What was originally thought to be one of the most stacked fight cards of the year, UFC on Fox 9, set to take place in Sacramento, has turned into one of the most injured riddled fight cards in UFC history.
The first fighter to get the injury bug was T.J. Grant, who was originally scheduled to challenge UFC lightweight champion Anthony Pettis in night’s main event until lingering effects from a concussion suffered in training camp forced Grant off the card. He was replaced with former Strikeforce champion Josh Thomson. But then the unthinkable happened and a torn PCL to Pettis forced the UFC to not only pull their 155-pound champion from the card but also scrap the main event all together. Combine this with injuries to Kelvin Gastelum, Jamie Varner, Ian McCall, Jon Dodson, John Moraga and Matt Brown, all forcing them to pull out their respective fights and turning what was once one of the most highly anticipated fight cards turned into a shell of it’s former self
With no main event, UFC officials were forced to rescheduled the second meeting between flyweight champion Demetrious Johnson and Joseph Benavidez, originally scheduled to take place at The Ultimate Fight 18 Finale, into the headlining slot of the UFC on Fox 9.
In their first bout, Johnson edged out Benavidez by narrow split decision to capture the first ever 125-pound title at UFC 152. Since that September night both men have posted a combined record of 5-0 with wins over a who’s who of the division en route to the rematch everyone has been calling for.
It’s about as close as a fight can be on the feet as both men posses some of the most well-rounded and technical striking arsenals in the division. In their first meeting, Benavidez dropped Johnson late in the fight but failed to capitalize as he simply looked to land a single power shot to put the Johnson away. With no proper training Benavidez used to rely on natural instinct and was only able to land 18-percent of his strikes in his first meeting with Johnson. But since kickboxing and Muy Thai specialist Duane Ludwig took over as head trainer at Team Alpha Male, Benavidez has never landed less than 31 percent of his strikes en route to back-to-back knockout victories. These two victories gave Benavidez the honor of being one of four fighters in UFC history to earn two knockout victories coming by way of body strikes and the only one to accomplish the feat in back-to-back fights.
But where Benavidez brings power, Johnson more than makes up for it with one of the fastest attacks in not only the UFC but in all of combat sports. In only five fights, Johnson has landed an astounding 436 significant strikes, the most in the division. Combine this with an accuracy rating of 51 perfect and a UFC record 73 significant clinch strikes in his fight against John Dodson at UFC on FOX 6 (another UFC record) and Johnson has proved he can hit his opponent anywhere with with an insane amount of strikes. It’s a classic matchup of power against speed and in the end it’s just tough do decide who holds the advantage.
This is aspect of fighting were Johnson shines. With 24 takedowns secured, nine more than any other fighter at 125-pounds, “Mighty Mouse” has never had trouble brining the fight to the canvas at incredibly fast rate. In fact, Johnson’s 12 successful takedowns against Moraga at UFC on Fox 8 is the most ever landed in a UFC fight without a single failed attempt. This performance also made him one of the two fighters to secure 10 or more takedowns on two separate occasions.
But Benavidez is no slouch in this department as the two-time New Mexico state wrestling champion has a history of working with some of the best wrestlers in the smaller weigh class in Urijah Faber and Chad Mendez at Team Alpha Male. But with a meager 22 perfect takedown percentage in 22 fights he’ll have a difficult time keeping up with the champion.
Sticking with theme of Johnson’s numerous UFC records, his submission victory over Moraga at 3:43 of Round 5 at UFC on FOX 8 is the record for the latest stoppage victory ever recorded in a UFC fight. But prior to that bout, his first seven UFC fights ended in decision with an average time of 19:50, yet another record.
This is the exact oppose of Benavidez’s style as he’s secured eight submission victories in his career while reaching a decision a mere five times in 22 fights. With half of these submission wins coming by way of guillotine, Johnson will have to wary if he leaves his head open with an ill-advised takedown. The problem is he will have a very difficult time locking on choke from the top if he can’t secure a takedown on Johnson. Neither man has ever been submitted in their careers so don’t look for that to change on Saturday. But in the end I think, Benavidez’s history of stoppage wins gives him the edge here.
Similarly to how Cain Velasquez is just simply too much for Junior dos Santos, who is clearly the number two ranked heavyweight, and Pettis has already defeated Benson Henderson, who is clearly the number two lightweight, on two separate occasions, Johnson has proved he may be that much better than Benavidez, who is clearly the number two flyweight. But the single biggest difference maker the second time around is most certainly the addition of Ludwig in Benavidez’s corner. He may not throw as many punches or secure as many takedowns as the champion but he will certainly bring the technically sound striking attack he lacked in their first meeting. If he can mange to keep Johnson at bay and stuff his wrestling attack his chances of winning will grow exponentially. Easier said than done as Johnson has shown almost no weaknesses in his game
So with that being said there’s only one way to predict a winner.
Benavidez via coin flip
Here are the rest of my predictions for the main card and preliminary bouts:
- Urijah Faber def. Michael McDonald
- Chad Mendes def. Nik Lentz
- Joe Lauzon def. Mac Danzig
- Court McGee def. Ryan LaFlare
- Edson Barboza def. Danny Castillo
- Pat Healy def. Bobby Green
- Scott Jorgenson def. Zach Makovsky
- Sam Stout def. Cody McKenzie
- Abel Trujillo def. Roger Bowling
- Darren Uyenoyama def. Alptekin Ozkilic
Having a comment? Leave your feedback below or tweet the author directly @JoseYoungs