UFC 186: Johnson vs. Horiguchi – Preview And Fight Picks


With Floyd Mayweather and Manny Pacquiao waiting in the wings to kick off an exhilarating summer of combat sports next week, the UFC visits Montreal, Canada this weekend to finish off the Spring with a card which has been ravaged by injuries, a failed drug test and (almost) a court case.

Initially, the bantamweight title rematch between TJ Dillashaw and Renan Barao was slated to headline in the Bell Centre but an injury to the champion means the initial co-main event, between Demetrious Johnson and Kyoji Horiguchi for the flyweight championship will now top the bill. Although many (including himself) questioned the choice of Horiguchi as the next title contender because of his experience levels, there isn’t much question that his wins are enough for a shot in a division currently developing and lacking top quality opponents which haven’t already had their go at the champion. Horiguchi has won nine on the bounce since his last defeat and is unbeaten in four UFC fights with wins over Dustin Pague, Darrell Montague, Jon Delos Reyes and Louis Gaudinot. This will be a huge step up though against the only ever flyweight champion Demetrious Johnson. After plying his trade at bantamweight for most of his career, “Mighty Mouse” has been unflappable since he won the inaugural UFC 125 lbs strap. After beating Joseph Benavidez (whom he later beat a second time) for the title, Johnson has defended his strap five times and will be looking to make that six on Saturday while adding Kyoji Horiguchi to a list which already contains names like Dodson, Moraga and Bagautinov.

In the flyweight division, it may be obvious to predict a lightening quick pace in this fight but these two shine through even amongst the most rapid. Fighting out of Tokyo, Japan under the tutelage of MMA legend Kid Yamamoto, Kyoji Horiguchi has developed an extremely aesthetically pleasing MMA game. With a background in Karate, Horiguchi fights in a manner consistent with his base as he slides in and out range to both save himself and damage his opponent and, with his speed, that also leads to an ability to avoid a lot of clinch and wrestling exchanges. When it does go south, Horiguchi is devilishly hard to control and likes to throw strikes when on top rather than look for a jiu-jitsu battle.

Although calling someone one of the pound-for-pound best fighters in the world has lost some of its mystique in MMA today because of its overuse, it really is applicable to Demetrious Johnson. Training under famed coach Matt Hume, “DJ” has developed some of the most well-rounded and flawless set of skills ever seen in the sport. Johnson is not only a technically sound kickboxer with real KO power for the division, he also has tremendous wrestling and a submission game which is becoming more and more prevalent. That all leads to a tough night for Horiguchi.

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In the past, Horiguchi’s main advantage over his opponents has been his ability to beat them for speed and land first. Against Demetrious Johnson, he’ll have no such advantage. When he’s at his best, Horiguchi blasts in and out of range early and uses his body kicks to great effect while remaining away from a place he can get hit. That’s something he’ll need to do if he has any hope against Johnson. What’s likely to happen is “DJ” will either catch a leg from a body kick and put Horiguchi on his backside or he will go on the chase. Neither of those two options work out well for Kyoji. I see Johnson beating him to the punch and backing him into a corner. From there, expect the takedowns to come and for Johnson to exert his dominance over the five rounds… If it lasts that long

Just like the top fight of the night, the co-main event has also changed from the original line-up. As mentioned above, Johnson vs. Horiguchi was the first in that spot but when that fight was moved to the main event, Rory MacDonald vs. Hector Lombard was slotted in as co-main. That was until Lombard failed a drug test and removed from the card altogether. Then, Quinton Jackson was to fight Fabio Maldonado in the penultimate bout of the night but a Bellator injunction against Rampage put pay to that. After that Michael Bisping fighting CD Dolloway was the co-main event but then, 4 days out from the fight, the aforementioned injunction was overturned meaning Rampage will fight Maldonado after all. Got that? Ok.

With the insanity of putting the fight on left to one side, the bout itself should be a fun one if not that meaningful in the division going forward. Rampage it’s primarily a boxer who likes to tell everyone he is a wrestler too. He will come out, stand in the pocket, throws hooks off both hands and hope something connects. Luckily for him (and everyone watching) his opponent will do the same. Maldonado, a former professional boxer, had made a good career for himself in MMA by being an exciting, stand-up, action fighter and Saturday night should be no different. I expect exchanges early and often in this one with someone getting dropped eventually. Despite his career arc bring shaped downward, one thing that hasn’t left Jackson is his ability to take damage and, for me, that will be enough to see him through on Saturday.

