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The Juggernaut MMA News Report 12.12.13: UFC on Fox - Johnson vs. Benavidez Preview
Posted by Jonathan Solomon on 12.12.2013

UFC Returns to Fox - Johnson vs. Benavidez 2

Demetrious Johnson vs. Joseph Benavidez

The rematch.

The best flyweight in the world.

Team Alpha Male.

I'd stop there but there will be (a lot) more action than that on Saturday night.

Champion Demetrious Johnson has been on a tear since he left the bantamweight division. Over the summer, he had his most dominant win in years as he submitted John Moraga via armbar on Fox. Leading up to that came wins against Ian McCall, Joseph Benavidez and John Dodson. But now, Benavidez is back and looking to finally cash in on a championship opportunity.

"Joe Jitsu" is 19-3, with two losses to Dominick Cruz and one to Johnson (two of the three were title fights). In 2013, he's earned three wins over Ian McCall, Darren Uyenoyama and Jussier da Silva.

Unlike when he fought and lost to Johnson last September, now, Benavidez has a year of training under Duane "Bang" Ludwig under his belt. Ludwig is credited with taking the Team Alpha Male crew to a new level, especially in terms of striking. So, while the champ is famous for his incredible speed and takedowns, can he keep his latest challenger under wraps long enough to win a decision?

After all, Joe B. has never been finished and nobody has come close to finishing him, either. If you're Joe, do you throw some caution to the wind and force Johnson into tricky spots with aggressive striking? What's the worst that could happen? Johnson scores a takedown? The Alpha Male guys all have great takedown defense and if they do end up on their back, they normally do not stay there for long.

It's been so difficult to stop Johnson because he wins rounds with his style. The surest way will be to land that big punch, knee, elbow or kick right on the chin. We've seen him dazed on less than a handful of occasions, only for him to quickly regain his composure and return to his takedown-oriented methods. That's the scary part for any challenger, because you may not get KO'd as though you're fighting a heavyweight or Anderson Silva….but you can quickly find yourself losing on scorecards because you're not landing enough effective offense.

Joesph Benavidez will have to toe that line on Saturday, swinging for power while doing his best to keep "Mighty Mouse" Johnson in front of him.

Urijah Faber vs. Michael McDonald

While the main event pits former bantamweights versus each other, the night's co-main has two of the best four current bantamweights in action. Urijah Faber (Team Alpha Male) is one win away from earning yet another title fight in his illustrious career, but he'll have to put a stop to arguably the best young 135-pounder in the world, Michael McDonald.

Faber is 3-0 this year with two submission wins (Ivan Menjivar, Scott Jorgensen) and a decision victory against Iuri Alcantara over the summer.

McDonald (who will turn 23-years-old next month), returned from his loss to Renan Barao in February to choke out Brad Pickett also in the summer. A win here should be enough to give him the next title fight whether it be against Barao or Dominick Cruz next spring or summer.

Urijah is an open book - power, wrestling, jiu-jitsu, combinations - he's good at practically every facet of the sport. Over the past four years, he has lost only when he's been beaten standing and his ground game is rendered moot (losses to Barao, Cruz, Jose Aldo and Mike Brown). Do you believe Michael McDonald is capable of torching Faber on the feet?

Remember, also, Alcantara nearly finished Faber a few months ago, only to fail and he paid for it over the ensuing two rounds when he absorbed all of Urijah's offense.

Well, McDonald packs plenty of power in his punches, as we have seen across his career. He's 16-2 overall and nine of those wins came by TKO or KO. Two of his UFC wins ended within the first 3:30 because he knocked out Alex Soto (in under a minute) and Miguel Torres (in 3:18).

It's not farfetched to think he will emerge as the only man to ever beat Urijah Faber in a non-title fight.

Chad Mendes vs. Nik Lentz

The final helping of Team Alpha Male on the main card ends here with Chad Mendes as he meets Nik Lentz.

Mendes is another member of the team who has seemingly improved by leaps and bounds thanks to coach Duane Ludwig. Over the past 12 months alone, he has finished each of his three opponents. Before he stopped Clay Guida in the third round this past summer, he had finished his previous three opponents within two minutes of the first round with strikes.

He has not had to rely on his wrestling too much over that span, but if there's ever a guy to change that, it's Lentz.

"The Carny," like Mendes, is a former Division I wrestler and a grappler by trade. Over his UFC career, he has developed a tag as not the most exciting fighter because of that. He is 8-2-1-1 in the UFC and on a three-fight winning streak. Has he ever beaten a top 10 featherweight in the UFC yet? No. He's 3-0 at 145-pounds and this is indeed a hefty jump up in competition for him.

