The Blueprint 9.13.12: Flyweight Swatter
Posted by Patrick Mullin on 09.13.2012
We will FINALLY crown a UFC Flyweight champion despite the best efforts of inept mathematicians at UFC 152. Former bantamweight contenders Joseph Benavidez and Demetrious Johnson are fighting at their optimum weight and stand in each otherís way of finally becoming a UFC champion. Will Benavidez bulldoze Mighty Mouse? Will Johnson be too quick and too slick for Benavidez? We tell you who wins here in The Blueprint.
Hello once again my friends. I'm extremely pleased this week to break down this fight with you. Why? Since this column's inception I can't remember a fight where I've had such a hard time picking a winner. During this week's 411 Ground and Pound Radio Show my colleague Mark Radulich made no qualms about how much he believes Joseph Benavidez will win this fight. You can listen to his thoughts at Blogtalkradio.com and listen to the show every Sunday at 11am EST. Heck you can even call in and have your thoughts heard at (323) 657-0901. Unfortunately I haven't had as easy a time as Mark has deciding upon a likely victor.
Each of these men has so many things they do so well. Both of these guys are so good that they were able to push bantamweight champion Dominick Cruz to his limits in title fights above their prime weight. Cruz is the only man to have defeated Benavidez and the only man to have beaten Johnson in his UFC career. According to Benavidez himself at one point in time this fight was supposed to happen at 135 pounds but now we're getting to see them face off at their very best. So how can Radulich pick a winner so easy here? The answer is simple folks, drugs. I kid, I kid.
The bottom line is that when you have two spectacular fighters in good condition with no lingering injuries and a ton of skills at their disposal it's never easy to pick a winner. However that's what this column requires and we're going to do our damndest to pick a winner and pick the right winner at that. Let's begin our breakdown with the underdog, Demetrious Johnson.
1) Punch Up the Middle - Joseph Benavidez loves to be the aggressor. He's constantly coming forward and winging hard hooks with each hand at his opponent's head. The problem is that when you're constantly throwing wide punches you leave yourself wide open to be countered with straight and accurate punches. Despite being used to being the smaller man, Johnson is often able to outstrike his opponents because he throws technically sound combinations behind his jab. Johnson for one of the few times in his career is actually going to be at a reach advantage against Benavidez.
This means that in order to try to strike Johnson, Benavidez will have to step into Mighty Mouse's range first. Benavidez often ignores his jab and as a result against defensive minded fighters often finds himself coming up well short on his power punches. Working his jab will set up Johnson's right hand and help avoid the hooks from Benavidez.
2) Control Vertical Positioning - We're not talking rocket science here. When an orthodox fighter meets with a southpaw one of the important aspects of the standing portion of the fight is to control the footwork and movement. The way to execute this is for one of the fighters to be able to consistently place their lead foot outside of the lead foot of the opponent. This forces the opponent to be within striking range of both of your hands and feet and also more likely to be taken down.
Because Mighty Mouse is less of a finisher than Benavidez he's going to have to likely make this fight last all five rounds and work to outpoint his opponent. So an integral part of that strategy would be to optimize his own scoring opportunities while limiting those of Benavidez. In order to do that he has to force Benavidez to move into his right hand and he can use his jab and left hook to exit stage left. He can reestablish control of the center of the octagon and avoid close quarter combat while picking his spots and piling up points.
3) Feint Kicks to Set up Punches - Normally when you're trying to avoid being taken down you don't want to throw too many kicks. While kicks can do damage and help control distance they also leave you extremely vulnerable to takedowns and counter punches. Every kick has a punch counter to it and a kick also leaves all of your balance on one leg making you very easy to put on your back. However the idea of feinting kicks is a much different story. Feinting kicks doesn't require you to put yourself off balance because you're not truly committing to the strike, thus it greatly decreases the takedown threat.
If you keep the weight on your back foot as you're supposed to when actually kicking you can quickly shift the weight into a strike with the rear hand or bring the lead "feint" leg back and place the weight on it to throw a strike with the lead hand. Benavidez is a difficult guy to hurt but as we all know it's the strikes you don't see that stun you. Part of utilizing kick feints is to catch a guy with a strike they won't see coming so if there's an opportunity to potentially hurt Benavidez at some point this is it.
Demetrious Johnson's Perfect Strategy - Johnson's biggest enemy at times has been his own mental lapses during fights that wind up getting him hit or taken down and put on the defensive. He must first and foremost retain his concentration during this bout and pay respect to Benavidez's skills. Mighty Mouse must work an active jab to set up right hands from the outside. Using this he can keep Benavidez on the outside and avoid power strikes and takedown attempts effectively and set up counter attacks to control the fight. If he can finish with using defensive minded tactics to set up offense he can outpoint Benavidez.
