The headlining bouts for the upcoming UFC 152 card on September 22 in Toronto, Canada have been made official. The main event will be one for the history books as tournament finalists and former Bantamweight contenders Joseph Benavidez and Demetrious Johnson faceoff for the inaugural UFC Flyweight championship title. In the co-main event United States Marine and former WEC champion Brian Stann will finally get his wish as he takes on TUF3 winner Michael Bisping in a bout that could propel the winner into the #1 contendership position in the weight class.
Benavidez vs Johnson
After a slight delay and almost needing to be postponed, the inaugural Flyweight championship bout will finally happen. Former WEC Bantamweight title challenger Joseph Benavidez will move on from once being stuck as the #2 Bantamweight fighter in the world to potentially becoming the first ever UFC Flyweight champion as he plans on leaving the octagon with gold around his waist. Standing across the octagon will be former UFC Bantamweight title challenger Demetrious Johnson whose agility and relentless pace brought him near the top of the Bantamweight division as he earned a shot at champion Dominick Cruz where he lost via Unanimous Decision being outmuscled and outwrestled, but possessed superior speed when exchanging in the stand-up.
Once stuck in limbo having lost to reigning Bantamweight champion Dominick Cruz twice in closely contested bouts, Benavidez was in an odd position in the division. With the record 0-2 against Cruz, Benavidez was stuck fighting anybody but the champion as he earned victories in his Zuffa career over top names like former champion Miguel Torres, BJJ ace Wagnney Fabiano, and former champion Eddie Wineland before being offered a spot in the inaugural Flyweight tournament. Dropping down to compete as at Flyweight Benavidez took on former Shooto champion Yasuhiro Urushitani in the semifinals first controlling Rnd1 before quickly finishing the fight in Rnd2 via TKO in just 11 seconds.
Johnson will look to prove his skills against a fellow former Bantamweight contender as he earned his way to the title with victories over opponents like Japanese star Norifumi Yamamoto and former WEC division champion Miguel Torres before being dominated by Cruz. After proving to be an elite yet also undersized Bantamweight, Johnson was offered his spot in the Flyweight tournament taking on former TPF Flyweight champion Ian McCall first meeting him in March in the semifinals where the bout ended in a controversial Majority Draw and was reset for June where Johnson claimed his contendership position with a Unanimous Decision. After taking the win over McCall, Johnson was nearly sidelined after a doctor diagnosed him with a back injury that could have required surgery, but double checking with other doctors proved that the injury was minor and would not require surgery.
With these two elite fighters meeting in the finals of the tournament, the victor will leave not only as the inaugural UFC Flyweight champion but also labeled as the #1 Flyweight in the world.
Stann vs Bisping
After being demanded by Brian Stann, then requested by Michael Bisping, the match up pitting two rival nations against each other will finally happen. TUF3 winner and longtime British star in the UFC Michael Bisping will take on former WEC Light Heavyweight champion and United States Marine Corps combat veteran Brian Stann.
After dropping down to the Middleweight division previously going 8-3 as a Light Heavyweight that included capturing the WEC title, Stann made the drop to Middleweight where he started his stint in the division going 3-0 with stoppage victories over Mike Massenzio, TUF1 alumni Chris Leben, and former Sengoku Middleweight champion Jorge Santiago. After running into a road block in elite contender Chael Sonnen where he suffered defeat via Rnd2 Submission stoppage, Stann rebounded with another victory via stoppage with a Rnd1 KO over Alessio Sakara that improved his record to 4-1 in the division. Though he was willing to take on any opponent put before him by the UFC, there was one potential bout in particular that interested him most: a match up with the face of British MMA Michael Bisping.
Undefeated in fourteen professional bout that included winning TUF3 as a Light Heavyweight and continuing to fight at that weight class earning three more victories, Bisping hit his own road block when he lost via Split Decision to TUF2 winner Rashad Evans. Deciding to make the move down to Middleweight he racked up a record of 4-2 in his first six bouts in the weight class that included three stoppage victories and a Unanimous Decision over TUF1 alumni Chris Leben, but also included losses to former two division PrideFC champion Dan Henderson via Rnd2 KO a Unanimous Decision loss to former PrideFC Middleweight champion Wanderlei Silva. After the loss to Silva Bisping racked up four straight victories that included two Unanimous Decisions and two via TKO which led to him being slotted to face contender Chael Sonnen for a shot at reigning champion Anderson Silva. After enduring a closely contested bout Bisping hit yet another road block that had him on the receiving end of a loss via Unanimous Decision, but left knowing that he had proven he was not to be underrated anymore. Now within range of earning his long demanded shot at champion Anderson Silva, Bisping could finally get his wish should he leave the octagon with an impressive victory under his belt, but Stann looks to play upset to his plans looking to strike a blow to the Englishman’s hopes for UFC gold.
Although the event has yet to take place as we await the arrival of September, a small verbal scuffle recently caught the headlines. Believing that his bout was far more significant and likely to be more entertaining, Bisping stated during a Q&A session with fans that his bout with Stann was the “real main event” for UFC 152 and not the Flyweight title bout with Benavidez and Johnson. With that statement he also said “no one cares about little Flyweights”. At the recent pre-event press conference on July 24, Flyweight title challenger Benavidez was asked how he felt about Bisping’s statement devaluing his bout and weight class. Benavidez simply responded stating “everybody pretty much expects something ridiculous things to come out of his mouth”. A little annoyed with Benavidez’s response, Bisping decided to mock his record of experience in the UFC comparing his six years in the octagon to Benavidez who has only competing in the promotion for less than two years (though that does not include the time spent fighting in the WEC from December 2008-November 2010 before transferring to the UFC). To overlook the comparison Benavidez noted that he was excited to be part of a historical moment in UFC history fighting to potentially become the first ever UFC Flyweight champion and with it earn the spot as #1 Flyweight in the world. Even with Bisping’s claim that his bout against Stann is more significant in any way, the lineup remains the same with Benavidez vs Johnson [Flyweight title bout] serving as the main event, and Bisping vs Stann still serving as the co-main event.