Phil and David break down everything you need to know about DJ vs. Reis at UFC on Fox 24 and everything you don’t about wondering flyweight DJ will ever achieve manweight DJ fusion.
Demetrious Johnson inches closer toward Anderson Silva territory against Wilson Reis this April 15, 2017 at the Sprint Center in Kansas City, Missouri.
One sentence summary
Phil: Another step on the journey to greatness for DJ.
David: One small step for this man can become one giant leap for MMA as DJ inches closer toward man-sized destiny.
Record: Demetrious Johnson 25-2-1 Draw Wilson Reis 22-6
Odds: Demetrious Johnson -840 Wilson Reis +660
History / Introduction to the fighters
Phil: Demetrious Johnson remains the best fighter in the UFC, and that’s a fine thing to be. I think people have started to chill slightly on the “no-one cares” takes. That’s at least partially got to be because this time, there really *isn’t* a huge amount of reason to care, apart from watching the best around do his thing. Wilson Reis genuinely is a somewhat anonymous title challenger, something which has unfortunately been a big part of the story of DJ’s title reign. Again, though: who cares? With almost every division jammed up by wacky fights and absent champions, it’s refreshing to have a beltholder who just regularly comes out and takes care of business.
David: I like the fights themselves are kind of meta-commentary on Johnson’s reign. We don’t know his opponents because that’s the shadow he casts on everything else; too fast, too, strong, and too good for the opposition to be anything beyond loyal. We joked about Man-Size DJ, but the truth is that even in Warwick Davis form, I would trust him in battle against the worthiest of enemies: Sith Lords, Voorhees, Jeff Sessions, et cetera.
Phil: I’ve been a fan of Wilson Reis since the early days of Bellator- his aggressive BJJ and scrambling was always fun to watch, and it was gratifying to see him make his way to the UFC’s flyweight division, where he wasn’t going to be vastly outsized by guys like Patricio Pitbull and Iuri Alcantara. In addition, when you pick someone and almost no-one else does (I picked him over Menjivar) and they prove you right, it tends to make you a bit sentimental about them. So I’m glad he’s made it to a title shot, even if it’s one where (SPOILER WARNING) he’s probably going to get wrecked.
David: The first time I saw Wilson Reis fight, it was against Abel Callum. I remember thinking of him as a Gesias Cavalcante type before the knee injuries; a grappler whose core strength effloresced into everything he did, whether throwing punches, sinking in a choke, crank, or bend, et cetera. When he showed up in Bellator, given his grappling pedigree, I remember thinking Reis was the next big thing. Then he ran into career spoiler Joe Soto, and he’s been a high quality nomad ever since.
What’s at stake?
Phil: DJ matches Anderson’s title defense record at 10 with a win. Reis engineers one of the biggest upsets in MMA history if he does. If not, it’s onto the next challenger. With the unfortunate way that 125lbs is currently structured, with only killers and barely any main card fights, the next challenger is going to be as unheralded as Reis.
David: A lot, and little. It’s like a test on your multiplication tables in 5th grade. There’s no reason to feel challenged, but if you inexplicably can’t pass it, boy are you ice skating uphill from here.
Where do they want it?
Phil: Johnson can fight pretty much everywhere, but has increasingly made his hay as a pressure fighter in recent years, switching his way into the pocket behind switch stance jabs and crosses, and a thumping body kick. From there it’s into the clinch for a variety of takedown chains, or the double collar tie. One of the primary problems with “well-rounded” fighters is that they often have limited connections from one area of their game to another, or that they’re unable to effectively access one toolset unless their opponent does it for them. Not the case with DJ, who glides effortlessly from range striking to the clinch to the takedown, to submission grappling. He still has some small defensive problems at range, being reliant on his footspeed to get him out of danger by backing out of strikes, and can be caught shifting his stance, but it’s hard to see Reis capitalizing.
