It only took two title defenses before Demetrious “Mighty Mouse” Johnson was faced with a rematch against Joseph Benavidez. Johnson initially defeated Benavidez to obtain the 125 pound strap in a highly competitive bout. Both fighters have been dominant since – the question is, who has improved more? As we wait to find out, here’s our breakdown of the fight!
Demetrious Johnson (18-2-1 MMA, 6-1-1 UFC) vs. Joseph Benavidez (19-3 MMA, 6-1 UFC)
UFC on FOX 9 hosts a highly anticipated rematch between the two top 125 pound fighters in the division. At the end of a four-fighter mini tournament for the inaugural flyweight championship, Johnson and Benavidez squared off in a highly competitive contest. The two both moved in and out with calculation, engaging and disengaging at lightning speed. Johnson was able to get the nod on the judges scorecard, but there is still much to be desired. Both fighters have been largely dominant since their first fight, though Johnson was rocked badly against John Dodson at one point in their match while Benavidez hasn’t shown much vulnerability if any at all. That said, this is one of those fights where it’s almost impossible to make a safe prediction on the outcome.
Johnson [-129] will likely have a clear speed advantage once again which allowed him to get in and out with strikes before Benavidez could string together many counters (which led to him being out struck by just over 30 significant strikes). However, while he is fast and accurate he does seem to lack fight ending power on the feet and with Benavidez never being knocked out it’s doubtful that is the outcome to expect from “Mighty Mouse.” He will likely find a lot of success on the feet once again moving in and out while using great footwork to circle away from Benavidez’ power side and off the cage to prevent any take down attempts. And with that, Johnson will likely be able to mix up take downs of his own having completed five against Benavidez in their first bout (landing the first in the fourth, a possible testament to the conditioning difference). While not much offense came from them, they still scored.
Johnson’s Keys to Victory:
- Pace – Johnson’s conditioning is among the best in mixed martial arts. While at flyweight it isn’t likely for many fighters to completely gas, Benavidez will likely slow before Johnson. This can be amplified if Johnson pours it on non stop preventing Benaidez from catching his breath.
- In & Out – Like in the first fight, Johnson should get in and out of the pocket quickly before Benavidez is able to string anything together. It led him to success in the first fight and it is doubtful Benavidez will be able to match his speed making it hard to think it won’t have success in the rematch either.
- Takedowns – While Benavidez is the more decorated wrestler, Johnson was the one with success in the wrestling department in their first fight landing five take downs to Benavidez’ zero. His unpredictability and speed will allow him to open up take downs which he should take whenever available.
Benavidez [+123] has improved in a lot of areas since the two first fought – as part of Team Alpha Male, Benavidez has seen an increase in improvements much like the rest of those training under Duane Ludwig’s new lead. First and foremost, the striking accuracy of Benavidez has improved by almost 15% in his last three fights compared to his initial fight with Johnson to a 31% accuracy (though that pales in comparison to Johnson’s 51%). Complimented by his accuracy improvements is his power – which might just be second to none at the 125 pound weight class. With his wrestling never really translating to the flyweight division, he’s going to have to find a way to win this fight on the feet as it isn’t likely he’s made the adjustments in wrestling to be able to take Johnson down comfortably throughout the fight (as he went 0 for 7 at UFC 152).
Benavidez’ Keys to Victory:
- Pressure Early – Benavidez needs to try and get off early as his chances at success diminish as the fight goes on to the later rounds. He has good enough striking to land on Johnson and he has the power to get him into trouble – but he needs to do so early as Johnson’s conditioning will not fade whereas the same cannot be said for Benavidez.
- Watch For Takedowns – It wasn’t until the fourth round in their first fight that Johnson began to work his wrestling, but his success may lead him to shoot in earlier in this fight to take away the strengths of Benavidez. Don’t over commit to anything.
- Go For The Finish – Benavidez will likely lose a point match with Johnson. And as mentioned throughout, the later it goes on the less his chances at success are. He needs to go for the finish in the first three rounds to win this fight, or at least win them dominantly and survive the last two to get the nod. Either way, first three rounds are where his chances lie.
Prediction: Demetrious Johnson defeats Joseph Benavidez via unanimous decision
As much as I want to go with Benavidez to continue the trend of increasing success under Duane Ludwig, I don’t believe that his flyweight wrestling abilities will allow him to beat Johnson. Johnson, despite being the lesser wrestler on paper, has the ability to control where the fight takes place – Benavidez had a 0% take down success rate against Johnson in their first fight and that cannot be the case if he wants to take a win over Johnson. Johnson has superior striking accuracy, speed, and take downs to Benavidez which will likely allow him to take home the unanimous decision.