Demetrious Johnson, one of the most dominant champions in mixed martial arts history, suffered a battling defeat against Adriano Moraes on Wednesday during a milestone night for the Asian promotion ONE Championship.
The ONE Championship event took place in Singapore and was broadcast live in the United States on TNT, marking the company’s first live broadcast on American television.
Johnson (30-3-1), widely regarded as one of the greatest warriors of all time, was an obvious candidate for the headline. As the UFC flyweight champion, he set the record for consecutive title defenses and defended the belt 11 times from 2013 to 2018.
But it was Moraes (19-3) who took advantage of the opportunity and knocked Johnson out with a painful knee strike of 2 minutes, 24 seconds of the second round to retain his flyweight title. The knee would have been illegal under MMA rules in the United States as Johnson was in a grounded position when he was hit, but these strikes are allowed under the ONE Championship banner in Asia.
“I have to go home and watch the match, see when I made mistakes,”
Moraes from Brazil had been waiting for years for the opportunity to fight Johnson. Although the fight was for the flyweight title, it was actually fought to 135 pounds as the ONE championship weight classes have been modified from those in the US to counter extreme weight cutting. Moraes first won a title in the ONE Championship in 2014. He lost his belt in 2015 before regaining the undisputed title in 2017.
Moraes’ height and range gave Johnson significant problems early on. Although there was not much offense in the opening round, it was clear that Johnson was having a hard time reassuring his tough opponent and he was struggling to match Moraes’ physical on the ground. Moraes almost landed a standing knee in the second round, just moments before a right cut dropped Johnson, and then the final knee strike knocked him out cold.
The ONE Championship has several live events scheduled on TNT this month, though Wednesday’s card offered by far the best lineup in terms of naming in the US
Alvarez-Lapicus ends up in rapid disqualification
In addition to the main event of the flyweight, the ONE Championship promoted a lightweight fight between former Bellator MMA and UFC champion Eddie Alvarez and the campaign’s No. 2 ranked lightweight, Iuri Lapicus. The co-function had an unfortunate finish where Alvarez (30-8) was disqualified in the first round for blows to the back of the head.
Alvarez of Pennsylvania scored an early removal and caught Lapicus’ legs under him along the fence. As Alvarez began throwing wide right hands from the top position, Lapicus turned his head toward the fence and exposed the back of his head. Alvarez continued to throw shots until Lapicus reacted badly to one of them and fell back towards the canvas.
The action was put on hold when the judge called an illegal battle and separated the warriors. Alvarez immediately disputed the legality of the blows, but later expressed concern only about Lapicus’ health.
Iuri turned his head the other way and the judge warned me: “The back of my head! “, Said Alvarez. “If you see, I take my head and push my head towards the side where the punches are coming from. On top of that, I thought, as long as I hit the ear, I thought it was legal. Whatever the referee does is fine. I hope “Iuri is just fine. This game is so dangerous, all I care about is that everyone stays safe.”
Had Alvarez won the match, he would have been one step closer to competing for ONE’s easy championship. As it is, he suffers his third defeat in four games.