The bout served as the featured contest of Saturday's "UFC 186: Johnson vs. Horiguchi" event, which took place at Montreal's Bell Centre.
Horiguchi was dangerous in the opening round, as his blend of unorthodox, karate-based movements and impressive speed gave the champ some pause in the early going. But the Japanese contender was unable to truly capitalize on the opportunities, and it would cost him.
Johnson (22-2-1) simply took over in the second round, showing the wide range of skills that have earned him recognition as one of the best pound-for-pound fighters in the sport. Constant pressure from the champ left Horiguchi (15-2) struggling to find any opportunity to attack. Instead, the challenger was constantly forced to try and prevent Johnson from taking his back, as they battled routinely against the fence and in the clinch.
It was one-way traffic until the final round, and the 23-year-old challenger was simply overwhelmed by the more-experienced champ. Horiguchi tried to attack until the end, briefly threatening with a fifth-round triangle choke, but he was simply overwhelmed. While he was clearly ahead on the scorecards in the final seconds, Johnson turned up the volume, transitioned to an armbar and scored the submission win — setting a promotional record that may someday be equalled but can never be beaten.
"I didn't want to be stupid and get knocked out," Johnson said of the challenge of figuring out his opponent's unique style. "I had 25 minutes. I just took my time, and with one second left, I figured I better finish him."
Johnson now has six consecutive defenses of his UFC flyweight title.
In the night's co-main event, Quinton "Rampage" Jackson (36-11) earned his first UFC win since 2011, scoring a unanimous-decision win over Brazilian slugger Fabio Maldonado (22-8).
After winning a lengthy legal battle with his recent employers at Bellator MMA, Jackson admitted he was briefly off his diet, necessitating a 215-pound catchweight contest. And while it was obvious the former UFC light heavyweight champion wasn't necessarily in vintage form, Jackson was accurate with his punches, and his work rate ensured Maldonado never really had a chance to mount a sustained offence.
At the conclusion of a rather mediocre three-round affair, Jackson was awarded a decision win, 29-28, 30-27 and 30-27.
"I'm a fighter, I fight at everything I do," Jackson said. "Not only did I fight tonight, but I fought to just get in the octagon. Everything was worth it because it's great to be in the UFC again. I should've never left."
In a key middleweight contest, British veteran Michael Bisping (26-7) survived an early knockdown to outwork C.B. Dollaway (15-7) over the final 10 minutes en route to a unanimous decision win.
While Dollaway's powerful left hook landed on several occasions, Bisping was able to recover and simply remain the busier fighter from start to finish. Dollaway did scores a pair of takedowns along the way, but Bisping's edge in significant strikes — 80-to-49 at the end of the fight — was enough to earn him a unanimous decision, 29-28 on all three cards.
"C.B. was a dangerous opponent," Bisping said. "He proved to be a lot tougher than I expected. He was good on his feet and had some power in those punches. I was able to stuff his takedowns pretty easy, but there is a reason he's a top-10 fighter."
In a 160-pound catchweight contest, Laval, Quebec's John Makdessi (13-3) turned in one the more impressive performances of his UFC career, scoring a first-round victory over Kelowna, British Columbia's Shane Campbell (11-3).
While Campbell looked to stand and trade in his UFC debut, he was eventually overwhelmed by the swarming strikes of his opponent. With Makdessi landing heavy punches, Campbell was wobbled early and showed great heart in hoping to continue, but his opponent simply wouldn't let him off the hook. A relentless attack saw Campbell turtled on the floor in the closing seconds of the first round, and Makdessi was awarded a TKO win with seven seconds left in the frame.
"At this point in my career, I need to show the UFC that I'm serious about becoming a top contender, so I took a year off and really dug deep," said Makdessi. "I used the time to train and prove to myself I was ready to make a run, and it started tonight."
In the night's first main-card contest, undefeated Brazilian youngster Thomas Almeida (18-0) stopped Montreal's Yves Jabouin (20-10) in the first round.
Just 23 years old, Almeida showed incredible composure and potent striking as he flurried with a non-stop barrage of punches to all levels that left Jabouin stunned and cowering against the cage, forcing a stoppage with 42 seconds left in the opening frame.
"It is a big honour to fight in Canada and to beat one of their own," said Almeida. "I'm still very young, but if I continue training in all disciplines, I know I can be one of the top fighters in the division."