Joseph Benavidez is currently 0-for-2 against the reigning flyweight king, but after yet another solid performance, he is more than ready to prove that the third time is the charm.
Benavidez won his six straight flyweight bout — and 10th at 125 pounds in the UFC overall — in "The Ultimate Fighter 24” finale co-main event, as he took a split decision over rival reality show coach Henry Cejudo. The 32-year-old’s only two defeats in the Octagon have both come at the hands of Demetrious Johnson in 125-pound title bouts.
“Mighty Mouse” won their first meeting for the vacant belt via split decision at UFC 152 and scored a more emphatic first-round knockout triumph in their rematch at UFC on Fox 9. Johnson made his nineth consecutive title defense in the evening's headliner with a clear-cut verdict over "TUF 24" winner Tim Elliott. Still, Benavidez believes a third meeting is more than worthwhile.
“The only fight I want now is Demetrious Johnson,” he said. “DJ and I could fight one million times and it would be one million great, world class competitions. I wouldn’t accept anyone else. That’s the fight.”
Benavidez had his difficulties with Cejudo. The 2008 Olympic gold medalist dropped Benavidez with a left hook in round one, but had a point deducted for a pair of low blows later in the period. The second and third stanzas were tightly contested, as Cejudo attacked with powerful punches and kicks, while Benavidez answered with bursts of offense. The final striking figures were nearly identical, making the point deduction a key point in the fight.
“Henry really brought it. I am the type of fighter that I always know what I could’ve done better, but I’m really happy with my performance and with the win,” Benavidez said. “The kicks to the groin hurt and the judges took a point away, but it didn’t really change the outcome or the scores. I’m glad that the point deduction didn’t change the outcome of the fight because that’s not how I want to win. I feel I was the more dominant fighter tonight and obviously I proved that.”
Cejudo, meanwhile, was somewhat surprised that the incidental fouls drew a penalty from referee Yves Lavigne.
“Do I think it’s fair? I’ve seen people get hit in the balls and I’ve seen people get eye gouged and not have points get taken away,” Cejudo said. “As much as I don’t like Joe, I didn’t mean to hit him in the balls.”