They happened to be the best bantamweight fighters in the world not named Dominick Cruz. Benavidez (19-3) had two cracks at "The Dominator" -- first at WEC 42 and then again at WEC 50 -- but came up short on the judges' scorecards on both occasions.
Johnson (18-2) had his chance to unseat Cruz from the top of the division under the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) banner, in the five-round main event of UFC on Versus 6, but suffered a similar fate.
That's because these two nimble mixed martial arts (MMA) fighters were too small for the 135-pound weight class, which can give you an idea of just how talented they are, considering their success against the division's elite. But the fact of the matter was that neither Benavidez nor Johnson had anywhere else to go.
There wasn't a major stateside promotion that had anything under the bantamweight mark.
Not until Dec. 11, 2011, when UFC President Dana White announced that flyweights were coming to the world's largest combat sports promotion. In addition, a four-man tournament would commence on March 3, 2012, to crown a new division kingpin.
Naturally, nothing goes off without a hitch.
"Mighty Mouse" was mired in a scorecard controversy with "Uncle Creepy," forcing them to run it back and put the tournament on hold until they figured out who would advance. "Joe Jitsu," meanwhile, pounded out the Japanese veteran in the second round "down under."
Now, all he could do was wait.
Fortunately, he didn't have to wait long, as Johnson was able to dispose of McCall just three months after their initial draw, which paved the way for his Benavidez fight -- one that had him pegged as a +210 underdog -- at the UFC 152 pay-per-view (PPV) event in September of that year.
It took five rounds of hotly-contested back-and-forth action to prove the bookies wrong.
Johnson would leave the Air Canada Centre as the first-ever UFC flyweight champion. He proved it was no fluke with a unanimous decision win over John Dodson at the beginning of the year, then hammered the point home by submitting John Moraga in his next title defense at the UFC on FOX 8 event last July.
Still, he was just one judge away from losing that opportunity to Benavidez.
That's why "Joe Jitsu" -- a perfect 3-0 with two knockout finishes since falling to "Mighty Mouse" -- will get another crack at the crown in the main event of this Saturday night's UFC on FOX 9 event, which takes place on Dec. 14, 2013 at the Sleep Train Arena in Sacramento, California, a place where history will be made.
Or perhaps repeat itself.