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The Ultimate Fighting Championship will crown its first flyweight titleholder when Demetrious Johnson meets Joseph Benavidez in the UFC 152 “Jones vs. Belfort” co-main event on Saturday at the Air Canada Centre in Toronto.
Johnson last appeared at UFC on FX 3 in June, when he outpointed former Tachi Palace Fights titleholder Ian McCall in their flyweight tournament semifinal rematch at the BankAtlantic Center in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. The 26-year-old AMC Pankration representative has delivered more than half (nine) of his 15 professional victories by knockout, technical knockout or submission. Wins over former WEC bantamweight champion Miguel Torres, 2005 K-1 Hero’s grand prix winner Norifumi “Kid” Yamamoto, Jackson’s Mixed Martial Arts export Damacio Page and onetime Ring of Combat titleholder Nick Pace anchor his resume. In 18 career outings, Johnson has never been finished.
“I think I could have won the bantamweight title but 125 pounds is where my body performs best, and I think, as a flyweight, I have the chance to do some really cool things,” he said. “Being at 125 pounds, I think I’m the fastest fighter in the UFC.”
A Team Alpha Male standout, Benavidez will enter the cage on a four-fight winning streak. The 28-year-old San Antonio native advanced to the tournament final at UFC on FX 2 in March, when he stopped Yasuhiro Urushitani on first-round punches at the Allphones Arena in Sydney, Australia. Benavidez has secured 12 of his 16 career wins by knockout, technical knockout or submission. His only two defeats have come in decisions to reigning UFC bantamweight champion Dominick Cruz.
“I want to be the first UFC flyweight champion so bad I can taste it,” Benavidez said. “Everyone remembers number one. Everyone remembers George Washington was the first president. I want to be remembered in 20, 30, 80 years. I want to be the first name in the record book, and no one is going to stop me from making that dream a reality.”
Martin Kampmann: Oh, that’s a good one, a tough one to call, but I think I’m going to go with Benavidez because he’s got the power. He’s got heavy hands, but you can’t count out “Mighty Mouse.” He’s tough.
Mike Ciesnolevicz: I would really like to see Johnson do well in this fight, but my gut instinct tells me Benavidez will score more points standing and on the mat. I believe the skill sets are very similar, but Benavidez does everything just a little bit better. Benavidez wins by unanimous decision.
Benji Radach: Looks like a tough one. Benavidez is a tough wrestler and quite the grinder, but I gotta give the edge to Johnson. I think he may be able to edge him with strikes in this one. I could see this going to a decision.
Michael Guymon: Johnson has got this by knockout in the first.
Ben Saunders: I am gonna have to say they are both talented, but Benavidez is just a monster in the cage. I give him the slight edge to win.
J.J. Ambrose: Benavidez-Johnson promises to be an exciting matchup between the two best flyweights in the world. I was shocked when Johnson beat McCall in the rematch; it just showed how quickly he improved in all aspects of MMA. That being said, I think were it not for Cruz, Benavidez would be the bantamweight champion. Benavidez is going to be too big and strong for Johnson, but this is an exciting match nonetheless. The Team Alpha Male product beats “Mighty Mouse” by decision.
Jeff Hougland: I’m going with D.J. I think he will rise to the occasion and take that flyweight belt.
Dan Hardy: Having watched Benavidez spar recently, I don’t see anyone in his weight class being able to touch him. It’s going to be a very exciting fight, but Joe’s tenacity, skill and strength will put that belt around his waist, no matter how mighty the mouse may be. Benavidez wins by TKO at 2:43 of the third.
Kyle Kingsbury: Benavidez is going to out-small Johnson for the win.
Javier Vazquez: The smart money is on Benavidez. Johnson has impressed me a lot lately. It’s going to be a close and competitive fight that will see Benavidez win a 48-47 decision.
John Gunderson: Johnson is a good fighter, but I’m picking Benavidez. When Shawn Tompkins was coaching in Las Vegas, Benavidez would come train with us from time to time. The kid is a beast; he’s well-rounded and has the punching power of a welterweight. If Johnson comes to fight and doesn’t try to stick and move, run away or whatever you wanna call it, I believe Benavidez will finish him.
Nam Phan: Benavidez all the way.
Johny Hendricks: I’m going with Benavidez. The wrestling might be too strong for Johnson.
Robert Drysdale: Benavidez wins.
Mark Bocek: Benavidez wins by decision.
Dave Jansen: I think this one is a toss up, so I'm flipping a coin. Heads: Benavidez; tails: Johnson. Heads twice in a row. Benavidez by decision.
Pros Picking Benavidez: 13
Pros Picking Johnson: 3
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