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15th Mar 2017

Reliving the time Brad Pickett beat the greatest fighter currently walking the planet

Lest we forget

Darragh Murphy

Never forget.

In the dominant champion stakes, one man stands alone.

Demetrious Johnson has defended his flyweight title on nine occasions, having held the 125lbs strap since 2012, and there’s not even a close second, with Joanna Jedrzejczyk next in line with four defences since reaching the top of the women’s strawweight heap in 2015.

Such is the ease with which Johnson has cleaned out his division that he’s almost universally considered the greatest pound-for-pound fighter in the world by fight fans, a class of people who seldom agree on anything.

But all greats suffer setbacks and ‘Mighty Mouse’ has experienced two (and a half in the form of a 2012 majority draw) in his otherwise pristine professional career.

His most recent defeat came via arguably the greatest bantamweight fighter of all time in Dominick Cruz back in 2011.

But the first time Johnson was forced to applaud as an opponent’s hand was sent skyward came a year earlier when a scrappy Londoner force-fed the previously undefeated Johnson his first taste of coming up short.

Brad Pickett retires this weekend.

A late opponent switch-up means that the swansong of ‘One Punch’ comes opposite short notice stand-in Marlon Vera rather than Henry Briones, who pulled out of a scheduled meeting with Pickett for the third time.

Romantics, of which there are more than you might expect in the fight game, will be hoping to see Pickett receive the farewell he deserves when he leaves his gloves in the centre of the Octagon in his native London.

And to mark the retirement of a legitimate pioneer of mixed martial arts on these shores, we’ve decided to take a look at the time he got the best of none other than Demetrious ‘Mighty Mouse’ Johnson, the number one ranked fighter walking the planet.

The ARCO Arena in Sacramento, California played host to the bantamweight bout on April 24, 2010.

The 12,555 in attendance had just been treated to a strange finish, when Tyler Toner stopped Brandon Visher with a series of unanswered elbows to the side of his head, before Pickett and Johnson took to the famous blue mat for the second preliminary fight on the WEC 48 card.

Not 15 seconds had passed before Pickett’s first punch landed. And it stunned the promotional newcomer, who had plenty of hype behind him.

A thudding roundhouse kick to the jaw was eaten by the Brit just seconds before he sent a cuffing counter left hook over the top and knocked the undefeated prospect off balance.

As so many of Pickett’s opponents, previously and subsequently, found out, Johnson knew he was in a fight before the minute mark was struck.

Pickett, 31 at the time, effortlessly caught three kick attempts from Johnson, who had started the contest in the southpaw stance.

When he finally settled in orthodox, Johnson saw a telegraphed left hook swing 10 inches above its intended target.

Next thing he knew, Pickett was making himself comfortable in side control.

‘Mighty Mouse’ returned to his feet but his soles had barely touched the mat when he was forced back to his backside.

Superman punch to the third takedown of the opening stanza… Pickett was on fire!

In 2010, critics of the European fight scene still looked down on the wrestling credentials of fighters who hailed from the United Kingdom.

But as Pickett literally halted Johnson in mid-air and slammed him to the mat, those claims were looking ill-founded.

The round was already Pickett’s when the pair exchanged to close out the opening five minutes.

Johnson looked to have found his rhythm in the striking department after head coach Matt Hume woke him up in between rounds but, before long, ‘One Punch’ returned to what had been serving him so well.

‘Mighty Mouse’ continued to display unparalleled athleticism in his tenacity to return to his feet but those takedowns were making just as significant a dent in Johnson’s confidence as they were an impression in the minds of the judges.

Pickett finished the second round in mount after the most aesthetically pleasing, Matt Hughes-esque takedown of his 10 completed on the night.

An unfamiliar sight kick-started the final frame as Johnson took Pickett down.

But then the fight returned to its previous pattern.

Two minutes later… You know the drill.

One judge awarded one round to ‘Mighty Mouse’ while the two others gave Pickett all three and a hype train found out the hard way that Brits can most definitely grapple.

A striking statistic that puts Pickett vs. Johnson into perspective is the fact that, throughout his entire 15-fight UFC career, Johnson has been taken down a total of 26 times but, on one memorable evening in north California, an unfancied Londoner managed to take him down 10 times in just 15 minutes.

Johnson was obviously a lot greener back then, was fighting in a weight class against larger men and has since matured into the most well-rounded mixed martial artist on the planet.

We all know this.

But he will always remember the life lesson taught to him by a wily veteran who will wrap his hands for the final time on Saturday night.