Did anyone in the world think that Demetrious Johnson would knock Joseph Benavidez unconscious in the first round of their UFC on Fox 9 flyweight title fight. I sure didn't. He had a total of zero KO/TKO finishes in 12 UFC and WEC fights. He has four overall in 22 career bouts. Benavidez had never been stopped in his career. But in the wacky world of MMA, you can just never tell. And when Johnson flattened him with that right and then added the brutal shots after he was already out, I don't think I was the only person staring at my TV in utter shock.
That was undoubtedly the best performance of Johnson's Zuffa career and it came against the top contender. He's now beaten him twice and defeated a bevy of other top guys now. I have to admit that I felt Johnson was the most vulnerable champion in the UFC coming into this bout. And I was wrong.
The co-main event featured a performance that was almost as dominant. Urijah Faber looked fantastic in finishing Michael McDonald. After his wrestling won the first round, he clocked McDonald so hard that McDonald ran right into the cage trying to get away. He was perfectly accurate with his shots and picked the perfect opportunity to switch to the submission. Faber's clearly the best guy at 135 outside the champs and I'd have no problem with him getting another title shot after that.
- Joe Rogan was pretty hard on Chad Mendes, a guy that I thought dominated the first two rounds of his bout with Nik Lentz and probably won the third too. Lentz is tough, but I thought Mendes still looked pretty good. He said afterward that he had been sick all week and that hampered his performance. Fair enough, but he still won and he's still the number one contender at featherweight in my eyes.
- The bout between Joe Lauzon and Mac Danzig was decent, but not amazing. Lauzon kept going for submissions too quickly and he wasn't going to catch a smart guy like Danzig without setting them up better. I respect a guy that always goes for the finish though. A strange fact is that this was the first decision win of Lauzon's entire 32-fight career.
- Ryan LaFlare looks like a pretty damn good prospect at welterweight. He's now 3-0 in the UFC and he seems to have all the tools necessary to take on the upper echelon of the division. I really liked the way he reacted to getting taken down, and his striking is quite good. Court McGee is what most thought he was - a good middle-of-the-road guy who always comes to fight, but probably isn't going to get into the upper tier of the division.
- Talk about a tale of two fights - the first round of Danny Castillo vs. Edson Barboza looked nothing like the last two. Castillo kicked his butt in the first and Barboza showed a lot of heart in surviving. Then he just took over in the last two because Castillo seemed to have punched himself out. The two judges that didn't call the first a 10-8 ended up costing Castillo the draw, which I thought was pretty brutal. But they're MMA judges, expecting them to get it right isn't even worth the effort.
- I think that Bobby Green fights unnecessarily dangerously with his hands down, but he looked really good against a game Pat Healy. The scores don't really indicate how close the fight was, but Green has looked very impressive so far in the UFC. We'll see what he can do when he gets the next step up in competition.
- Zach Makovsky looked excellent in his UFC debut. Scott Jorgensen put up a good fight but Makovsky cracked him a few times and he didn't look as fluid as he usually does as a bantamweight. I really liked the fight though, and I like that Makovsky is pretty much an instant contender in the division.
- Sam Stout should have finished Cody McKenzie. Ariel Helwani said on twitter that McKenzie showed up without a mouthpiece and someone had to go to a store and buy one. One cornerman, no sponsors, no banner. How does that happen?
- Abel Trujillo picked up the only finish of the night other than the top two fights. He fought well, and is clearly a step above Roger Bowling. I think Bowling is probably on his way out of the UFC.
- Darren Uyenoyama put up a good fight, but he was pulling guard and trying to fight from the bottom too much for my liking. Alp Ozkilic might not win any titles, but he should have a decent UFC career in front of him.