The naysayers that read that title will likely have already dismissed that statement. “Kyoji Horiguchi? Didn’t Demetrious Johnson beat that dude already?” The answer is a resounding yes. That said, ‘Mighty Mouse’ Johnson has gone on record stating that the karate master was the toughest foe he’s faced. It’s been years since that match and since then we’ve seen improvements in both flyweights. That’s what makes it so frustrating that Kyoji Horiguchi has left the UFC to return to Japan and compete in Rizin Fighting Championships. His departure also means that Demetrious Johnson is missing the opportunity to be challenged by one of his biggest threats.
While Johnson is certainly happy taking out the other members of the flyweight division, attempting to make history in the process, one has to wonder what else is he doing this for. He doesn’t want to just fight opponents he knows he can beat. Despite the fact that he is a great fighter in his own right, Wilson Reis didn’t have the speed and technical ability to truly challenge Johnson at UFC on Fox 24. The result was a one sided beat down in the manner that makes you wonder, who the hell can even challenge Johnson?
There’s Joseph Benavidez who lost on two separate occasions to the flyweight champion. There’s Henry Cejudo who is as tough as they come and is making improvements. But who else really has that stuff that separates them from the pack?
Kyoji Horiguchi, that’s who.
While Johnson was tying Anderson Silva’s record for most consecutive title defenses, Kyoji Horiguchi was on the other side of the world picking up his fourth straight win with a demolition of Yuki Motoya at Rizin 5. His speed, blitzing ability, boxing techniques, and improved wrestling due to his stint at American Top Team were all on display. Watching Horiguchi do work against Yuki Motoya only made me yearn to see him once again lock horns with Johnson.
As far as champions go, Johnson is the one given the least recognition even after accomplishing so much. He’s dominated nearly all of his opponents en route to his impressive ten consecutive title defenses, yet because he appears to be doing all of it in his sleep, people think he’s not being challenged enough. That may be unfair, but people want a storyline to latch onto, an opponent that can rival the skills of the champion. They want another individual who smashes the competition with ease and looks like a world beater in their own right. The flyweight division is lacking in star power outside a few individuals and if they don’t make a concerted effort to build it up it’s likely to remain the dark horse division of the UFC. The fact that the upper brass didn’t do everything in their power to ensure that Horiguchi remained on the roster shows a bit of naiivity on their part. If they want the division to flourish they need multiple stars, multiple fighters that make viewers from not just the west, but around the entire world to want to tune in.
If the UFC brass are smart they’ve kept track of Kyoji Horiguchi and if the young karate fighter is able to dominate in Rizin, there should be no reason that he isn’t brought back to the biggest promotion in the world. Demetrious Johnson wants a challenge, wants to prove he’s the absolute best to have ever done it. Perhaps he already has proved just that. But it wouldn’t hurt to see him in there again with a man that could also sport those same credentials. As I always invoke, only time will tell if we’ll ever get the chance to see Johnson and Horiguchi lock horns again.
Do you want to see Demetrious Johnson versus Kyoji Horiguchi 2?