A NIGHT OF LIGHTER WEIGHT WRESTLERS, A NEW STAR MADE
A night of fights focused on UFC’s smallest male fighters saw a dominant champion retain, but with a new star made in the process, and also a perennial contender cemented his position just below the champ.
Demetrious Johnson defended his Flyweight Championship for the ninth time, defeating Tim Elliott by unanimous decision. Johnson dominated the latter four rounds of the fight but saw himself in significant trouble in the first round, mainly due to a tight guillotine choke that Johnson was able to escape. Elliott’s unorthodox style gave Johnson headaches, but Johnson was able to neutralize Elliott’s offense to take the decision.
Two-time foe of Johnson, Joseph Benavidez won a razor close decision against Henry Cejudo in a battle of Ultimate Fighter coaches. I scored the fight 29-27, with a point deducted for Cejudo as a result of two first round low blows. Cejudo won the first round fairly convincingly, but the second two rounds were almost too close to call. I gave both to Benavidez, but they could have gone either way. Fans and media seem to be equally split on the fight. Of 19 media scores compiled by MMADecisions.com, five had the fight for Benavidez, five had the fight for Cejudo, and ten scored the fight a draw. The fan vote has 28 percent for Benavidez, 26 percent for Cejudo, and 46 percent had it a draw. While the gap between no. 1 and no. 2 at Flyweight may be quite large, the difference between no. 2 and no. 3 is much, much smaller.
Johnson is one title defense away from tying Anderson Silva’s record for consecutive title defenses, and he’s only four years into his reign, where Silva took about six years to reach his achievement.
Who’s next for Mighty Mouse remains to be seen, but it’s looking like he’s a lock to match and eventually topple Silva’s record.
Hiscoe’s Analysis: Johnson is my pound-for-pound top fighter and I don’t see him leaving that perch anytime soon. I’m not sure if I would make the Benavidez fight next since he’s already beaten him twice, but there would be something poetic if Johnson’s potential record-breaking title defense came against the same man he beat to win the title originally, so I would hold off on Johnson-Benavidez III until after Johnson ties Silva’s record. As for who is next, that’s tough. Wilson Reis was booked for a title fight but missed out due to Johnson’s injury, so he has a case. I’m not against Kyoji Horiguchi getting another shot as he is right up there with Benavidez and Cejudo as a top flyweight contender. I would like to see Benavidez-Cejudo go at it again since it was so close and such an entertaining fight.
SUNDAY NOTEBOOK ITEMS…
-Post-fight bonuses went to Jared Cannonier and Ion Cutelaba for Fight of the Night. Sara McMann got a performance bonus for submitting Alexis Davis, and Anthony Smith got a bonus for his knockout of Elvis Matapcic in the prelims. All four fighters take home an extra $50,000.
-Carla Esparza and Claudia Gadelha have been having a back and forth on social media after Esparza’s Instagram post stating she is selling the Harley Davidson motorcycle she won on The Ultimate Fighter in 2014 in order to make ends meet. Gadelha and Esparza have been matched up in the past but have never fought. Gadelha wrote:
“What a weak fighter Carla is. She doesn’t want to fight the best, she makes excuses so she can get an easy fight. I want to be the best. For my last fight, I asked to fight the best in the division. Unfortunately she don’t feel in the same way. Carla and other names in the division turned down the fight. I was left with no other option than Cortney. I took that fight with the promise that if I won, I would fight Carla. Now she is still refusing to fight me. You want money little girl? Step in the octagon and fight. I have the cars I want, 2 houses and money in the bank at 27 years old. You know why? Because I accept challenges. I fought twice in the last 6 months and I didn’t choose none of my fights and I will never choose. I lost my fight for the title with pride and I was not waiting for a easy fight to get back in the win column. I was out for a year before fight for the title and you are talking about 8 months out? The first thing I said when I talked to the matchmakers was: Please give me somebody on the top 5!! You can find excuses and run but you won’t disappear, I will see you soon.”
This prompted Esparza to respond as follows:
“If I remember correctly, I showed up, weighed in, and stepped in the cage to fight you Claudia Gadelha TWO times. And YOU did not show up!!! The second time because you cut so much freaking weight that you went to the hospital. I also showed up on TUF 20 expecting to fight you (that makes it 3x), and again, YOU did not show up. Why?? Because you were too heavy to make the weight!!! Sorry if I walk around at 125lbs, and you get up to 155lbs. Too scared to fight people your own size?? I’ve proven time after time I will show up to fight you, but just because you scream and cry like a little brat, does not mean you will bully me into your way. Trust me, the fight will happen. I wasn’t scared to fight you then, I’m not scared to now. I haven’t had a full camp in 2 years, so I think it’s fair to ask for that. When I take this fight, I want to be at my best. I’m going in there to win. Cookie Monster out, drops the mic.”
-UFC officially announced Dennis Bermudez vs. a returning Korean Zombie Chan Sung Jung for the Super Bowl weekend show from Houston on Feb. 4. Felice Herrig vs. Alex Grasso is the semi-main event.
-Saparbek Safarov is stepping in for Patrick Cummins to fight Gian Villante this Friday from Albany and J.J. Aldrich now fights Juliana Lima in place of Tatiana Suarez on the same show.
-Rafael Carvalho is injured and his main event against Melvin Manhoef this weekend at Bellator 168 is off. The new main event for the show from Florence, Italy is Alessio Sakara vs. Joey Beltran.
(MMATorch’s Daily News Digest features the top story of the day with added analysis, plus smaller tidbits in the News Notes section. Mike Hiscoe, who writes the News Digest Sundays through Thursdays, has a background in film criticism and previously wrote for the DVD Town and Movie Metropolis websites. His passion for Mixed Martial Arts goes back to 2005, but it was in the promotion for UFC 60: Hughes vs. Gracie that he really got hooked.”This is my house, I build it,” is still among the all-time great UFC promos. You can follow Mike on social media under the tag @mikehiscoe. He now provides his experienced writing and perspective on live MMA events for MMATorch.)