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Johnson survives early scare to retain title

Tim Elliott knew the odds were against him when he faced UFC flyweight champion Demetrious Johnson at the Pearl at the Palms in Las Vegas on Saturday night, but the Ultimate Fighter 24 winner fought the pound-for-pound king tooth and nail for 25 minutes before Johnson notched his ninth successful title defense by way of a unanimous five-round decision.

“Tim Elliott’s a helluva fighter,” Johnson said. “It’s like wrestling a muskrat; you just have to neutralize him.

“I know when I’m in there with anybody I can compete,” Elliott said. “Even this fight, even though I was down when the time ran out, if it’s a fight to the death, I beat everybody. I was just a little behind when the time ran out.”

Scores were 49-46 twice and 49-45 for Johnson, who won his 11th straight.

Elliott came out as expected with an unorthodox attack, and while Johnson momentarily nullified it with a takedown, as the champion sought an armbar, Elliott scrambled, got into the top position and locked in a guillotine choke that appeared to be a fight-ender. Johnson patiently waited out the choke and got free, and after a brief standup exchange, “Mighty Mouse” looked for a choke of his own. After Elliott got loose, he appeared exhausted as the two exchanged, but he did land a left hand that scored a flash knockdown, and he then followed up with a takedown, keeping Johnson grounded until the horn.

“It was a tough first round,” Johnson said. “Tim Elliott’s a blitzer, so I stayed composed like a champion and just relaxed and worked my way out of it, and I knew my grappling was going to be able to beat him.”

Johnson began the second by firing off leg kicks, and after eluding a second guillotine choke on a takedown attempt, the champion went to work on the mat. Moving into side control, Johnson briefly locked up Elliott’s arm, but the Missouri product pulled free. Johnson kept the pressure on as he tried for the arm again, and when that came up short, the two rose, Elliott getting a takedown of his own before the round ended.

Getting his second wind, Elliott’s striking was effective as round three began, and the two then went on to trade takedowns as they scrambled at a breakneck pace. Eventually Johnson settled into the top position, where he landed several punches to the head. Elliott stayed busy with strikes and submission attempts from the bottom, but Johnson retained control, wrapping the round up on top.

Staying loose, Elliott entered the championship rounds ready to make a final charge for the belt, leading Johnson to get the challenger to the canvas and continue working his ground game. On the mat, Johnson nearly sunk in a rear naked choke, but Elliott escaped and the crowd roared for the underdog. Johnson didn’t hesitate in his attack though, briefly locking in a crucifix that allowed him to get off several hard shots. Elliott didn’t come this far to go away though, and he hung tough, even as Johnson locked up his arm and cranked. It was a big round for Johnson, who was surging down the stretch.

Elliott showed no signs of breaking as the fifth opened, and after tossing off a Johnson takedown attempt, he scored with one of his own. Johnson calmly worked out of trouble and into a dominant position, and he kept it until the final horn, capping off another big victory in a fight that may have produced two winners, as Tim Elliott clearly has a bright UFC future in front of him.

“I’m just a guy who loves to fight and I love my daughter, and I’m ready to get back in the next one,” said Elliott, who went 2-4 in his first UFC stint from 2012 to 2015. But after three wins on the regional scene, he went 4-0 on TUF 24, earning his way back into the promotion.

With the win, Parkland’s Johnson moves to 25-2-1; Lee’s Summit’s Elliott falls to 14-7-1.

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