What’s next for Demetrious Johnson and the UFC on FX 3 winners?
Friday night in Sunrise, Florida, Demetrious Johnson got the better of Ian McCall in the continuation/conclusion of their first encounter that came in Sydney back in March.
“Mighty Mouse” made the more significant tactical changes and adjustments in the three months since their initial meeting, and though he dropped the middle frame, was able to outwork “Uncle Creepy” in the first and third to earn an unquestionable unanimous decision victory to move onto the finals of the UFC’s four-man flyweight tournament.
Though the victory was impressive and well-earned, it’s out of the frying pan and into the fire for the former bantamweight title challenger.
Next Opponent: Joseph Benavidez
Tabbed as the favourite heading into this tournament when it was first announced, the Team Alpha Male standout made quick work of Yasuhiro Urushitani in March, stopping the former Shooto champion just 11 seconds into the second round.
It was the fourth consecutive win for Benavidez, who has beaten everyone he’s faced in his career not named Dominick Cruz.
A strong wrestler like everyone who comes from the Sacramento, California-based Alpha Male outfit, Benavidez was the second-best bantamweight in the world before moving down a division, and looks to be a notch about the competition in his new digs as well.
Johnson’s speed will always make him a difficult challenge, but he won’t have the same kind of striking edge he enjoyed against McCall in the finals. He’ll need to control the scrambles, connect on his exits like he did Friday night, and employ a pick-and-pop strategy if he hopes to become the first flyweight champion in UFC history.
Here’s a look at the rest of the match-ups I would make for the winners from Friday night’s UFC on FX 3 fight card in Florida.
Next Opponent: Yoshihiro Akiyama
Hear me out on this one: I really don’t see the point in rushing Silva into a match-up with a top 10-15 guy right now, since the division is already full of congestion at the top end. Akiyama is a big enough name to generate interest despite the fact that he’s lost four straight, and while he does possess solid hands and good grappling, I’d still peg Silva as a solid favourite in this fight.
Next Opponent: Siyar Bahadurzada
Yes, I know “Siyar the Great” has a fight lined up for UFC 149 in July. While I respect my fellow Canadian Chris Clements, I really don’t like the match-up for him, and think the heavy-handed Afghan is going to score another ferocious knockout victory.
Should that happen, Siyar would be in need of a step up the ladder, and Pyle is the kind of guy who can test him, especially if he can get the fight into the clinch or on the ground. Additionally, a win over someone like Bahadurzada can only help Pyle in his quest to keep climbing the ladder.
If Siyar comes in on a two-fight smashing streak as I anticipate, and Pyle is able to upset the apple cart, “Quicksand” takes another step forward, and shows the much-hyped knockout artist isn’t quite ready for prime time.
Next Opponent: Brad Pickett
Because the bantamweight division is so shallow at the moment, Wineland’s first UFC win is enough to carry him to the fringes of contention in the 135-pound ranks. Since I expect the winner of the Urijah Faber-Renan Barao interim title fight to defend the belt against Michael McDonald before Dominick Cruz comes back, we have plenty of time to start lining up contenders for the future.
Pickett is in a comparable position to Wineland, having lost to Scott Jorgensen and Barao in the past, he rebounded with a one-sided submission win over Damacio Page when the UFC debuted in Sweden back in April. With former champion Brian Bowles coming off a loss and likely needed another win before he enters the title conversation, pairing these two recent winners off makes sense. Additionally, Pickett’s grappling-based approach counters Wineland’s superior striking, and could turn this match-up into what many expected Wineland’s bout on Friday night to look like.
Next Opponent: Demian Maia/Dong Hyun Kim Winner
Like Pierce, whoever emerges victorious from this UFC 148 match-up will still be a good distance from being a contender, but will be in need of a step up in competition. Kim is the kind of grappler who could give Pierce problems in the clinch, where he usually dominates, and while Maia’s jiu-jitsu game is always a threat; he’s also shown better hands over his last three or four, save for the Chris Weidman fight.
Follow E. Spencer Kyte on Twitter (@spencerkyte).