The UFC is looking to finalize the 125 lb tournament by crowning a champion sometime later this year. The two contestants for the first 125 lb Title in UFC history are Demetrious Johnson and Joseph Benavides.
Both men won their qualifying bouts in what the UFC billed as a four man tournament earlier this year, though Johnson took a far more circuitous route to earn his spot. His qualifier with Ian McCall in Australia resulted in a draw, but he came back looking improved for the rematch and he took McCall out. This sets up the final with Benavides, which reckons to be a much harder fight.
Benavides is cut from the same cloth as his teammates Urijah Faber and Chad Mendes, both of whom are considered elite at their weight classes. Benavides is a solid wrestler who usually has an efficient gameplan and a high revving motor.
Johnson for his part, is going to want to keep the fight standing. His standup looked very crisp throughout his last fight with McCall, and he also kept a high energy level.
The problem for Johnson is going to come in whether he can stay up against Benavides’ wrestling. Johnson has competed most of his career at bigger weight classes, and has obviously fared very well, but even at 125 lbs, where he has the talent to be a champion, he looks smaller than everyone else.
I am going to hold off picking a winner on this one, until the weigh ins show us what the physical matchups look like. Yes Johnson looked much improved cardio wise in his second outing at 125, but if Benavides is substantially bigger, it could make a difference.
McCall to his credit, engaged Johnson in a firefight, and Benavides is much more likely to want to wrestle and pressure Johnson. With that said, it is also a five round fight, and as the match drags on, will Johnson’s cardio hold out if he is being pressured by a bigger, stronger wrestler for 5.
I am a Demetrious Johnson fan, but now that he is approaching a title at his preferred weight it is possible that the guy with the perfect blend of size and fighting style to beat him is standing in the way. I look for Benavides to be the favorite, possibly quite heavily, when the lines hit the sportsbooks.