Demetrious Johnson has defeated Joseph Benavidez at UFC 152 to become the first flyweight champion in promotion history. Johnson had previously defeated Ian McCall in the semifinal to earn a chance at the belt.
It's the first UFC loss for Benavidez. He had won all three of his fights since moving to the company. That included his impressive flyweight tournament victory over Yasuhiro Urushitani to reach the final. He wasn't able to capitalize on the unique opportunity, however.
The two fighters have been on similar paths, both suffering their last loss to Dominick Cruz before getting an opportunity to challenge in the newest division. So, it's no surprise they ended up fighting each other to become the inaugural champ.
It was Johnson who rose to the occasion. There was a lot of pressure on both fighters. Not only was the bout to become champion, but it came on one of the most anticipated cards of the year due to the presence of megastar Jon Jones.
Johnson actually needed two chances at McCall to advance from the semifinal. They fought to a draw in the first matchup, and the 26-year-old American won the second meeting by unanimous decision. Those battles prepared him for UFC 152.
Now comes the tough part. He transitions from the hunter to the hunted. As the champion, everybody in the newly formed division will be trying to take him down, and he must be prepared to get every opponent's best shot.
Some fighters handle it better than others. Johnson has shown a lot of confidence, which bodes well for his chances of remaining at the top for awhile.
Even though Benavidez lost, he still has a bright future. He should be a constant presence in the flyweight title picture and is definitely a fighter worth watching.
But for now, Johnson earned his chance to be champion.