Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) flyweights Joseph Benavidez and John Moraga battled last night (May 23, 2015) at UFC 187 inside the MGM Grand Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada.
Coming into this fight on a two fight win streak, Benavidez was looking to continue building momentum. Faced with a top five opponent, "Beefcake" was looking to make a major statement with this fight.
Similarly, Moraga entered this bout with a pair of strong wins behind him. The MMA Lab-trained fighter was looking to prove he was more than just a gatekeeper to the top tier, as he was given another opportunity to take out one of the division's elite.
Moraga came out looking to exchange, and it quickly bit him in the ass. Moraga aimed for a high kick and actually landed it, but Benavidez clubbed him with some counter punches and sent Moraga slumping to the mat.
Before long, Benavidez was using his trademark headlock to hunt for the guillotine, but Moraga defended well and returned to his feet. In the clinch, both men traded knees and takedown attempts, but "Beefcake" generally won the exchanges and scrambles.
In an entertaining start to the fight, Benavidez was clearly ahead.
Moraga started the round looking to maintain distance, and he landed some nice kicks to the body and legs from there. Meanwhile, Benavidez looked to counter with heavy punches and routinely went to the body.
With around two minutes remaining, Benavidez scored a takedown against the fence. He moved into side control and was looking for the neck, but Moraga held on tight. Still, Benavidez was able to open up a cut somewhere in the round, as Moraga was quite bloody to finish the round.
Heading into the final frame, Moraga needed a finish.
And to his credit, he went after it. Benavidez and Moraga traded some wild shots, with both men landing seriously hard punches. Nonetheless, both men remained standing after the flurry, though it clearly exhausted Moraga a bit.
Due to his opponent's fatigue, Benavidez was able to hit an easy knee pick. From his back, Moraga did very little but hold on, as Benavidez landed some small punches and elbows until the end of the round.
In the end, all three judges gave each round to "Beefcake."
For the second straight time, Benavidez swept the scorecards against a top 10 opponent. Benavidez has also proven his willingness to get into wild exchanges, which generally favor him due to his chin and power punching.
It may be a risky strategy, but it's quite entertaining.
In this fight, his wrestling and grappling skills really carried him through the fight. This was nice to see, as Benavidez abandoned his takedowns in order to brawl with Dustin Ortiz last time around. Once Benavidez was on top, he was both heavy and active, looking for strikes, submissions, and keeping Moraga on his back.
Now on a three fight win streak, Benavidez should take on fellow top three flyweight John Dodson, who also scored a win at UFC 187. Both men are looking for another title shot and are unbeaten by anyone except the champion.
Let's see 'em throw down.
For Moraga, this was another example of the scrapper simply coming up short against an elite fighter. He brought it to the Team Alpha Male product, but Benavidez's punches landed with more power and his wrestling dictated the fight. Moraga never stopped working, but it simply wasn't enough.
On the bright side, Moraga's kicks looked excellent. It's clear he's still improving, but the question is whether or not he's growing quickly enough to catch up to the top five.
At UFC 187, Joseph Benavidez and John Moraga threw down for the full fifteen minutes, and the Joe Jitsu-practitioner came out on top. Can Benavidez make it back to the title?
For complete UFC 187 "Cormier vs Johnson" results and play-by-play, click HERE!