Three months later and here we are looking back on another meeting between Demetrious Johnson and Ian McCall. This time, at least, there was no controversy -- unless one counts the fact that the rematch never should have happened, in which case, OK, sure, maybe there is a smidgen of controversy.
In case you are just tuning in: back in March, top-ranked flyweight McCall and slimmed-down bantamweight contender Johnson threw down for 15 minutes in what should have been a 125-pound title eliminator. In spite of a dominant third round, McCall came up on the short end of a decision -- or so it seemed. Due to a scoring error, what was originally announced as a majority win for Johnson was later revealed to be a majority draw, which should have sent the bout to an extra round put in place for just such an occasion.
Instead, we got rounds four, five and six on Friday at UFC on FX 3 in Sunrise, Fla. Bookmakers pegged McCall as a slight favorite -- likely due to the perception that he outlasted Johnson in their first bout and might have had the gas tank to finish in the fourth frame -- but it was Johnson who came out strong to win the opening round with superior speed and striking. In the second round, McCall’s aggression and an early takedown kept him in the fight; though FightMetric.com shows Johnson out-landing “Uncle Creepy” 32-20 in significant strikes, most MMA media and two of three judges saw fit to give the round to McCall.
Again, it came down to the final stanza and a matter of stamina. This time, it was “Mighty Mouse” who looked the fresher man as he emerged from his corner, bouncing on his toes and shutting down a pair of takedown tries to punish McCall with knees in the clinch. McCall wore a frustrated grimace as Johnson dragged him to the ground with a double-leg against the fence, then nearly secured the Californian’s back as they stood up. McCall managed to sweep Johnson’s inside leg for a trip in the middle of the cage; Johnson wasted no time in scrambling back to his feet.
With 2:30 left, Johnson had already begun to put his mark on the round, but McCall continued moving forward, throwing combinations and looking to clinch. Johnson blocked the next two trip attempts entirely and McCall’s hands dropped around his waist. McCall clinched on the fence again, but the fresher legs of Johnson scored knees inside while his arms fended off any return fire. Breaking off, Johnson landed a combination, danced out of range and then traded more knees inside when McCall walked him down. McCall kept coming, loading up for a big punch along the cage, but the aggression allowed Johnson to slip off and grab for a takedown attempt which took up the better part of the last 30 seconds and sent McCall tumbling to the floor one last time.
The horn sounded and, although a fourth round was once again a possibility, Johnson seemed confident that he had wrapped it up in three, motioning to his waist with a title-belt-goes-here gesture. The confidence was well-placed: judges Hector Gomez and Barry Luxenberg submitted 29-28 scorecards in Johnson’s favor, while Chris Lee saw fit to give him all three rounds, 30-27. A dejected McCall yanked his hand away from referee Troy Waugh as the verdict was read. The fans in attendance, for whatever reason, booed.
Along with controlling the distance at which the fight took place and forcing McCall to wear himself out on takedown attempts, Johnson’s endurance clearly made the difference in the flyweights’ second go-round. What made the difference in Johnson’s endurance?
“The difference was my diet,” he told Sherdog.com after the bout. “Last time I fought, when I stepped in the Octagon I was maybe 132, 135 [pounds]. When I stepped in tonight, I was 140, 141. I did a really good job of retaining all my water and all my nutrients this time. Honestly, it was my diet, working on my wrestling and just going out there and getting after it.”
Of course, some competent judging and scorekeeping did not hurt matters, either. Too bad for Ian McCall, they came three months too late.