UFC 152 now has its headliner, as Demetrious Johnson will face Joseph Benavidez to crown the UFC's inaugural flyweight champion.
Promotion officials announced the pairing on Saturday, also revealing that a pivotal middleweight confrontation between Michael Bisping and Brian Stann will serve as the evening's co-main event. UFC 152 is expected to take place Sept. 22 at the Air Canada Centre in Toronto and will also feature a welterweight confrontation between former two-division champion B.J. Penn and rising talent Rory MacDonald.
Johnson, 25, advanced to the finals of the UFC's four-man flyweight tournament by outpointing Ian McCall in their June 8 rematch after their first fight ended in a majority draw back in March. A former bantamweight contender, “Mighty Mouse” has lost just once in the last two years, as he was turned away by 135-pound kingpin Dominick Cruz this past October at UFC Live 6.
Benavidez, meanwhile, has sat on the sideline since his knockout of Yasuhiro Urushitani in March's semifinals. Another former bantamweight title contender, the Team Alpha Male standout also fell to “The Dominator,” though that bout took place in 2010 and was for Cruz's WEC belt. Since the defeat, the 27-year-old has gone 4-0, besting Wagnney Fabiano, Ian Loveland and Eddie Wineland before finishing Urushitani.
Bisping was expected to compete at UFC 149 against Tim Boetsch, but the Brit was forced to withdraw from that matchup with an injury. “The Count” was last seen falling to Chael Sonnen in a hard-fought unanimous decision defeat at UFC on Fox 2. The loss snapped a four-fight winning streak for Bisping, who had topped Dan Miller, Yoshihiro Akiyama, Jorge Rivera and Jason Miller prior to the setback.
Stann was also bitten by the injury bug ahead of his planned UFC on Fox 4 meeting with ex-Bellator champion Hector Lombard and had to pull out of the Aug. 4 event. Like Bisping, Stann's most recent defeat came at the hands of Sonnen, as the former U.S. Marine was submitted by an arm-triangle choke at UFC 136 this past October. Nevertheless, the former light heavyweight has walked away a winner in four of his five middleweight appearances, finishing each of his fallen foes by either knockout or submission.