I'm not a betting man but this appears to be the safest bet, after all, it seems ridiculous to believe Lentz can knock Mendes out. On the ground, how is Lentz supposed to manipulate Mendes when he's giving up so much strength?

Saturday night doesn't spell well for Lentz who most must suspect will end up the fourth consecutive victim of Chad Mendes' striking game.

Joe Lauzon vs. Mac Danzig

No one dislikes either of these men. Joe Lauzon and Mac Danzig are good people and typically fun fighters to watch.

But, something has to give.

Both men are 1-3 in their last four fights. For Danzig in particular, he is 3-7 in his last ten fights. On the bright side, this is the obvious pick to take the 'Fight of the Night' bonus since between them, they have earned a combined eight such awards.

Lauzon has not been finished since Anthony Pettis kicked his head off in Japan. Most recently, he has dropped decisions to Jim Miller and Michael Johnson. For Danzig, he was knocked out by Melvin Guillard and last year, he lost a split decision to Takanori Gomi in China.

Unless they repeat the Silva/Hunt madness from last week, someone is going home with a three-fight losing streak and it can be either man. Lauzon looked poorly against Johnson while Danzig never seems to have the confidence from fans or prognosticators. It's an even match-up and should it become a war, we'll find out whether Danzig will have an answer for Lauzon's submission skills.


- Georges St. Pierre will have a press conference tomorrow in Montreal where he's said to be announcing his future plans. Retirement, an extended break from training and fighting or perhaps a date for his rematch with Johny Hendricks, perhaps we'll finally find out his irrational fear of aliens is actually justified.

- Of course, yesterday in an interview with a Canadian sports outlet, Dana White said Friday is only a mall opening.

- In wake of the classic brawl between Mark Hunt and Antonio Silva last week, the Super Samoan is out of action for at least half of 2014. He suffered two fractures to his hand and will need a dozen screws to facilitate the healing process.

- World Series of Fighting will feature two shows on NBC in 2014 according to company president Ray Sefo. MMAFighting reports the first of those two should occur in the summer, although it's way too early to think about timeslots and such things. WSOF expects to promote up to 10 shows in 2014, most airing on their home of NBC Sports.

- Brad Pickett is moving down to flyweight and his debut at 125-pounds will come against Ian McCall on March 8 in London. That "Fight Night" will be one of the first live UFC events to air (in America) on the upcoming UFC digital network.

By the way, we know nothing concrete about the UFC's network, other than it's expected to launch before January 4 (because the show that night will air on it) with an undisclosed price tag.

- The UFC announced the start of their new women's strawweight division, beginning next spring. The 115-pound class will kick off via the 20th season of The Ultimate Fighter with filming set for May. The season will likely not air on Fox Sports 1 until September 2014.

16 women will participate in the tournament with 11 coming from Invicta Fighting Championship. The five remaining slots will be filled via national tryouts next year.

Coaches have not been announced yet.

The 11 confirmed fighters include:

-Carla Esparza (9-2): Reigning Invicta FC champion and considered among the best two 115-pounders in the world.

-Claudia Gadelha (11-0): Brazilian; BJJ world champion, debuted in U.S. over the summer by finishing Ayaka Hamsaki with strikes.

-Felice Herrig (9-5): Suffered losses to Barb Honchak, Esparza and Tecia Torres, all of whom will participate on TUF20. Career long four-fight win streak ended earlier this month versus Torres.

-Bec Hyatt (5-3): Australian; Lost to Esparza in January for IFC championship.

-Joanne Calderwood (8-0): Scottish; Pro Muay Thai champion, finishes 2013 winning five fights.

-Tecia Torres: (4-0): Boasts wins over Herrig, Rose Namajunas and Paige VanZant, all of whom are in this field.

-Rose Namajunas (2-1): Trains out of Roufusport in Milwaukee, started out her pro MMA career with two submission wins.

-Emily Kagan (3-1): Member of Greg Jackson's camp, was choked out by Namajunas in January.

-Alex Chambers (4-1): Australian; Eldest of the confirmed fighters at 35-years-old, she's moving up from 105-pounds.

-Juliana Lima (6-1): Brazilian; Lost her IFC debut in April.

-Paige VanZant (3-1): A member of Team Alpha Male, she is also the youngest of this group at 20-years-old (by the time filming begins). She lost to Torres in January.

*Widely regarded #1 strawweight Jessica Aguilar signed with World Series of Fighting last month and is expected to debut in January.




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