CHICAGO -- The UFC's first-ever flyweight champion retained his belt on Saturday night, but it didn't come easy.
Demetrious Johnson withstood an early assault from top contender and "The Ultimate Fighter 14" winner John Dodson to post a comeback decision win in the 25-minute affair.
The 125-pound title fight served as the main event of Saturday's UFC on FOX 6 event at the United Center.
"It was a great fight," said Johnson. "He hit me pretty good a couple of times. I was stunned, but I am in great shape and my head cleared very quick.
"(Dodson) is very tough, very strong. I hit him with a lot of knees late on, but he's very tough. That was a great fight and a great first defence."
It was Dodson's quickness and pinpoint striking that took control of the early action, and after a pair of traded takedowns, "The Magician" scored a few crisp left hooks that wobbled the champ.
Dodson took complete control of the second round as that same crisp left hook twice scored for knockdowns and opened a cut on Johnson's cheek. Johnson continued to serve as the aggressor, but Dodson retreated well and scored a few perfectly timed counter shots.
Johnson (17-2-1) worked hard to make adjustments in the third frame and pressed forward despite the early trouble. But things began to take a decided turn in momentum when Johnson scored an inadvertent knee to the groin, leading to a brief timeout.
Whether or not the blow affected Dodson's performance was difficult to tell, but there was a decided shift in control for the remainder of the fight.
Johnson received another warning in the fourth frame as he landed a knee while Dodson (14-6) had a hand on the floor. Doctors came in to check Dodson's left eye, but the action carried on without a point deduction. On the restart, Johnson continued to press forward, and Dodson seems to lose a bit of his rhythm. Johnson used a barrage of knees against the cage to bust up his opponent's face, and "Mighty Mouse" turned in his best round of the fight to that point.
With the fight seemingly in the balance heading into the final round, Johnson scored a quick takedown and looked to hold the position. When he was unable to do so, Johnson used a series of creative leaping elbow strikes to further annoy a tiring opponent.
Johnson seemed to gain strength in the final round, and a barrage of knees and punches inside threatened to end the fight. Dodson, his face battered and lungs spent, absorbed the punishment, but it was another clear round for Johnson.
In the end, Johnson's late work was enough to earn him a decision win, 48-47, 49-46, 48-47, successfully defending his belt for the first time. The pair also shared in the evening's "Fight of the Night" bonus, netting $50,000 each.
"I don't think I won," Dodson admitted. "Some people have said that, but I don't think so. It was close.
"I will be back in the title picture soon. I've got some things I need to go work on, but when I come back I will be better."
In what could serve as the final UFC bout of his 14-year MMA career, Quinton (Rampage) Jackson (32-11) suffered a unanimous-decision loss to Brazilian up-and-comer Glover Teixeira (20-2).
The 34-year-old Jackson, who promised before the fight that it would be his last in the octagon, looked lively and quick to open the fight, but he slowed over time and proved incapable of stopping Teixeira's takedowns, allowing the Brazilian to put the fight on the floor at will. Jackson crawled back to his feet each time, but his power shots were no match for Teixeira's volume attack.
Teixeira scored flash knockdowns in the first and second rounds, and a FightMetric report scored total strikes in his favour 103-54. Everything pointed to Teixeira, and he was awarded the fight with scores of 30-27, 30-27 and 29-28.
"That was a tough fight," Teixeira said. "He hits very hard, but I managed to never allow him to hit me flush. I took him down a couple of times, kicked and punched, mixed it up to keep him working."
Jackson is now a free agent and has vowed to take his services elsewhere, including a potential run as a professional boxer.
"I really wanted to win that fight," Jackson said. "I kind of wish I fought smart and didn't get hit so much, but I always said I would rather lose a good fight than win a boring-ass one, and the fans are telling me that was an exciting fight. So I guess I'm sad but not so sad. I fought like 'Rampage' tonight."
In additional main-card action, former World Extreme Cagefighting lightweight champion Anthony Pettis (16-2) made a claim for a UFC title shot with a devastating first-round TKO win over perennial contender Donald Cerrone (19-5).
"Showtime" was the quicker fighter from the opening bell, and he wowed the audience with a cartwheel kick and a leaping knee off of the cage before securing the finish with a vicious left kick to his opponent's liver that sent Cerrone crumpling to the floor. Pettis followed with a few quick punches before the fight was waved off at 2:35. The win earned Pettis a $50,000 bonus cheque for the evening's "Knockout of the Night."
Additionally, featherweight Ricardo Lamas (13-2) announced his presence in the UFC's 145-pound title picture with an impressive second-round TKO of former No. 1 contender Erik Koch (13-2). Lamas is now 4-0 since dropping from 155-pounds and after his win called out the winner of next week's UFC 156 headliner between current featherweight champ Jose Aldo and former lightweight title holder Frankie Edgar.
According to UFC president Dana White, UFC on FOX 6 earned an attendance of 16,091 for a live gate of $1.27 million.