Johnson thought he had done enough to become the UFC’s
inaugural flyweight champion, but he couldn’t be sure.
Roughly a 2-to-1 underdog heading into his UFC
152 clash with Joseph
Benavidez at Air Canada Centre in Toronto, “Mighty Mouse” edged
Team Alpha Male product Benavidez in the evening’s
“You can never be confident [about the judges’ decision], but as
the fight wore on, I felt I won the standup exchanges, and I
defended every takedown he threw at me,” Johnson told Fox Sports
after his split-decision win. “I took him down multiple times, had
him in side control and almost had him in a kimura, and got some
great ground-and-pound on his stomach. I felt I won every aspect of
the game, but Joseph Benavidez is a tough opponent, and he’ll be
Johnson used his well-documented speed to keep Benavidez on his
toes throughout their five-round affair, darting in and out to land
straight counter punches while sprawling on his opponent’s shots
and circling away from his power punches.
Benavidez finally found his mark in round four, however, countering
a Johnson kick with a looping right hand that put the Washingtonian
on the canvas. Benavidez immediately jumped on top of his wounded
foe and looked to finish, clamping down on a topside guillotine
choke that appeared to put Johnson in serious trouble.
Nevertheless, Johnson managed to squirt out of the hold, bucking
Benavidez out of the mount before attempting a leg lock and
escaping back to his feet.
“I can’t remember what happened. I remember I kicked, and I think
he rocked me. All I can remember is my mind [saying], ‘Danger!
Danger! Danger!’ You know, like [the video game] ‘Star Fox?’ Then
he started getting that choke,” said Johnson. “I remember [coach
Hume] saying all the time that I needed to get my arm
underneath him and make sure to pop him up. I stayed confident, and
when he mounted, I went for a heel hook and tried to blow his ACL
out. I didn’t want to do that, but I think that if he would have
had the chance, he would have done it to me.”
Up next for Johnson will obviously be his first title defense, and
the UFC’s lightest champion is already eying his next challenger
only hours after capturing the gold.
Dodson is about to fight [Jussier
“Formiga” da Silva] next. I’m sure the winner of that [will be
in the running for a title shot]. My job is just to go back home,
let my body heal and then get back in the gym and start training
hard,” said Johnson. “I started this sport as a hobby, and I worked
my butt off. I’m happy to be the world champion, but this is just
the very beginning for me. That’s what this is about: working
harder and trying to always achieve more.”