Demetrious Johnson did it the right way this time.
Previously competing as an undersized bantamweight, Johnson (Pictured, file photo) had little weight to cut in order to make the division’s 135-pound limit. That changed prior to his inaugural appearance at 125 pounds in March, when he took on Ian McCall at UFC on FX 2 in the semifinals of the promotion’s four-man flyweight tournament.
Though he started that contest with the typical “Mighty Mouse” bounce in his step, Johnson tired in the third round and ended up flat on his belly with McCall dropping punches from above as the bout ended. The contest was eventually ruled a draw after a tabulation error caused the fight to originally be called a majority decision win for Johnson.
As a result, the pair squared off again on Friday, locking horns in the UFC on FX 3 headliner at the BankAtlantic Center in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. The fatigue that previously plagued Johnson was a non-issue tonight, however, as a smoother cut to 125 pounds aided the AMC Pankration product in picking up a unanimous nod over McCall to secure a championship date with Joseph Benavidez at a to-be-announced event later this year.
While Johnson will enter the title bout fresh off tonight’s victory, Benavidez has been on the shelf since knocking out Yasuhiro Urushitani at UFC on FX 2. Despite the discrepancy in recent in-cage activity, Johnson says both he and Benavidez will carry with them different advantages when they finally square off.
“Knowing Benavidez, he’s a smart guy. He is always training and staying in shape. He’s getting time to sit on ice and fix the things he’s going to get better at, and I got a second chance at dropping down to [flyweight],” Johnson said at Friday’s post-fight press conference. “Last time, I stepped into the cage at like 132 [pounds], if that. Tonight, I stepped in at 140, so I did a good job of dieting right and really listening to my coaches.”
Johnson continually kept his larger foe off-balance, using his oft-mentioned speed to tag McCall with punch combinations and even dropping “Uncle Creepy” in the first frame. Though McCall managed to grab hold of Johnson in the second round, it appeared that the Washingtonian had clearly earned a title shot after 15 minutes. Nevertheless, Johnson says he was ready to fight in a sudden victory round if necessary.
“You can never be too confident [about the outcome of a fight]. There was some funky scoring going on tonight,” said Johnson. “Matt Hume sat me down just in case there was going to be a fourth round. This time around, I trained for a five-round fight. I wasn’t confident. I was just ready for a fourth, whereas last time I was just really tired.”
Recently married, Johnson had already set plans to fly to Hawaii with his new wife for their honeymoon prior to his draw with McCall in their first meeting. As a result, the flyweight was offered the winner of a hypothetical Benavidez-McCall title match down the road, but the fighter instead elected to face McCall in their rematch.
“Me and my coach talked about it, and he was like, ‘Hey, I’m not going to schedule this fight for you if you’re not going to train in Hawaii.’ So, I trained all the way up to the point I took off and then trained twice a day in Hawaii,” said Johnson. “It wasn’t much of a honeymoon, but I’m glad my wife was very supportive.”