Though UFC 152 has Jon Jones' light-heavyweight title match against Vitor Belfort billed as the headlining event, it is saturday night's co-main event that will mark history as the UFC's Flyweight Tournament comes to a close when Joseph Benavidez and Demetrious Johnson go head to head to determine the inaugural UFC Flyweight Champion of the world in a bout that is a sure fire candidate for Fight of the Night.
And it is only fitting that the two men who had always been widely regarded as "too small for Bantamweight" meet with a 125 pound division strap on the line. Both Benavidez and Johnson first reached MMA audiences through their successes at Bantamweight were the two continuously toppled physically larger opposition on a regular basis, but never managed to capture championship gold away from 135 pound division kingpin, Dominick Cruz. Yet, when the UFC announced a Flyweight Tournament in December of 2011 with Johnson and Benavidez at opposite sides of the bracket, both men finally found a place to pick on someone their own size and another opportunity at that most treasured piece of MMA hardware: UFC gold.
But which man will come out victorious on Saturday night? Given the successes of both fighters, this isn't an easy match to predict, and a look at the striking statistics of both fighters only serves to muddle the question further. In terms of significant strikes, Johnson performs much better, landing almost half (49%, compared to his opponent's 32%) of his significant strikes and throwing more per minute as well (3.11, compared to 2.84) yet Benavidez has proven to be an elusive target for his opponents absorbing only 1.9 significant strikes per minute and avoiding 69% of significant strikes thrown at him, faring slightly better than Johnshon, who absorbs 1.95 significant strikes per minute and avoids 60% of significant strikes thrown his way.
The grappling statistics, on the other hand, tell a significantly different story, one that may give Johnson a route towards victory. In average takedowns landed over 15 minutes, Johnson outperforms Benavidez 3.3 to 1.56, and completely blows his opponent out of the water in takedown accuracy holding a 54% versus Benavidez's surprisingly low 25%. Benavidez does attempt more submissions than his opponent (1.2 versus 0.12 attempts per 15 minutes) but to submit Johnson he would have to take him to the ground, either by a takedown or landing strikes that would knockdown Johnson, a difficult task considering Johnson's striking statistics and his whopping 55% takedown defense. By comparison, Johnson might have a comparatively easier time taking his opponent down, as Benavidez curently holds a 48% takedown defense rating.
Although Johnson doesn't necessarily dominate on the ground compared to Benavidez, the statistics do show us that his best bet at winning saturday night's match up is by outwrestling his fellow flyweight. Conversely, Benavidez's road to victory seems to be keeping the fight standing where he holds the numerical advantage, and possibly greater power, as shown by his KO of the Night win in his flyweight debut against Yasuhiro Urushitani (who had never been KO'ed or TKO'ed in 29 previous professional bouts), and three other TKO victories- compared to Johnson, who has not won a fight via strikes since entering the WEC in 2010. Coincidentally, Benavidez also holds a higher finishing rate than Johnson (12 and 9, respectively) having submitted or TKO'ed 4 of his last 7 opponents, while Johnson has only stopped one opponent (Damacio Page via submission in 2010) in 7 fights.
In the end, though, I suspect this match-up will come down to who can determine where the fight will take place, an ability Johnson demonstrably owns over Benavidez. "Mighty Mouse" will prevail on saturday night using his patented speed and footwork to avoid Joseph Benavidez's power, keep him guessing with constant level changes and taking down his opponent en route to a victory that will keep the audience salivating for more flyweight action. Demetrious "Mighty Mouse" Johnson becomes the first ever UFC Flyweight Champion via unanimous decision.
-Statistics brought to you thanks to www.Fightmetric.com-
Originally posted at The MMA Truth.