Demetrious Johnson and Joseph Benavidez engaged in an entertaining battle to crown the UFC Flyweight championship. In the end, it was Johnson who emerged victorious, but it came with a bit of skepticism as he won via split decision.
Was the fight really close enough for a split decision, or should it have been Johnson across the board on the judge's scorecards? As with all close fights, it depends on what and how you score different items in a fight. For example, do you credit Johnson with successfully evading the majority of Benavidez's strikes or award points for Benavidez being the aggressor?
Judging fights is always a debatable topic, but one that isn't in the stat numbers involved with fights. A look deeper into the FightMetric numbers of the flyweight clash reveals the title contest wasn't as close as you'd think.
The strikes to the head category is where you can truly see a difference in the fight for Demetrious Johnson and Joseph Benavidez.
Johnson threw considerably less less power strikes to the head (47 in all), but connected on 25 of his 61 jabs. In contrast, Benavidez threw a whopping 150 power strikes to the head but managed to land just 14 of them. Benavidez threw one less jab over the course of the fight, but also managed to score a small amount, landing only 13 jabs through five rounds.
The difference in stats relates back to both men's strategies coming in. Clearly, Johnson wanted to use his quickness and athletic ability to evade Benavidez's power punches. It worked, as Johnson was able to avoid any serious threats to the head aside from a knockdown in the fourth round.
If the disparity from strikes to the head weren't enough to show you how effective Demetrious Johnson was, perhaps the strikes to the body category will.
Johnson threw a combined 49 strikes to the body and landed 40 of them. He was also 31-for-39 on his power strikes to the body. Joseph Benavidez threw considerably less with only 31 combined body strikes attempted and also landed less with 14 successful strikes to the body.
"Mighty Mouse" was likely attempting to work the body of Benavidez in order to slow the Team Alpha Male fighter down. Johnson wanted to use an in-and-out type of strategy, and by slowing Benavidez down, he was able to hit without being hit back.
The lack of body strikes attempted by Benavidez also could be due to the fact he believed he needed a knockout to avoid going to a judge's scorecard.
A look at the grappling stats tells the same story of dominance by Demetrious Johnson.
Joseph Benavidez attempted seven total takedowns and was unsuccessful on every one of them. Johnson, on the other hand, went 5-for-10 in takedown attempts. The one shining light for Benavidez in the grappling department was the tight guillotine he nearly secured in the fourth round.
Although the grappling game wasn't used often in this title bout, it's clear from the numbers that although Benavidez came the closest to finishing the fight with his submission attempts, Johnson controlled much of the action on the mats as well as on the feet.
Breaking down the fight round by round, you can see that only one round clearly went to Joseph Benavidez.
In the fourth round, Benavidez had perhaps his best chance to seize the title, as he was able to knock down Demetrious Johnson and came extremely close to securing a guillotine while in mount. Johnson was able to recover and fend off the tight choke and survived the round.
The second round was closely scored by FightMetric, with Johnson emerging as winner based on a FightMetric Effectiveness score of 50 to 47. This close round is likely what contributed to the judge scoring the decision for Benavidez.
The biggest margin of victory for Johnson in a single round was the first in which the round was scored 49 to 23 in favour of the champion.
So if the numbers have Demetrious Johnson being the clear winner, why is there any controversy and why was it a split decision for "Mighty Mouse?"
Johnson's style and the fourth round during the fight are likely what people will hang their hat on when discussing why Benavidez won on one of the judge's scorecard. Johnson's strategy mimicked that of his former adversary, Dominick Cruz, in that Johnson used his footwork to evade the incoming strikes and takedowns of Joseph Benavidez.
It's not an endearing style to fans and certainly won't help the flyweight division grow in popularity.
Another arguing point is that Benavidez is the only one who ever came close to actually finishing the fight. The knockdown followed by the guillotine attempt are the only two points in which the fight seemed to be over. Although Benavidez was held in check for the majority of the fight, "Joe Jitsu" fans can at least say their guy didn't try to win on points.