It was arguably the closest fight of 2012 as Joseph Benavidez and Demetrious Johnson put on one of the more underrated fights of the year. “Mighty Mouse” would walk away the first UFC flyweight champion, and into history books, as Benavidez would find himself on another wrong end of an extremely close title fight. Now, after Benavidez has carefully manicured his way back into a title shot, the two meet again in what could be another fight of the year candidate between the two.
Fight Breakdown – The key to this fight will be the adjustments both guys have made since then. When you spend 25 minutes and are nearly evenly matched in every category it’s the small adjustments to compensate for what didn’t work that’ll make the difference.
The key to Benavidez losing the first fight was Johnson’s speed and footwork. He connected more all over the cage, out landing and out working Benavidez. His activity is what won him the fight; he may not have accomplished more but people often confuse the two. Benavidez needs to throw more, period, and use his footwork to force Johnson into making this a firefight.
Johnson took him down five times during the fight and Benavidez can’t let that happen again. He needs to keep Johnson upright when he wants to, taking him down as well on occasion. Benavidez was outworked for good portions of the fight, eating a lot of punishment and not delivering in kind in return.
Benavidez has the hand when it comes to finishing and his marked improvement with his striking under Duane Ludwig could be the key to the fight. He nearly had Johnson with a guillotine in the 4th but his hands could be the difference this time. He’s been throwing better combinations, and landing better to the body. That could be the difference this time.
The key for Johnson is to work his game, same as before. He’s faster and a better wrestler than Benavidez; he needs to stick, move and grind. He won’t be finishing Benavidez anytime soon, obviously, but he has enough of a gas tank to push a hard pace and outwork Benavidez one more time.
This is a grinding type of fight for him. He’s no significantly better than the Team Alpha Male product in any one area. Thus he has to still be a hair better than him at most parts of MMA.
Why It Matters – This is potentially Joseph Benavidez’s last title shot of any kind for some time. He’s had two losses to Dominick Cruz and bantamweight and a loss here would be his second for the flyweight title. He’d have to go through another similar run in a deepening division, notching 5-6 wins in a row and making most of them finishes, to get a third crack at Johnson. Welcome to being not quite good enough to beat the champion, a particular hell that few find themselves in. He’d be the perpetual #2, never in the mix for a title shot and will probably forever be tainted as a Kenny Florian “choker” type.
Johnson, on the other hand, has a title to lose. He’s the first UFC flyweight champion, as well, and that means something. You never want to lose a title in the UFC; he’d have a tough road to climb to get another shot with a loss, especially if he gets finished. Johnson is in the same spot as Ben Henderson was before he fought Anthony Pettis; he’s won a lot of close fights but has had only one real dominant title defense. That will mean something if he drops this fight.
Prediction – Johnson
Tags: demetrious johnson, Joseph Benavidez, Mixed Martial Arts, UFC on FOX 9