In a dramatic, take-no-prisoners semifinal fight, West Jordan's DaMarques Johnson showed skill, grit and heart to overcome Nick Osipczak and earn a slot in the welterweight finals of "The Ultimate Fighter."
The 26-year-old continued to press his opponent through three grueling rounds, both gassed but giving their all throughout the 15-minute battle.
Johnson will fight live in Las Vegas and on Spike TV on June 20 for a chance to win a contract with the Ultimate Fighting Championship, mixed martial arts' biggest organization.
Throughout the show, Johnson has been prominently portrayed as a skilled fighter with a sense of humor, one who would just as quickly talk trash as flash a smile. But the easygoing Army veteran says he's still the same guy who taught children's jiu-jitsu classes at Sandy's Elite Performance gym before taping the show.
"I'm really nothing special. I'm just DaMarques Johnson. I'm just that guy who screams and yells and bosses little kids around and makes them laugh. ... I don't view what I've done as anything special," Johnson said. "I'm going to try my best, stay grounded, be humble. Train hard and fight hard. Do what I did to get me there and probably a little more to keep me there. That's all I really plan on doing."
In the semifinal fight, Osipczak used the first round to punish Johnson with a series of outside leg kicks. The pair exchanged punches and kicks fairly evenly until Osipczak turned it on in the last 30 seconds of the first round. A strong right to the chin dazed Johnson, and Osipczak followed with half a dozen shots to the head, while Johnson swung away himself. Osipczak nearly finished the fight, and when the horn sounded to end the round, Johnson was bleeding out of his nose.
"The end of that round is what fighting is all about," UFC President Dana White said.
In the second round, Johnson held the Brit down on the canvas while methodically trying to pass from half guard into full mount. When he did pass toward the end of the round, Osipczak rolled to give up his back, and Johnson swung away while Osipczak covered his face from the barrage. This time, referee Herb Dean appeared close to stopping the fight in Johnson's favor, but again the horn sounded.
Both fighters were clearly tired in the third round. Osipczak looked like he was out on his feet, and Johnson was winded but still bringing punishment. He continued to push the pace, changing levels to strike both the head and body, and scored a takedown. Johnson controlled the fight on the ground until the end of the round, when Osipczak reversed and took top position, but it was too little, too late.
There's one fight left between him and a guaranteed contract with the UFC, but Johnson is already top-flight material in the eyes of former UFC welterweight champion Matt Hughes.
"To be honest, I'd put DaMarques among guys that are the top 10 in the world. Maybe not against the top three or four, but I would stack DaMarques up there," said Hughes, who invited Johnson to help corner him at UFC 98 in his fight against Matt Serra. "DaMarques is tough, and he's going to turn a lot of heads when he gets turned loose on the UFC and they start throwing him at people."
West Jordan's DaMarques Johnson earns a slot in the welterweight finals of "The Ultimate Fighter."