In yet another demonstration of how the best laid plans of mixed martial arts tournaments often go awry, we are treated to Part 2 of the Ultimate Fighting Championship’s flyweight tournament semifinals. The good news is the initial meeting between Ian McCall and Demetrious Johnson in March was so fast-paced and competitive that most of us would not mind seeing the two 125-pound stalwarts go at it again. The list of contenders in the division only figures to grow in the coming months as the UFC continues to add talent, so both “Mighty Mouse” and “Uncle Creepy” will be eager to capitalize on their chance to earn the promotion’s first-ever flyweight strap.
Emanating from the BankAtlantic Center in Ft. Lauderdale, Fla., UFC on FX 3 also features the return of promising prospect Erick Silva, as he tangles with Charlie Brenneman in a featured welterweight bout, while well-traveled veterans Josh Neer and Mike Pyle also lock horns at 170 pounds. Additionally, fan voting added a bantamweight pairing pitting Scott Jorgensen against Eddie Wineland to the four-bout main card.
Here is a look at UFC on FX 3, with analysis and picks:
Sherdog Fantasy MMA: UFC on FX 3 Free Fan Pick’Em
UFC Flyweight Tournament Semifinal
Ian McCall (11-2-1, 0-0-1 UFC) vs. Demetrious Johnson (14-2-1, 2-1-1 UFC)
The Matchup: Unlike most UFC headliners these days, this 125-pound matchup is scheduled to go three rounds, with a fourth sudden-victory round scheduled should the fight be scored a draw. One can only hope the athletic commission folks in Florida fare better than their counterparts in Sydney, Australia, where a tabulation error temporarily awarded Johnson a victory over McCall in their first meeting at UFC on FX 2.
Fortunately, the mistake was identified and the fight was ruled a majority draw -- although too late to send both men back to the Octagon for an extra frame. Now “Mighty Mouse” and “Uncle Creepy” will meet again in what figures to be at least 15 more minutes of fast and furious action. Joseph Benavidez, who defeated Yashuhiro Urushitani in the other flyweight tournament semifinal in March, awaits the winner. And we have been assured that there will be a winner this time.
Mathematical errors aside, scoring a bout between two high-energy competitors such as Johnson and McCall is no easy task, as was proven in their first fight. The biggest point of contention regarding scoring was the third frame, where McCall flattened out Johnson and pounded away with punches over the last 30 seconds of the period. Many thought it was a clear-cut 10-8 performance for the former Tachi Palace Fights champion, although two cageside judges did not see it that way. Round one was less definitive, with Johnson getting the best of the striking and McCall landing a pair of takedowns. It was the type of stanza that could have warranted a 10-9 score either way, or even a 10-10 tally.
It is likely we will see at least one round like that in the rematch. Johnson’s remarkable speed and agility allow him to close the gap quickly, move in and out of the pocket and land rapid-fire punches. The AMC Pankration representative does not have knockout power, but he consistently beat McCall to the punch with solid right hands over the first 10 minutes of their initial encounter.
Meanwhile, McCall held a distinct advantage in the clinch, where he effectively worked his dirty boxing and connected with several knees to the body. He also stuffed all four of his opponent’s takedowns -- no small feat considering Johnson’s ability to use his blinding speed and striking to set up his shots. Most importantly, McCall seemed to figure out how to time his own takedowns, which resulted in his dominant third round.
McCall has good movement and lands with more power on the feet, but he must already be aware that he cannot win a prolonged standup battle. Johnson will be more than content to outpoint him while moving in and out of danger.
Fighting in close is where the Team Oyama product will once again have to make his mark. If he indeed figured something out in Johnson’s movements previously, he must be prepared to make more adjustments and get “Mighty Mouse” to the mat. Once there, McCall has proven adept at holding -- and regaining -- dominant position. Johnson must scramble and work to get up or risk a stoppage via ground-and-pound.
The Pick: This appears to be pretty cut and dry. Johnson wins on the feet and at range, while McCall prevails in close quarters and on the mat. So often in rematches, however, things do not look at all like they did the first time around. The guess here is that McCall has gained enough confidence in his near-victory last time and will demonstrate serious improvement in taking a unanimous decision.
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