Armbar finish vs Ray Borg at UFC 216: This moment is special for two reasons. Number one, this win extended DJ’s title defences to 11, it is a record that is still untouched to this day with Valentina Shevchenko being the closest active fighter with 6. Lastly, can you really call yourself an MMA fan if you’ve never seen this masterpiece of a submission? For those that may not know, DJ had his opponent back, but instead of going for an RNC or sweep for a takedown, he decided to pick up Ray like a toddler and just as Borg was hitting the mat, DJ secured an armbar that left everyone watching looking like a shocked emoji.
Last second armbar finish vs Kyoji Horiguchi at UFC 186: Mighty mouse already owns all the important records in his division, yet this record of latest finish in a fight (4:59 of the 5th round) is perhaps my favorite one of his, as it showed everyone from his future opponents, fans, Dana White and anyone that doubted him, that he can finish the fight when he wants and how he wants.
Winning Inaugural Flyweight belt at UFC 152: Being the best is what every fighter hopes to be, but being the first at something is the cherry on top that not many have. The fact is DJ is a pioneer of the lighter weight classes, he laid the foundation that so many current lighter weight classes walk on, that includes the contenders and the champions. There was no other fighter at that time and weight that could’ve carried the division quite like DJ and this moment was the beginning.
TKO’ing Henry Cejudo in the 1st round at UFC 197: In their first matchup DJ was already halfway through being one of the best champions of his era, he had a record of 24-2-1 with 8 defences. Henry was an up and coming Olympic gold medalist who was 10-0 at the time and while he was showing promise, he was nowhere near his potential, he had had multiple weight cutting issues as well as getting gassed in later rounds, his striking was coming along but not anything close to what it is now. When the two finally met, DJ showed why he was king, he controlled Henry via the clinch and landed elbows and a barrage of knees that sent triple C to the mat.
Getting traded to One Fc for Ben Askren: Many MMA fans incorrectly considered this to be the end of DJ’s career. He would be going to fight in Asia for a promotion no one in the mainstream had heard of and more importantly against who? Well, this move has in my opinion given DJ a second lease on his career as well as the opportunity to see him try his skills in new matchups.
Losing to Dominick Cruz for the Bantamweight title at UFC Live Cruz vs Johnson: This is going to sound way too cheesy, but you do learn from your losses, and this was no exception. Of all the fights and moments in DJ’s career, this might be the most important one. After years of fighting bigger opposition, DJ earned a title shot against then champ Dominick Cruz, during the math DJ showed that he belonged with the best, he had several moments in the fight, but ultimately was outdone due to Cruz’s larger frame and grappling ability. This loss prompted DJ to move down to 125 and begin the era of Mighty Mouse. I would go as far to say that without this loss the flyweight division is not around and Moreno vs Fig 1,2,3 and possibly 4 never happens and even someone like Henry Cejudo has benefited from what DJ did.
KO’ing Joseph Benavidez in the 1st at UFC on Fox Johnson vs Benavidez 2: One of the biggest criticisms about DJ from fans was that he was too boring, too dominant, not “exciting enough”. Well, during his second fight with longtime rival and contender Benavidez DJ delivered exactly what fans said he couldn’t do: a vicious KO. DJ timed his opponent perfectly and waited for Benavidez to put his guard down and came in with a hook that would make Roy Jones proud, Joseph went out and DJ followed up with devastating GNP for good measure.
Submitting Rodtang in mixed rules at One Championship X: Not often do we get to see a cross of styles and rules quite like this. For fans that may not know Rodtang, he is one of the fiercest Muay Thai champions walking this planet. Do you know those dudes that can chop trees down with 3 kicks? Well, Rodtang is most certainly one of them. This fight was a great move by One Fc and certainly one of the highlights of DJ’s illustrious career.
Rivalry vs Ian “Uncle Creepy” McCall at UFC on Fox: As far as rivalries go, this might just be the most important in the flyweight division’s short history (no pun intended). These two fighters were the best fighters at 125, and both fights delivered. Their first matchup went to a draw (judges mistake) which some felt Ian won, they met once more and DJ would come out the victor and head to a title shot against Joseph Benavidez.
Getting into Twitch and Esports: Not only is DJ one of the most methodical and cerebral fighters of all time, but he might also have to go down as the GOAT of MMA gamers. While video games have always been a giant market, many fighters viewed or talked about video games as more of a distraction. Yet DJ saw an opportunity not only to do something he loved but to also make some money at the same time. Now I’m not saying he was the first fighter to hop on twitch, but he was the first to talk about it in a way that has now influenced so many other fighters to follow in his footsteps and start their personal channel.