|ESPN.com: Mixed Martial Arts||[Print without images]|
SACRAMENTO, Calif. -- Flyweights aren't supposed to hit like that.
Demetrious Johnson defended the UFC flyweight title for a third consecutive time at Sleep Train Arena on Saturday, viciously knocking out Joseph Benavidez in the first round of a rematch of their September 2012 title fight.
It was a highlight-reel knockout typically associated with the heavier weight classes. After circling around a Benavidez flurry, Johnson led with a front kick before uncorking a perfect right hand to Benavidez's chin.
Referee John McCarthy stopped the bout at the 2:08 mark, but not before Johnson followed Benavidez (19-4) to the floor and landed several hard shots.
"A lot of people say I don't have knockout power," Johnson said. "I'm always doing work. Me and my coaches back home worked on sitting my weight down and landing more power shots.
"Tonight was a great moment for my career, but in reality it's just another fight. My goal is to keep evolving and displaying my skill set to fans and having them enjoy my fights."
The win was a far more conclusive result than the first time these two met, which resulted in a split decision win for Johnson.
The Washington-based flyweight has now won five consecutive bouts, earning finishes in his last two.
Benavidez, who said he was too emotional in the first fight, appeared loose in front of his hometown crowd. He assumed the center of the Octagon early and landed a few, patient outside leg kicks. He started to slowly mix in combinations and was somewhat effective doing so, until the lightning right hand by Johnson ended his night.
"I'm so upset right now," Benavidez said. "I thought tonight was going to be my night."
In addition to the two losses to Johnson, Benavidez has lost twice to UFC bantamweight champion Dominick Cruz. This is the first time he's been finished in his career.
Johnson is the No. 8 pound-for-pound fighter in the world, according to ESPN.com's rankings. His last setback was a unanimous decision loss to Cruz in October 2011.
Urijah Faber is not going anywhere.
Faber (30-6), one of the most consistent fighters of his era, proved he's still very much at the top of his game in a dominant submission win over Michael McDonald. The finish came via guillotine choke at 3:22 of the second round.
|Urijah Faber fired on all cylinders from the opening bell before taking out Michael McDonald.|
Fighting in front of his hometown crowd for the first time since losing to Jose Aldo in a WEC title fight in April 2010, Faber turned in one of the best efforts of his career.
He took McDonald (16-3), a typically confident challenger, completely out of his element from the opening bell. An early takedown didn't produce much action on the floor, which prompted referee Herb Dean to stand them up in the first round.
Undeterred, Faber went to work confusing McDonald on the feet with feints and a varied attack. At 34, it doesn't appear Faber has lost any of his signature hand speed. McDonald, a terrific counterstriker, couldn't find him at all.
In the second round, Faber rocked McDonald with an overhand right but backed off after running into a defensive counter right hand. In the next exchange, McDonald landed a grazing shot and must have thought he had Faber hurt more than he did.
As McDonald aggressively came forward, Faber stepped into a counter right hand that found its mark. Hurt, McDonald backtracked to the fence, where Faber dropped him with another right. As McDonald did his best to secure a single leg, Faber dropped into the guillotine choke to produce the tap.
Faber, who was already ranked the No. 2 bantamweight in the world by ESPN.com, has now won four in a row, including three finishes. All six of his professional losses have come in title fights. He lost to Renan Barao in July 2012 via decision.
McDonald, who also came up short against Barao in a title fight earlier this year, has now been finished in each of his three professional losses.
Chad Mendes has looked so good on his feet lately, fans might have forgotten what he looks like on the ground.
He reminded us Saturday night.
Mendes (16-1) earned a unanimous decision win over a very game Nik Lentz, and he relied on a steady game plan of takedowns to do it. Judges saw the featherweight contest all for Mendes, by scores of 30-27, 30-27 and 29-28.
|Chad Mendes, right, held on to edge his way past Nik Lentz.|
The fight nearly ended in the opening minute, as Mendes staggered Lentz (24-6-2) with a left hook to the chin. Lentz recovered quickly, but surrendered a takedown when he looked to move forward with his own punches. Mendes struggled to do significant offense from top position and Lentz stayed busy with short punches from his back.
Nevertheless, it was obvious to all he was behind on the scorecards heading to the second round. Lentz responded well, although his inability to stop Mendes' takedowns proved problematic.
Lentz landed punches in an exchange, including a hard jab, right hand counter off a Mendes leg kick. Mendes, however, repeatedly took him down.
The pace of Mendes slowed down significantly in the final round, as he spent the majority of time circling away from a pursuing Lentz. Lentz landed the cleaner punches of the round, but he never put Mendes in any sort of trouble.
Mendes actually stole the round on two scorecards with a late knee up the middle that rocked Lentz. Mendes moved into a front headlock after the strike and looked to set up a choke, but Lentz escaped.
Afterward, Mendes blamed his lackluster performance on illness.
"I had a bad sinus infection about four weeks ago and I thought it had cleared; but maybe a week ago it came back and I really felt it during this fight," Mendes said.
"Basically after the first round, my lungs felt heavy, but I just had to power through it. I hit Lentz hard, about as hard as any guy I have ever fought. He kept bouncing back however -- I have to give him credit there.
Mendes has now won five in a row dating back to a first-round knockout loss against Jose Aldo in a January 2012 title fight. Prior to Saturday's win, all four of his wins had come via knockout. Lentz saw a four-fight win streak snapped.
Joe Lauzon was just too good on the ground for another UFC lightweight.
Lauzon (23-9) snapped a two-fight losing streak with a unanimous decision win over Mac Danzig, nearly submitting him several times in the process. All three judges scored it a clean sweep for Lauzon, rendering unanimous scores of 30-27.
|Joe Lauzon's more active work rate helped see him past Mac Danzig after three rounds.|
A takedown by Lauzon within the first minute of the fight spelled early trouble for Danzig (21-11-1), although he fought off an early armbar attempt. Danzig escaped and got to his feet where he landed a few good knees inside, but Lauzon took him down again to finish the round on top.
A long clinch in the center of the Octagon brought boos from the crowd in the second round, but Lauzon eventually took the fight to the floor with an outside trip. He landed an elbow that cut Danzig on the bridge of his nose, which bled heavily the remainder of the fight.
Lauzon ended the second round with another armbar attempt and went into the third blatantly ahead on the scorecards. He played it conservative at first, covering up as Danzig let his hands go, before putting the nail in the coffin -- a final takedown that eventually resulted in more elbows from the full mount. It marks Lauzon's first win since a submission victory over Jamie Varner in August 2012.
"You're only as good as your last fight, and my last fight was terrible," Lauzon said. "To get this win was fantastic and feels great.
"I thought I had him finished in the first round. I sunk a pretty nasty armbar and felt his shoulder pop, but he is super tough and was able to get out of it."
Danzig has lost three in a row. The 33-year-old veteran suffered a knockout loss to Melvin Guillard in his only other appearance this year.