Demetrious Johnson is regarded as the best flyweight in UFC history. But he ran the rule over the promotions current 135lbs king recently and made it clear he would be very confident of beating him.
Johnson was asked about the UFC bantamweight champion during a recent appearance on the MMA Hour and he said,
“I feel his weakness is he has no clinch game. Like, I would eat his ass up for breakfast in the clinch game. I feel like rhythm-wise, I move way better than he does in the feet. “
— Ariel Helwani (@arielhelwani) August 16, 2023
Sterling is preparing to defend the UFC bantamweight title this weekend against Sean O’Malley in the main event at UFC 292. If he wins, it will be his fourth successful title defence and he will enhance his legacy as one of the best 135lbers in the promotion’s history.
He still has a long way to go to break Johnson’s record of 11 title defences. But the ONE Championship fighter admits that he might struggle with Sterling’s size,
“He is longer, so I would never let him get my f**king back grappling, because he’ll lock them f**king ‘Funk Master’ legs in a body triangle like he did at Petr Yan, and I’ll have to survive him doing that,” he said.
Despite the height difference Johnson believes he would be able to dominate Sterling in the clinch,
“The one thing he does that helps to my advantage is that he crosses a distance for me and I’m like, ‘Perfect. Come here, I wanna show you a thing called Muay Thai clinch.’ I just feel like I’ll eat him alive in a clinch.”
“Mighty Mouse” got some AIR on that knee ✈️ @MightyMouse
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— ONE Championship (@ONEChampionship) May 6, 2023
Of course there is absolutely no prospect of Johnson ever actually fighting Sterling. But the 37 year old has been at the top of the MMA game for so long that his words carry a lot of weight.
He is adamant he would be able to beat Sterling and sees parallels between their respective careers,
“There’s a complexity to his game that I feel like I can solve it, and he’s the big dog over here in America. I’m the big dog over in Asia.”
Johnson recently contemplated retirement and has beaten the #1 contender in ONE Championship’s flyweight division twice. It sounds like he is looking for an opponent who can still motivate him and Sterling clearly falls into that category,
“If that was brought to me as an opportunity, it would be like, ‘OK, that’s a problem I can solve that I would love to solve.’ I would put myself through a training camp for that fight.”