Article by Jamie Penick
Saturday’s UFC 152 event will feature the first-ever Flyweight Championship bout, as former Bantamweight Title challengers Joseph Benavidez and Demetrious “Mighty Mouse” Johnson square off in the co-main event in Toronto. Having faced and defeated both competitors, perhaps there’s no better fighter to comment on the bout than UFC Bantamweight Champion Dominick Cruz.
The UFC sought him out for comment on the fight ahead of Saturday’s event in Toronto, and Cruz is excited to see how both fighters perform at their more natural weight class after giving him tough fights at 135 lbs.
“I can’t wait see to see more of these guys in the division were they operate at 100%,: said Cruz. “I’ve fought both guys and they pushed me very hard, but I had the benefit of being significantly bigger than them. Skill for skill, both of them are right there with very best fighters in the world and now the new flyweight division allows them to fight to the best of their abilities.”
“As the first ever UFC bantamweight champion, I know the pride they will fight with to because the first ever UFC flyweight champion. Being the first ever champion in the weight category is history, everyone who ever holds the belt in the next 20, 30, 100 years will be following you. I expect them to fight their hearts out to put their name down as the George Washington of 125 lbs.”
Cruz sees different advantages for each fighter against the other, giving Benavidez an edge in power punching, but thinks he’ll need to combat a relentless pace from “Mighty Mouse” in order to pull it out.
“Benavidez needs to use his wrestling much more than he has in the past because DJ will be ready for the power strikes and he will need to keep DJ guessing,” Cruz said. “But wrestling isn’t the entire answer to DJ’s speed and movement. Even though I used wrestling against DJ, the guy is not easy to wrestle â€“ the reason I was successful was because with my height and reach I knew he would have to rush in and that opened up takedown opportunities.”
“Benavidez doesn’t have the height advantage over DJ that I did,” Cruz continued, “so he has to mix it up, right from the start. DJ is so talented and so fast and you cannot allow him to dictate the pace and rhythm. Joseph is as fast a striker as DJ, but he’s not as quick with his footwork or in the scramble. Joseph has a wider stance because he needs that base to get full power into his punches. He hits very hard even at 135lbs and you’ve seen, at 125 lbs, he’s a huge puncher.”
“If I absolutely had to choose a winner I would go with Benavidez inside the distance but, once we get past round two, I think DJ will take over the fight and he could win this on points.”
Penick’s Analysis: Cruz is an extremely intelligent fighter, and with the knowledge he has of both fighters from firsthand experience, it’s very interesting to hear how he sees the matchup. He points out some of the key issues facing Benavidez against Johnson, primarily in the wrestling game and the fact that he won’t have much of a height advantage over Johnson. This will be an intriguing style matchup, because both fighters have good wrestling games, but it’s Benavidez who is a proven finisher on the feet and on the ground. We’ve seen his power translate well to the change in weight classes already, and we’ll see how Johnson can handle that come Saturday night.