Yielding different results in their respective debuts on 31 March in Tokyo Japan at ONE: A NEW ERA, Demetrious Johnson, and Eddie Alvarez have a few things to tweak as they get acclimated to a new promotion.
Once again, Johnson and Alvarez will compete on the same card when they battle Tatsumitsu Wada and Eduard Folayang, respectively, at ONE: DAWN OF HEROES on 2 August at the Mall of Asia in Manila, Philippines.
Johnson is hoping for a smoother victory than he had over Yuya Wakamatsu to advance to the finals of the ONE Flyweight World Grand Prix, while Alvarez is looking to bounce back from a first-round KO defeat at the hands of Timofey Nastyuhkin.
Here is what both men have to do to find success.
Johnson Has to Close the Distance
Throughout Mighty Mouse’s career, he’s had to compete as the smaller man. When he began his mixed martial arts journey, there was no flyweight division in his promotion. He competed as a bantamweight where he had some solid success, but when the flyweight division was created, that’s when he became an all-time great. Hearkening back to his days as a bantamweight might be a good strategy for Johnson.
ONE Championship flyweights are naturally a little bigger than their counterparts in other promotions, and we saw that when Johnson competed against Wakamatsu. The young Japanese competitor’s size was initially a challenge, but ultimately Johnson was able to overcome it. Something similar could happen against the 5’7” Wada. However, Wada isn’t quite the athlete or isn’t as strong physically as Wakamatsu.
Still, Johnson will have to prove he can effectively close the distance in order to initiate the takedowns that will likely lead to another win.
Mighty Mouse Has to Use His Speed
Johnson has a number of elite skills, but his speed is probably his most intimidating quality. Not sure if there is a faster mixed martial artist in the world than him. He will have a huge edge over Wada in this area and must utilize this advantage with feints and movement. If he executes this properly, it could create all kinds of openings for strikes and takedowns.
Johnson Must Fight Small
Sometimes, longer combat sports athletes have to find ways not to compromise their height against a shorter opponent. In Johnson’s case, his shorter stature could favor him. In the quarterfinal round, Wada had some issues with the 4’11” Gustavo Balart before coming out with a unanimous decision. Johnson is four inches taller than Wada; the difference in size and quickness could still pose a problem for Wada as he attempts to reach Mighty Mouse with strikes. Johnson must stay tight in his stance to make it tough for Wada to reach his target areas. If that happens, Johnson should have a much easier time with Wada than he did with Wakamatsu.
Alvarez Must Utilize More Head Movement
In his past four or five bouts, Alvarez has been too easy to hit. He’s always been a tough and durable guy, but the wear and tear might be taking a toll on him. Head movement is going to be key for Alvarez in this bout. If he doesn’t keep his head off the centerline, he will put himself in danger of taking some powerful shots from Folayang.
Alvarez Cannot Forget About His Wrestling
Alvarez is an accomplished Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu practitioner, but it seems he has forgotten about that part of his game and just wants to brawl. While fans obviously love a bar fight, Alvarez needs to get back to being a complete mixed martial artist. He will have an advantage over Folayang on the ground. If the opportunity presents itself, Alvarez would make the scrap with Folayang much easier by taking him down.
Alvarez Must Wait For Counter-Punching Opportunities
The match with Folayang has the potential to provide fireworks. Both men like to stand and bang. For Alvarez, the past to least resistance could likely come through his wrestling, but there is also a route to victory through stand-up exchanges. Folayang is traditionally an ultra-aggressive competitor. Alvarez will not have to find him in Manila.
Alvarez shouldn’t look to beat Folayang to the punch. Instead, he should catch and shoot with hard counter shots that could lead to a knockout. Folayang’s constant advancements and pressure aren’t always accompanied by a strong defense. He will drop his hands and leave himself open, which is what happened when he was knocked out by Martin Nguyen.
Alvarez isn’t as quick as Nguyen, but there will be opportunities for him to score with timed counters, and it might just lead to another highlight-reel KO.