The man nicknamed after a cartoon character put in another superhero-like performance.
Demetrious (Mighty Mouse) Johnson dominated Ali (Puncher) Bagautinov from start to finish Saturday to win a unanimous decision and retain his flyweight title at UFC 174.
Johnson showed his pedigree against a challenger who took a beating and was never really a threat at Rogers Arena.
“It was a great performance,” said Johnson. “Ali Bagauntinov, he’s a tough guy. I hit him with a lot of shots with my knees to his face ... my knees are hurting pretty bad.
“Usually when I hit people with those shots in the gym they go down.”
The bout marked the first time the flyweight division has headlined a UFC pay-per view card and was scored 50-45 by all three judges.
“(Bagauntinov) likes to back up a lot and draw his opponents in and then go underneath them for a shot,” said Johnson. “We knew that he was going to try to wrestle me to slow me down.”
In the co-main event, Canadian welterweight Rory (Ares) MacDonald defeated Tyron (The Chosen One) Woodley in an impressive unanimous decision in the most exciting bout of the night.
Johnson almost connected with a spinning kick with under a minute to go in the fifth and final round, but Bagautinov was able to avoid the blow to send the bout to the scorecards.
The five-foot-three Johnson (20-2-1, 8-1-1) won the UFC’s inaugural flyweight title back in 2012 and has now successfully defended the 125-pound belt four times.
The 27-year-old who fights out of Parkland, Wash., said this week that the five-foot-four Bagautinov (13-3, 3-1) would pose a unique challenge because the 29-year-old Russian specializes in Sambo fighting, a form of mixed martial arts that he has never faced.
But in the end, Baugatinov was overmatched and at times just seemed happy to be in the ring with Johnson, even hugging his opponent before the start of the fifth round.
MacDonald, who came into his fight as the No. 2 contender in the 170-division, controlled Woodley from the middle of the first round on, using his superior reach to keep the two-time All-American wrestler at bay, while also connecting with both kicks and punches.
All three judges scored the fight 30-27 for MacDonald.
The 24-year-old MacDonald (17-2, 8-2) took Woodley down two minutes into the third and final round and relentlessly pounded the No. 3-ranked welterweight until the bell sounded.
MacDonald’s team rushed into the octagon to congratulate their fighter as the crowd of 13,506 roared in approval.
“I trained very hard,” he said. “I wanted this fight to be the best performance of my career.”
Born in Quesnel, B.C., but now fighting out of Montreal’s Tristar Gym, MacDonald was mentored by Georges St-Pierre before the former champion stepped away from the sport late last year.
The soft-spoken MacDonald lost to Robbie Lawler in a split decision at November’s UFC 167, but rebounded to take a unanimous decision against Demian Maia at UFC 170 in February.
“I feel like I’m falling into a groove,” said MacDonald. “Something’s clicking.”
The 32-year-old Woodley (13-3, 3-2), who scored a technical knockout of Carlos Condit at UFC 171 in March, said before the fight he expected the crowd to be split, but he was sorely mistaken as the Canadian support found its way firmly behind MacDonald from the start, including chants of “Let’s go Rory” throughout the tilt.
MacDonald lost to Condit at UFC 115 in Vancouver back in June 2010 and he admitted this week that the moment got to him four years ago — something that didn’t happen Saturday.
“I’ve grown a lot since then,” he said. “It was nice being in Vancouver. The response was great.”
Saturday marked the UFC’s first foray into Vancouver since UFC 131 back in June 2011. There were large pockets of empty seats in the arena’s upper level on this night and the crowd didn’t really get into the action until MacDonald and Woodley entered the octagon.
Earlier Saturday night, light heavyweight Ryan (Darth) Bader defeated Rafael (Feijao) Cavalcante by unanimous decision in a fight that had fans getting a little restless due to a lack of action.
Bader (18-4, 10-4) was the more ambitious fighter in the first two rounds, and perhaps sensing a need to score a knockout to win the bout, Cavalcante (12-5, 2-2) came out swinging in the third, but the Brazilian was unable to land any decisive blows.
In the heavyweight division, former champion Andrei (The Pit Bull) Arlovski defeated Brendan (The Hybrid) Schaub by a split decision in his return to UFC after more than six years away from the company.
Arlovski (22-10 with one no contest) looked tentative early and spent the majority of the last round on his back, but did enough to earn the victory on two of the judges’ three scorecards to improve his UFC record to 11-4.
A bloodied Schaub (11-4, 6-4) raised his arms at the end of the fight thinking that he had done enough to win, and seemed surprised by the decision.
Meanwhile, light heavyweight Ovince Saint Preux won by submission after breaking the left arm of Ryan (The Big Deal) Jimmo at 2:10 of the second round. Jimmo (19-4, 3-3) — who is from Saint John, N.B., but now fights out of Edmonton — was bloodied in the first round and nearly had his arm ripped out of its socket before the referee stopped the fight to keep Saint Preux (16-6, 4-0) perfect in the UFC.
In the preliminary fights: welterweight Kiichi (Strasser) Kunimoto defeated Daniel Sarafian by submission at 2:52 of the first round; women’s bantamweight Valerie (Trouble) Letourneau of Montreal defeated Elizabeth Phillips in a brutal slugfest by a split decision; bantamweight Yves (Tiger) Jabouin scored a unanimous decision over Mike (The Hulk) Easton; lightweight Tae Hyun (Supernatural) Bang knocked out (Ragin) Kajan Johnson of Burns Lake, B.C., at 2:01 of the third round; bantamweight Roland Delorme of Winnipeg dropped a unanimous decision to Michinori Tanaka; and lightweight Jason Saggo of Toronto defeated Josh Shockley by technical knockout at 4:57 of the first round.
Notes: The gate brought in US$1.14 million. ... Bang got fight of the night honours, as well as performance of the night. Kunimoto was also awarded for performance of the night. ... Former Heisman Trophy winner Tim Tebow was in attendance. The crowd booed the former NFLer when he was shown on the big screens perched around Rogers Arena.