Demetrious Johnson and Joseph Benavidez will meet in the UFC flyweight championship match after arriving through very different methods. Benavidez did so in a flash, with a second-round TKO in his March fight with Yasuhiro Urushitani. For Johnson, it was a much more challenging road, one that required 30 minutes spread out over six rounds, three months and two continents. In the end, it was his speed and finesse winning out over opponent Ian McCall's power.
When the two meet later this year, Johnson will likely be the underdog again, just as he tends to be in most of his fights. When McCall went off as a slight favorite in their rematch, it marked the fourth time in his last five fights Johnson has been considered the underdog, yet he's only lost once in that time.
Benavidez was the flyweight tournament favorite from the get-go, but for once, let's use some caution before counting Johnson out. He's shown repeatedly he's capable of bucking the odds.
On to the matchmaking…
It seems like the logical step would be to match him up with the other flyweight tournament loser, Urushitani, but I'm going to resist that. The UFC has a very shallow flyweight class, and it's time to start adding depth now, but I think that within the UFC, there is a very strong matchup for McCall who will result in an exciting, action-filled fight.
Prediction: He draws John Dodson
Silva seems to make new believers with each performance. In beating Charlie Brenneman, he answered a very basic question, which was whether he would wilt under the pressure of a good wrestler. Not only did he hold strong, he absolutely turned the tables on Brenneman, so confident in his skills that he was willing to throw any punch or kick at any time, fully sure that he could either threaten with a submission or get back to his feet if he was taken down. A man with that kind of self-belief is dangerous. Suggestions about putting him with a top 10 opponent should be cooled for now, though. Instead, I'd pair him off with another young fighter who has recently looked impressive.
Prediction: He faces John Hathaway
Are you aware that Pyle has won five of his last six? The veteran's recent run has been quiet but impressive, with his only loss coming to Rory MacDonald. His win over Josh Neer had its moments of uncertainty, but it's not exactly easy to steamroll Neer. The knockout punch was also quite the stunner, given the fact that Pyle isn't exactly known for his one-punch power, and that Neer has only been KO'd one other time in 45 career fights. Don't look now, but Pyle is nearing the top 10.
Prediction: He faces Diego Sanchez
Coming off consecutive losses (albeit to top fighters Urijah Faber and Benavidez), Wineland looked fantastic against Scott Jorgensen, ultimately knocking him out in the second round. It was the first KO loss of Jorgensen's career. When Wineland is on his game, he seems like he's capable of beating anyone, and he definitely peaked his camp perfectly for this fight. As for his next outing, I seem to remember young phenom Michael McDonald recently saying he would like to match skills with Wineland. Sounds good to me.
Prediction: Wineland vs. McDonald
With 12-fight cards, UFC events can run up to six hours these days, so you can be forgiven if you miss some of the prelims. But if you did skip out on the UFC on FX 3 undercard bouts, you missed Means brutalizing Justin Salas in a 66-second KO. The 6-foot-2 Means brings with him a finisher's mentality you don't always see in the lightweight division. He's now 18-3-1, but given his limited experience in the UFC octagon (he's 2-0 there), it's hard to tell just how good he is. That said, with over 20 pro fights under his belt, it's about time to advance his level of competition and find out.
Prediction: He faces Jeremy Stephens
At UFC on FX 3, Pierce took part in his fourth straight split-decision. As far as I can tell, that is a UFC record. That said, it wasn't nearly as close as the final scores indicated, as one judge inexplicably scored all three rounds to Carlos Eduardo Rocha despite getting soundly out-struck and repeatedly taken down. It was an efficient if unspectacular win for Pierce, making it hard to figure out exactly where he stands in the division. Somehow, he tends to fight close fights with everyone. In his recent bouts with opponents boasting good takedown defense and good standup (Josh Koscheck and Johny Hendricks), he's lost. Let's see if he's up to the challenge now.
Prediction: He faces Thiago Alves