Demetrious Johnson thought he had done enough to become the UFC’s inaugural flyweight champion, but he couldn’t be sure.
Roughly a 2-to-1 underdog heading into his UFC 152 clash with Joseph Benavidez at Air Canada Centre in Toronto, “Mighty Mouse” edged Team Alpha Male product Benavidez in the evening’s co-headliner.
“You can never be confident [about the judges’ decision], but as the fight wore on, I felt I won the standup exchanges, and I defended every takedown he threw at me,” Johnson told Fox Sports after his split-decision win. “I took him down multiple times, had him in side control and almost had him in a kimura, and got some great ground-and-pound on his stomach. I felt I won every aspect of the game, but Joseph Benavidez is a tough opponent, and he’ll be back.”
Johnson used his well-documented speed to keep Benavidez on his toes throughout their five-round affair, darting in and out to land straight counter punches while sprawling on his opponent’s shots and circling away from his power punches.
Benavidez finally found his mark in round four, however, countering a Johnson kick with a looping right hand that put the Washingtonian on the canvas. Benavidez immediately jumped on top of his wounded foe and looked to finish, clamping down on a topside guillotine choke that appeared to put Johnson in serious trouble. Nevertheless, Johnson managed to squirt out of the hold, bucking Benavidez out of the mount before attempting a leg lock and escaping back to his feet.
“I can’t remember what happened. I remember I kicked, and I think he rocked me. All I can remember is my mind [saying], ‘Danger! Danger! Danger!’ You know, like [the video game] ‘Star Fox?’ Then he started getting that choke,” said Johnson. “I remember [coach Matt Hume] saying all the time that I needed to get my arm underneath him and make sure to pop him up. I stayed confident, and when he mounted, I went for a heel hook and tried to blow his ACL out. I didn’t want to do that, but I think that if he would have had the chance, he would have done it to me.”
Up next for Johnson will obviously be his first title defense, and the UFC’s lightest champion is already eying his next challenger only hours after capturing the gold.
“John Dodson is about to fight [Jussier “Formiga” da Silva] next. I’m sure the winner of that [will be in the running for a title shot]. My job is just to go back home, let my body heal and then get back in the gym and start training hard,” said Johnson. “I started this sport as a hobby, and I worked my butt off. I’m happy to be the world champion, but this is just the very beginning for me. That’s what this is about: working harder and trying to always achieve more.”