UFC on FX 2 played host to the start of the first UFC flyweight tournament, and will eventually lead to crowning the inaugural UFC Flyweight champion. Joseph Benavidez and Yasuhiro Urushitani came and went as many expected them to, but the matchup between Demetrious Johnson and Ian McCall did not run quite as smoothly.
The two 125-pounders squared off and put on a fantastic battle. The pace was fast and the movement was even quicker. After the three grueling rounds, everyone listened in to hear what the decision would be. It was declared that Johnson won via a Majority Decision (29–28, 29–29, 29–28). Many fans voiced their disapproval or approval for the decision, but it wouldn’t be until the post-fight press conference that fans would learn that the commission got it wrong, thus changing up their perspectives.
The fight was supposed to be a Majority Draw, since the judges had it scored (29–28, 29–29, 28–28). The cards were read incorrectly, resulting in the stoppage of what should have gone to a fourth “sudden death” round. Now with this new information, a rematch will be issued to determine Benavidez’s opponent for the title match.
The two men will face each other, and one would think this will be a different fight. Not so much physically, but more so mentally.
When two opponents fight each other for the first time, there is a sense of uncertainty of what they are like to fight. For someone to step into the cage vs. Jon Jones or Anderson Silva, it is hard to emulate them with training partners. Now both Johnson and McCall have had a little taste of what the other brings to the table. An advantage of familiarity could go to either fighter.
McCall fighting Johnson for the first time was an interesting UFC debut in its own right. It was the first time he was on the biggest stage in MMA, and was fighting one of the fastest, if not the fastest, fighters in the UFC. That speed, pace and movement that “Mighty Mouse” uses in his fights is unique, and certainly is respected by McCall. He knows the striking now of Johnson and knows that his ground game is a sizeable advantage.
Demetrious Johnson will certainly prepare differently for this rematch, after matching up well for two rounds, and then being pummeled for the third. Johnson has the knowledge of where he needs to improve and to work on getting off his back, or just how to stay away from the mat in general. Not that Johnson will improve his takedown defense drastically over one camp, but his strategy is much more informed. His pace and striking helped him implement his game plan for the most part, but he will want to improve in every aspect as to get a definitive win over “Uncle Creepy.”
One of the biggest things that McCall should take away is to not assume he is winning the fight. McCall has since been criticized for his crowd-pumping at the end of the third round while he had the back mount on Johnson. Many feel that if he had continued to batter and ground-and-pound Johnson, he could have gotten a TKO, or done enough to convince the judges to score it more in his favor.
In the rematch, Johnson should show, or at least his efforts of, improved takedown and ground bottom skills. McCall will want to continue to use those ground skills, but much more effectively in looking for the finish. It was clearly a great advantage for McCall, and despite what Johnson learns before the rematch, he still might be able to take him down and hold him there.
Mentally, McCall is now no stranger to the big crowd and lights from the UFC stage, and the ambiguity of a fresh opponent. This takes away a part of what Johnson had working for him, but the rematch will tell if it really matters or not. Both men will be motivated not only to get a shot at facing Benavidez and a shot at the title, but also to leave no doubt in the minds of the fans as to who was supposed to win the first fight.
This writer’s prediction will be that Johnson wins the rematch, but by no means does that mean it will be an easy ride for him. A Unanimous Decision win seems to be a good choice for the outcome, regardless. If McCall is the one to learn more from the first bout, then a TKO victory will go to him.
The most interesting aspect to any rematch is to see how each fighter has learned from the first meeting, and uses that to improve. Especially rematches from close decisions, it adds anxiousness of who really understands what they need to do to definitively win the fight, and who actually goes out and does it.
Aside from all the controversy and the twists in plot over the past months, the UFC has still managed to trudge on and put on great shows for fans. While we are sidelined for a bit, minus The Ultimate Fighter, the UFC should be shelving out more upcoming matchups and when the rematch will be for Johnson and McCall. Fans can rest assured they will get another exciting fight from these two men.