Photo by Esther Lin/MMA Fighting.
Slated for the first-ever crowning of a UFC flyweight champion at tonight's (Sat., Sept. 22, 2012) UFC 152: "Jones vs. Belfort" event in Toronto, Ontario, Canada, Joseph Benavidez vs. Demetrious Johnson couldn't happen to two more talented and fascinating guys, as both have proven that the little men are exciting and fan-friendly, to boot.
With reliable gas tanks and well-rounded skills, over five rounds, it figures that this one will have twists and turns aplenty, given both men's penchant for a tireless work rate and eye-popping athleticism.
The question isn't what will happen so much as what won't happen -= Benavidez and Johnson figure to take viewers on one hell of a thrill-ride as they battle for the vacant UFC belt, and make a bit of history in doing so by crowning the division's first champ.
Johnson figures to be the smaller of the two, and Benavidez looked awesome in his blowout of Yashihiro Urushitani in March, and his past performances, including two close decision losses to Dominick Cruz, have shown him to be incredibly persistent, and resilient. Benavidez was a dynamic figure at 135, using incredibly good footspeed, and footwork, to negotiate his way in and out of range despite typically giving up several inches in height and reach. Against a fellow 5'3 guy in Johnson, Joseph is likely to be the slugger in the matchup. For Johnson, making adjustments is what served him well in two fights against Ian McCall. He doesn't strike as hard as Benavidez but he may be the only guy in the game that's quicker from point A to B; he'll need to zip in and out while changing up angles. The temptation for both to try unorthodox moves could swing the judges' scorecards in exceptionally close rounds; Benavidez is also a better wrestler and scrambler, but "Might Mouse" outhustled McCall, a bigger and stronger guy, in their rematch, with relative ease.
This is a great bout to kick off the flyweight championship, and it should prove an instant classic. Benavidez is the bigger guy and is probably more likely to score a knockdown off a strike than a pure takedown, as Johnson's scrambles and insane ability to break clear of tie-ups and constantly work will make him to squirrely early. However, over five rounds, Benavidez' punishing attack and well-timed leg kicks should soften Johnson up; that's when Joseph goes to work. Benavidez is pretty much impossible to keep down unless he wants to stay there, and Johnson will have to be virtually perfect to outpoint him over five. In a long enough fight, I just see Benavidez landing something big and turning the bout his way. He'll wear Johnson down with some intense, tactically fascinating back-and-forth exchanges, pressing the attack over the third and fourth round en route to a win via rear naked choke in the fifth.
Benavidez via submission
MMAmania.com will provide LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the main card bouts on fight night (Sat., Sept. 22, 2012), which is slated to air at 10 p.m. ET pay-per-view (PPV). The latest quick updates of the live action will begin to flow earlier than that around 7:15 p.m. ET with the "Prelims" match-ups on Facebook and FX.
See you later!
Jason Probst can be reached at twitter.com/jasonprobst