Height: 5'4 Reach: 65 inches Record: 16 Wins(4 KO, 8 Submission, 4 Decision) 2 Losses (2 Decision) Strengths: Punching Power, Good Wrestling Base, Guillotine Choke Weaknesses: Tendency to Chase Opponents, Telegraphs Punches, Not Difficult to Hit
Joseph Benavidez's Keys to Victory
1) Close the Distance - Joseph Benavidez is an immensely talented fighter, arguably the best out of Team Alpha Male. However one of the things he's not used to dealing with or at least not well with is someone who can outquick him. Against Demetrious Johnson he's facing a craft fighter with good legs who is going to do his damndest to give Benavidez a hard target to get at. While he may not be Dominick Cruz, Demetrious Johnson does have good defensive skills and he can frustrate Benavidez if he's allowed to keep the fight where he wants it.
Benavidez being a smaller man in the cage more often than not has to do what he always has to do in order to win fights. He needs to get inside the reach of his opponent so he can maul, brawl, and then take them down and finish them. If he cannot get inside his punches won't land and his takedowns won't work. Benavidez needs to get right into Mighty Mouse's face and go to work at all costs.
2) Be a Leader, Not a Follower - One of the problems that Joseph Benavidez had when fighting Dominick Cruz was that rather than cut the cage off against the Dominatior he allowed Cruz to lead him around. Rather than force Cruz to stand his ground and have to slug it out with him, Benavidez was either too content or too stupid to realize that Cruz was doing exactly what he wanted and minimizing whatever offense Benavidez could throw at him. When you follow someone you allow the fight to be taken away from you because your motion is in control of your opponent.
Break that control by using angles and footwork. We talked about how Mighty Mouse has to keep his lead foot outside of Benavidez's in order to score and control distance. If that's the case Benavidez needs to be aware of it and keep moving to his own right to take away that advantage from Mighty Mouse. Control Johnson's footwork to keep him in range for your hooks and takedown attempts and you can have a very easy night in front of you. If you follow him around the cage like a lost puppy then you're likely headed for the dog pound.
3) Mouse Trap - We all loved this game as a kid right? Well maybe Joseph Benavidez did too and if he didn't then here's his refresher course. Mouse trap involved setting elaborate capture devices for toy mice and having fun for hours with it. The thing here though is that Benavidez doesn't really have to do something so complicated as create a balance beam with a fulcrum and a pully system to catch a mouse. He has a devastating clamp trap that is capable of taking off Johnson's head in his guillotine choke.
For some reason the guys out of the team Alpha Male camp are all proficient users of the guillotine choke. If Benavidez is landing his power shots because he's been able to control the distance its very likely we'll see Mighty Mouse try to go to his wrestling to find success. The problem for him there would be that he could fall right into a guillotine from one of the best users of that hold. Also let us not forget that Benavidez is equally capable of locking it in and finishing with it if he's able to hurt his man with strikes and finds himself in top position. He did it in violent fashion to Miguel Torres who was a much taller and longer opponent than Johnson presents.
Joseph Benavidez's Perfect Strategy - To be quite honest my colleague Mark Radulich may have said it best when he so boldly predicted on our show that Benavidez should walk across the cage, punch Johnson in the face, and turn his lights out. It probably won't be that easy but Benavidez should absolutely come out aggressive and force the issue giving Johnson no quarter. If this fight is a slugfest where its punch for punch its going to favor Benavidez and why then should he fight any other way? Get in tight, throw those heavy hooks, and put Mighty Mouse down and finish him.
Final Prediction - I like both of these guys a lot for different reasons. I like when Mighty Mouse puts it all together and shows technical brilliance like he did in his rematch with Ian McCall. I like it when Joseph Benavidez throws caution to the wind and mauls Miguel Torres or Yoshihiro Urushitani with bad intentions. My biggest issue here is that as great as Johnson has the capability of looking he doesn't always put all the pieces of the puzzle together. Sometimes he just can't get the car into second gear and he winds up making mistakes that get him into trouble. Benavidez may not have the potential of being a virtuoso defender or look like a polished striker but he always goes in there putting his best stuff forward.
This is where I really believe the difference is made. I absolutely think if he fights a perfect fight like he did against Ian McCall that Mighty Mouse can win this fight handily. The problem with perfect is that it doesn't happen so often, especially against a dangerous opponent who seems to be at his peak. Benavidez offers less in the way of looking like a finely tuned sports car, but when that sports car is going head on with an 18 wheeler we know what the result is going to be.
Your Winner, and NEW UFC Flyweight Champion - Joseph Benavidez, TKO, Round 3