Johnson did it the right way this time.
Previously competing as an undersized bantamweight, Johnson
(Pictured, file photo) had little weight to cut in order to make
the division’s 135-pound limit. That changed prior to his inaugural
appearance at 125 pounds in March, when he took on Ian McCall at
UFC on FX 2 in the semifinals of the promotion’s four-man
Though he started that contest with the typical “Mighty Mouse”
bounce in his step, Johnson tired in the third round and ended up
flat on his belly with McCall dropping punches from above as the
bout ended. The contest was eventually ruled a draw after a
tabulation error caused the fight to originally be called a
majority decision win for Johnson.
As a result, the pair squared off again on Friday, locking horns in
UFC on FX 3 headliner at the BankAtlantic Center in Fort
Lauderdale, Fla. The fatigue that previously plagued Johnson was a
non-issue tonight, however, as a smoother cut to 125 pounds aided
the AMC Pankration product in picking up a unanimous nod over
McCall to secure a championship date with Joseph
Benavidez at a to-be-announced event later this year.
While Johnson will enter the title bout fresh off tonight’s
victory, Benavidez has been on the shelf since knocking out
Urushitani at UFC on FX 2. Despite the discrepancy in recent
in-cage activity, Johnson says both he and Benavidez will carry
with them different advantages when they finally square off.
“Knowing Benavidez, he’s a smart guy. He is always training and
staying in shape. He’s getting time to sit on ice and fix the
things he’s going to get better at, and I got a second chance at
dropping down to [flyweight],” Johnson said at Friday’s post-fight
press conference. “Last time, I stepped into the cage at like 132
[pounds], if that. Tonight, I stepped in at 140, so I did a good
job of dieting right and really listening to my coaches.”
Johnson continually kept his larger foe off-balance, using his
oft-mentioned speed to tag McCall with punch combinations and even
dropping “Uncle Creepy” in the first frame. Though McCall managed
to grab hold of Johnson in the second round, it appeared that the
Washingtonian had clearly earned a title shot after 15 minutes.
Nevertheless, Johnson says he was ready to fight in a sudden
victory round if necessary.
“You can never be too confident [about the outcome of a fight].
There was some funky scoring going on tonight,” said Johnson.
Hume sat me down just in case there was going to be a fourth
round. This time around, I trained for a five-round fight. I wasn’t
confident. I was just ready for a fourth, whereas last time I was
just really tired.”
Recently married, Johnson had already set plans to fly to Hawaii
with his new wife for their honeymoon prior to his draw with McCall
in their first meeting. As a result, the flyweight was offered the
winner of a hypothetical Benavidez-McCall title match down the
road, but the fighter instead elected to face McCall in their
“Me and my coach talked about it, and he was like, ‘Hey, I’m not
going to schedule this fight for you if you’re not going to train
in Hawaii.’ So, I trained all the way up to the point I took off
and then trained twice a day in Hawaii,” said Johnson. “It wasn’t
much of a honeymoon, but I’m glad my wife was very supportive.”