TORONTO - Demetrious (Mighty Mouse) Johnson has forever etched his name in the history books.
Johnson won a close split decision over Joseph Benavidez to capture the inaugural UFC flyweight championship in the co-main event of UFC 152 at the Air Canada Centre Saturday.
“It means the world,” Johnson told interviewer Joe Rogan. “I still have to improve on a lot of things.
“I said if I became the champion, the same thing would happen, I would head home and get ready for the next battle.”
Fans expecting a high-octane war were instead treated to a very tight, technical fight. These two could probably fight for 100 rounds without a knockout or submission.
The bout started out methodically with both fighters picking their moments to explode forward with strikes. However, Benavidez appeared to struggle with Johnson’s timing and takedown defence. Benavidez found more success with his punches in the second, tagging Johnson with hard shots, but continued to fail on takedown attempts. Johnson drew first blood in the third, opening a small laceration around Benavidez’s left eye with a right-hook.
Early in the fourth, The Team Alpha Male fighter knocked Johnson down with a punch and attempted to lock in a mounted guillotine choke. Johnson later turned the tables, taking Benavidez to the mat, where he unloaded with a flurry of punches to the abdomen. Johnson delivered a pair of slams to kick off the fifth, but was unable to keep Benavidez on the mat. The two exchanged more shots on the feet, but Johnson appeared to frustrate Benavidez with his speed and takedowns.
After five close rounds, the judges scored it 48-47, 47-48, 49-46 for Johnson, causing a disappointed Benavidez to leave the octagon.
Johnson said he was surprised one judge scored the bout against him.
“I was a little shocked,” Johnson said. “I took him down a lot more. He didn’t even take me down once. I controlled him and took his back.”
Johnson’s title victory marked the culmination of a four-man flyweight tournament, which kicked off at UFC on FX 2 in Sydney, Australia March 3. That night, Benavidez scored an impressive second-round TKO victory over Yasuhiro Urushitani. However, the tourney hit a bump in the road due to a scoring error in Johnson’s fight against Ian (Uncle Creepy) McCall.
Johnson was initially ruled the winner via majority decision, but the bout was actually scored a majority draw. It was later revealed the head of the Combat Sports Authority of New South Wales tallied the scorecards wrong. Judge Sal D’Amato awarded McCall a 10-8 for almost finishing Johnson with ground-and-pound in the third, but it was recorded 10-9.
Prior to the bout, the UFC announced an overtime round would be utilized in the event of a draw. Since both fighters had already left the cage when the oversight was discovered, the only option was to book an immediate rematch. Not wanting to sacrifice his opportunity, Johnson trained through his honeymoon and went on to win a unanimous decision over McCall at UFC on FX 3 in June. Johnson said the wait made the victory all the sweeter.
“Joseph is a great competitor,” Johnson said. “I trained hard. I dedicate a lot to this sport.”
Benavidez’s loss now drops Team Alpha Male’s UFC title fight record to 0-4.
Urijah Faber lost a close unanimous decision to bantamweight champ Dominick Cruz at UFC 132 last year. He fell short again in an interim title fight with Renan Barao at UFC 149 in July, dropping yet another unanimous decision. At UFC 142 in January, Chad Mendes suffered a first-round knockout at the hands of featherweight kingpin Jose Aldo.
FIRST TIME FOR EVERYTHING
Demetrious (Mighty Mouse) Johnson is one of only 10 fighters to win an inaugural UFC championship.
UFC 1 tournament winner: Royce Gracie
Superfight (open-weight): Ken Shamrock
Heavyweight: Mark Coleman
Light-heavyweight: Frank Shamrock
Middleweight: Dave Menne
Welterweight: Pat Miletich
Lightweight: Jens Pulver
Featherweight: Jose Aldo
Bantamweight: Dominick Cruz
Flyweight: Demetrious Johnson