Flyweight division set for an explosive start as tournament begins at UFC on FX 2

UFC on FX 2 provides yet another exciting chapter in the company’s event laden recent history, as Sydney, Australia plays host to a brand new 125 pound weight division, beginning with a four man tournament that will decide who will be the first UFC flyweight champion. And in an added dimension if either contest is scored a draw after three rounds a fourth “sudden victory” round comes into action to ensure that two finalists will emerge from the night’s proceedings.

The UFC has evolved and expanded in recent years at a pace that few would have thought possible when looking back at what is once was and represented precisely two hundred UFC events ago when Royce Gracie choked Gereard Gordeau unconscious to win the first UFC tournament in front of three thousand people in Denver, Colorado. At that time tournaments were the status quo but the notion of creating weight classes would have been considered absurd as the idea was to prove that any man could defeat another, no matter the difference in size, as long as he could master the “superior” techniques of Gracie Jiu Jitsu.

Fast forward eighteen years and the UFC has become less of a tough man contest and more of an sporting endeavor, as fighters have become fine-tuned athletes and even the slightest disparity in size can prove the difference between victory and defeat.

After the successful absorption of the WEC’s featherweight and bantamweight divisions and the continued influx of fighters and events taking place throughout the year, it was only a matter of time before a flyweight bracket would emerge to create new stars and even more frenetic action packed fights that the smaller weight classes consistently deliver.

Two of the best nicknames in MMA will go head to head in the first semi final bout of the evening as Demetrious “Mighty Mouse” Johnson (14/02) drops down from bantamweight to challenge Ian “Uncle Creepy” McCall (11/2).

Although Johnson had been competing well against fighters who held an obvious size advantage, the decision by the UFC to create this new division must have been music to his considerable ears. After losing to British standout Brad Pickett, Johnson embarked on a four fight win streak that included victories over Japanese legend Kid Yamamoto and an even more impressive showing where he bested former WEC champion Miguel Torres, to earn a shot at UFC bantamweight champion Dominic Cruz. “Mighty Mouse” put on a spirited performance and easily matched Cruz’s speed but had no answer for the onslaught of takedowns that the  “Dominator” effectively implemented throughout the contest, losing to Cruz by unanimous decision.

Meeting Johnson will be a flyweight who also holds a loss to Cruz at bantamweight and is making his UFC debut after campaigning successfully at 125 pounds since the end of 2010. McCall is a true renaissance man after successfully beating not only opponents inside the cage but the bigger challenge of substance abuse outside of it and is riding a four fight win streak which includes an heroic victory over previously ranked number1 flyweight, Jussier da Silver, propelling McCall from “also ran” to UFC contender.

Though their personalities may be chalk and cheese the difference in skill level between these two fighters is less clear as both bring a well rounded game to the octagon, suffering only four losses between them. McCall should have an edge in knockout power but Johnson will feel he can be even more of a nuisance at 125 pounds and overwhelm anyone in the division.

I expect the experience factor to play a big part in the outcome of this contest with Johnson out-working his flyweight rival to claim a place in the final, via a split decision victory.

In the second semi final bout another former bantamweight title contender, Joseph “Beefcake” Benavidez (15/2), searches for greener pastures at flyweight, as he welcomes ex-Shooto champion Yasuhiro Urushitani (19/04/06).

Benavidez will be more determined then ever as he searches for that first world title having, like Johnson, come unstuck at bantamweight against champion Dominic Cruz not once, but twice. Other then those two blemishes on his record he has looked outstanding, holding victories over two former WEC champions, Miguel Torres and Eddie Wineland in his most recent contest.

Standing in his path will be the most experienced of the four flyweights, having campaigned at 123 pounds throughout his career and will be hoping to not only become the inaugural UFC flyweight champion but the first Japanese fighter to hold a UFC title in any weight class. Urushitani has had great success fighting in his homeland, where the thirty-five year old enjoys star billing and holds notable victories over The Ultimate Fighter 14 winner John Dodson and former two-weight Shooto champion Mamoru Yamaguchi.

Many believe this semi-final is forgone conclusion and have Benavidez quite rightly pegged as the favorite to go all the way in the tournament, yet he would be foolish to look too far past a man who hasn’t lost since 2008 and vacated the Shooto bantamweight title for the chance to compete in the UFC.

Unfortunately for Urushitani he could not have asked for a more difficult UFC baptism and so must establish his crisp striking early and often if he is to avoid being bulldozed by the team Alpha Male standout.

Benavidez is now starting to reach the peak of his powers and although Urushitani has a solid Judo background, I believe “Beefcake” will be able to successfully impose his wrestling and take his rival out in the second round by TKO.

It is great to see the UFC investing further in the smaller weight classes and I expect the tournament to provide a thrilling spectacle no matter the final outcome.

 

 

 

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