David: Nobody knows the notes and gets the rhythm of MMA like DJ. Like a mix between Duane Denison (am I lunatic to truly enjoy this Tomahawk song?) and Jimi Hendrix, he’s as comfortable with the complex eccentricities of combat as he is of combat’s foundational skills. Sorry readers looking for more. I’m gonna leave my analysis at that music analogy. DJ is special. We all know it.
Phil: Reis has developed from a pure BJJ scrambler into a solid MMA wrestler and a functional striker, working well with the traditional southpaw cross or body kick guessing game. He has gotten much better with his double legs and chain wrestling, and retains his fantastic top game, which is very much Nova Uniao at its best- crushing pressure and high-percentage topside submissions like the arm triangle.
His weaknesses are also classic Nova Uniao, though- his standup is somewhat simple and low-pace, and if a single piece of his approach gets neutralized, he doesn’t have enough depth in the rest of his offensive toolset to replace it. He’s not a dynamic striker, and rarely seems to badly hurt his opponents.
David: The funny thing about Reis is that he’s as powerful a striker without a knockout on his record as you’ll ever find in MMA. In fact, he shares something oddly in common with DJ. Both guys entered the sport as grappling specialists but were hyped by their ability to look comfortable on the feet.
It’s also a criticism of Reis, whose striking is eerily similar to when he started (though it should be noted, Ries has fought strong competition since his career’s inception, and is rare in this regard). However, he’s still a quality last resort striker. Condescending I know, but by that I mean he can throw slick punches that get through to punctuate his inert moments, which gives his game a unique if accidental flexibility.
On the ground, he’s incredible. A creature of intelligent persistence who would have the raw strength to power through takedowns if he were uneducated, I love that Reis relies on both power and technique when it comes to initiating singles, doubles, and following them through with scrambles. “Scramble” is a bad word for Reis though. This is not the flailing type of a Diego Sanchez, or the linear type of a Demian Maia. Reis flexes a bit of both, strong to improvise, and smart enough to not need it.
Insight from Past Fights
Phil: Reis against Formiga was genuinely quite shocking to me, even moreso when he beat Ortiz so soundly the following fight. In one fight he was soundly beaten by an aggressive pocket boxing game, and in the next he shut another one down effortlessly. It showed evolution, but I suspect it may also show that there’s a technical limit to Reis beyond which he struggles quite badly.
David: Johnson has grown (ho ho) as a risk taker of sorts, which I think amplifies Johnson’s shortcoming (tee hee). It’s a rare flaw of his, but it also magnifies his strengths so this is essentially a wash. However, Johnson still has a blue collar ethic to his dominance. He’s not a one hitter quitter, or armbar savant, so each display of power is incremental in nature. We saw this with Tim Elliot. To that extent, Reis presents a challenge. If this fight ended up dominated by grappling exchanges, the fight doesn’t favor Johnson as big as it might otherwise (Reis can easily experience moments of top position, where he’s at his most lethal). Though it still certainly favors him.
To add to that, Johnson isn’t as likely to knock him out, and he’s certainly not submitting him, which makes Reis an obstacle from minute one to minute twenty five.
Phil: Not much. I expect Reis to come in in the shape of his life, but is it going to make a difference?
David: DJ still has his XBox controllers, right?
Phil: No great mysteries here. DJ is the better range striker, clinch striker, and wrestler. He mixes his phases better and is by far the better athlete. The only place Reis is superior is in top position, but how does he get it there? Demetrious Johnson by TKO, round 3.
David: Reis is not a live dog. But he is, in the words of Rogan, A DOG!, as he once described Keith Jardine for semantically arbitrary reasons. Which is to say, the scrappy nature of his style, combined with his fast twitch muscle fiber quality grappling…makes him a threat in areas that will display DJ’s vulnerability. Vulnerability is not the same as a weakness, however, which is why this is still DJ’s fight to lose. Demetrious Johnson by Decision.