With Rampage back, that now leaves the card a little bit stronger as Michael Bisping vs. CD Dolloway in the third fight from the top would signal. After both being contestants on “The Ultimate Fighter”, Bisping and Dolloway have had very different careers in the UFC. Bisping is a long time contender in the middleweight division but after a spell of 12 wins in 15 bouts he has now gone on to lose 4 of his last 7 outings. Dolloway started much slower and was looking like his career might be that of a journeyman, but of late he has made a big turnaround and is currently ranked 11th having won 4 of his last 6 with the two losses coming at the hands of Tim Boetsch and Lyoto Machida respectively. Despite their opposite trajectories, now seems to be just about the perfect time for this match making.

Even though Dolloway has a much improved striking game, Bisping should have an advantage in the stand-up. The Englishman is a pressure kickboxer and throws with a massive output of strikes which land regularly. And although he is technically better, in the power stakes, Dolloway definitely throws with more of a pop. On the floor, the American is a dominant wrestler who has been known to blanket his foes but getting (and keeping) Bisping down is easier said than done. This fight should be an extremely close one over three rounds and, like many of its sort, could come down to takedowns. If Dolloway can get Bisping to the floor regularly you would fancy him to take the decision but if he can’t it’s not easy to outpoint “The Count”. Although he is probably just past his prime, I still think Bisping has a little left in his tank and, if he can put it all together on the night, I think he’s a pretty bad match-up for “The Doberman”.

There’s also big Irish interest on the card this weekend as MMA veteran Aisling Daly travels across the Atlantic to take on hometown favourite Randa Markos with a possible strawweight title tilt up for grabs. After an impressive stint in the TUF house from both women, they had differing UFC debuts on the season finale as Markos lost a tough decision to Jessica Penne while Daly armbarred Alex Chambers in the first round.

The fight should be a very interesting clash of styles. Markos is a tough wrestler with an improving all-around game while Daly is an unorthodox and dangerous striker with a wonderful submission game when it hits the floor.  After Joanne Calderwood’s surprise loss last week, this fight is a huge chance for either fighter to put on a show and secure a title shot. And with an upcoming international fight week featuring Conor McGregor’s Irish brigade, Daly may be the prime candidate.

Also featured on the card are names like Partick Cote, Joe Riggs, John Makdessi, Chad Laprise and uber-prospect Thomas Almeida while a female Bantamweight bout between Sarah Kaufman and Alexis Davis could steal the show.


Demetrious Johnson vs. Kyoji Horiguchi – Might Mouse takes Kyoji down and submits him
Michael Bisping vs. C.B. Dollaway – Decision goes to Bisping
Rampage Jackson vs. Fabio Maldonado – Rampage signals his return with a KO
Shane Campbell vs. John Makdessi – Exciting fight where Makdessi takes decision
Thomas Almeida vs. Yves Jabouin – Almeida comes of age

Patrick Cote vs. Joe Riggs – Cote wins walking away
Alexis Davis vs. Sarah Kaufman – I’m taking Davis to get the upset here
Bryan Barberena vs. Chad Laprise – Laprise via KO
Olivier Aubin-Mercier vs. David Michaud – QAB via TKO

Chris Clements vs. Nordine Taleb – Good fight ends in a Taleb KO
Valerie Letourneau vs. Jessica Rakoczy – I’m going with Latourneau decision
Aisling Daly vs. Randa Markos – Daly gets the sub and title shot

Check out my Kountermove fantasy MMA preview HERE


My bet of the week is a simple one – Aisling Daly to win at 2/1


EARLY PRELIMS – 11.30pm on UFC Fight Pass

PRELIMS – 1am on BT Sport 1

MAIN CARD – 3am on BT Sport 1

Podcaster, lead MMA writer and analyst for SevereMMA. Host of the SevereMMA podcast, out every Sunday. Economics and Mathematics graduate from UCC. Also write for Sherdog. Previously of hov-mma and fightbooth. As heard on 2FM, Red FM, Today FM and more. Follow me on twitter for updates @SeanSheehanBA and on Facebook Facebook.com/seansheehanmma

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