Last night's UFC 152 co-main event of the evening saw the first ever Flyweight champion crowned, as Demetrious Johnson once again defied betting odds, and edged out Joseph Benavidez by split decision. It's Benavidez's 2nd loss in a title fight, both times a split decision defeat (the other to Dominick Cruz at WEC 50). But for Team Alpha Male, which prides itself on being the premier camp for lighter weight class fighters, this marks their 8th consecutive loss in a WEC or UFC Championship fight.
Benavidez's vaunted right hand was effectively neutralized bar one knockdown in the 4th round, and Mighty Mouse provided the speed, accurate striking, and strength that got him the decision in the end. Unfortunately for Joseph, that's essentially what Dominick Cruz brought to the table and why he was able to beat Benavidez twice.
More analysis, including a timeline of Team Alpha Male's title defeats after the jump.
SBN coverage of UFC 152: Jones vs. Belfort
It's been a recurring problem for Team Alpha Male over the last few years. They've proven more than capable of winning fights that warrant a title shot, but not good enough to actually be #1. These are all of the championship results for their camp since November 5th, 2008, when Urijah Faber was stunned by Mike Brown at WEC 38.
- vs. Mike Brown (WEC 36, 1st round TKO)
- vs. Mike Brown (WEC 41, unanimous decision)
- vs. Jose Aldo (WEC 48, unanimous decision)
- vs. Dominick Cruz (UFC 132, unanimous decision)
- vs. Dominick Cruz (WEC 50, split decision)
- vs. Demetrious Johnson (UFC 152, split decision)
- vs. Jose Aldo (UFC 142, 1st round KO)
And if you really want to stretch this, T.J. Dillashaw was KOed by John Dodson in The Ultimate Fighter 14 Bantamweight finale. Technically it's not a title fight, but it's still a tournament with a prize in the end, and he lost, so for my argument's sake, let's make it 0-9.
There's no dressing these facts up as something better than it actually is. These are terrible numbers and it's staggering for a single camp to lose this many title fights (admittedly half of them are Urijah Faber). Using my best recollection of all of these fights, this is what I gather from the way Alpha Male guys ends up losing.
- Striking. Alpha Male guys seem to have huge problems with guys who have diverse, quick, and precise striking. Leg kicks completely befuddle Faber and Mighty Mouse had definitely left a few marks on Benavidez's legs. Jose Aldo was landing leg kicks at will against Faber and Mendes. Dominick Cruz, despite being knocked down 3 times in the Faber rematch, still arguably outstruck Urijah just on his in-and-out movement. He threw combinations and moved out of Faber's striking range, therefore taking minimal damage while trying to maximize damage on Faber.
- Anti-wrestling. Cumulatively, Faber, Benavidez, and Mendes are a combined 3/50 (6%) in takedown attempts in their title fights. As much as analysts harp on Benavidez's right hand, most of his wins are by submission, and when you take away the wrestling and takedown game from these guys, your chances of victory improve substantially. Why? Because in the above bullet, it's evident that while they're all good strikers, they have been consistently unable to crack down on superior strikers with superior speed. By the way, in addition to "anti-wrestling", actual wrestling is what earned Mike Brown a win in the Faber rematch, as well as Cruz against both Benavidez and Faber.
- High-paced fighting. Cruz and Mighty Mouse are probably the fastest guys in their divisions respectively, and they both hold wins over Benavidez. The rate at which they move is awe-inspiring and it clearly affected Benavidez last night. Mighty Mouse did an excellent job of mixing his striking in with lightning quick takedowns as Joseph was coming forward. Basically, Mighty Mouse, Cruz, and others stay busy (whether it's effective or not) and have a bottomless tank of gas.
Team Alpha Male is a very good camp, but their status as the top place for the smaller weight classes is over and has been for quite some time. Andre Pederneiras and Nova Uniao have done a magnificent job of supplying elite fighters from 125-145 lbs. Renan Barao and Jose Aldo are UFC champions, and the latter is a dominant one at that. Jussier Formiga will likely get a flyweight title shot if he beats John Dodson, and he could make it a clean sweep of Nova Uniao holding UFC belts in the "new weight classes". There's also Diego Nunes, who is still a credible top 15 featherweight and Hacran Dias is another interesting young talent. And maybe the most important fact of all the Nova Uniao fighters I've mentioned? Not a single one of them is older than 28. You're looking at potential long-term dominance here.
While I firmly believe Faber's days as a championship level fighter are finished, there's still time for Benavidez and Mendes to get title fights again. That said, something needs to drastically change in Sacramento, CA if they ever want to boast that one of their guys is a UFC champion.