregor II is a fight that deserves our full attention, as does Jones-DC II. If McGregor and Diaz were added to this card, obviously they'd get a lot of attention, but they'd have to share it with Jones, DC, Lesnar, etc. I kind of like having them on their own card. So, you know what? Scratch that. I don't want Diaz-McGregor II at UFC 200. Let's just add a fun one. Dude, how about this lightweight Khabib Nurmagomedov-Tony Ferguson fight the UFC has tried to make about 14 times? That's the fight I would add.
4. Over/under: How many total takedowns will Brock Lesnar need to defeat Mark Hunt in the co-main event?
Johnson: He's gonna need a s---load, I'll tell you that. It's hard. I will say Brock Lesnar has some great ground and pound. Obviously, he hit hard because he knocked out Frank Mir. I'll be real -- I'll say four takedowns. Four would be good. I expect him to bull-rush Hunt's ass. That's the thing, too, though. Mark Hunt's standup is more of a one punch, knock you out. He's not throwing a jab, two, three, low kick. He's basically measured, measured, measured, then fires. So, if Brock can move around, jab in, throw crosses, close into that clinch, that might be good.
Okamoto: As crazy as it sounds, it's possible he would only need one. Those Mir fights were a long time ago, but still -- Lesnar ate Mir alive once he got him down on the floor. And Mir is far more dangerous off his back than Hunt. Hunt is very durable and Lesnar has been off for a while. Even if Lesnar were to get him down relatively early in the first round and keep him there, I think Hunt could at least survive to make Round 2. So, I'll say Lesnar would need a minimum of two. I don't think one will do it. Bottom line, to just answer the question, if Lesnar wins, I think the total number of takedowns on his stat sheet will read "three."
5. What was the best event, start to finish, in mixed martial arts history?
Johnson: Man, I couldn't even tell you. There's so many of them. I have no idea. I would say UFC 100 was pretty dope. You had Georges St-Pierre on there fighting Thiago Alves, who was on a tear with his leg kicks. Brock Lesnar fought Frank Mir. That was a good card. There's just so many fights now, man. They almost kind of oversaturate it. I was in the gym the other day looking at [coach Matt Hume's] fight posters of Pride and I was like, "Man, they had some sick-ass fights back then." Wanderlei Silva fighting Mirko "Cro Cop" [Filipovic] -- and Wanderlei Silva weighing more than "Cro Cop" for that fight. Now, there are so many fights, it's hard for me to sit here and answer which card was dope. Probably the best card ever I'd say was Pride Critical Countdown [July 1, 2006]. You had Josh Barnett, Wanderlei, "Cro Cop" was on there -- that one was pretty sick.
Okamoto: I'll be honest, my answer probably won't give the old-school cards enough credit. I just don't remember them as well, obviously. The Pride Critical Countdown Absolute card DJ mentions is a crazy lineup. In addition to the guys he mentioned, that card had Vitor Belfort, Alistair Overeem, both Nogueira brothers, Mark Hunt. That event was before I started covering the sport, though, so just personally, it's not as high on my list. The first card that pops into my head for this is UFC 116: Lesnar's comeback win against Shane Carwin, Chris Leben-Yoshihiro Akiyama, Stephan Bonnar-Krzysztof Soszynski. That was a main card where every fight seemed to outdo the one before it. The energy in the arena was crazy. UFC 189 also had that feeling with McGregor-Mendes, Robbie Lawler-Rory MacDonald and Thomas Almeida-Brad Pickett. And I know it just happened, but UFC 199 -- with Michael Bisping-Luke Rockhold, Dominick Cruz-Urijah Faber and Dan Henderson-Hector Lombard -- was a very memorable one as well.