Joseph Benavidez and Demetrious Johnson both made their way to the top of the UFC flyweight division. That wasn’t hard, though, since all they needed to do was win one fight a few months ago as the UFC began its new 125-pound division.
What was hard, however, was reaching the pinnacle of that division and becoming the one man that looks down toward all those looking up at him.
Benavidez and Johnson went at it for 25 minutes of non-stop movement, fakes and footwork and plenty of kicking and punching in between. But it was Johnson who won the inaugural UFC flyweight title with a split decision win Saturday night at UFC 152 in Toronto.
“It means the world,” Johnson about winning the title. “I still have to prove a lot of things. Like I said, if I became champion, the same thing is going to happen. I’m going to go home, rest, and get ready for the next battle.”
The judges scored it 48-47 and 49-46 in favor of Johnson, with Benavidez winning 48-47 on the third judge’s card.
“I was a little shocked,” Johnson said about the split decision.
Both fighters were once among the title contenders at bantamweight. Both lost decisions to champion Dominick Cruz, Benavidez in the WEC in 2010 and Johnson in the UFC in 2011.
Benavidez (16-3) will remain a title contender at flyweight, first because the new division is still relatively thin and devoid of many marketable championship matchups. And second, because he is a heck of fighter.
But it was Johnson (16-2-1) who pushed the pace and landed more significant strikes throughout the bout.
Benavidez did score the one crowd-raising moment of the fight when he connected on a right hook in the fourth round that dropped Johnson. Benavidez, a chokehold specialist, moved in quickly with a submission attempt, but Johnson stayed patient and escaped harm.