Defending bantamweight champ Demetrious Johnson shocked number one contender Joseph Benavidez in their highly-anticipated rematch with a sudden rapid-fire right hand blitz to earn a devastating first-round knockout Saturday night. Heading into the bout, Benavidez was renowned as perhaps the biggest one-punch knockout artist in the division, while Johnson was not considered especially heavy-handed. Questions also persisted after their first fight—a narrow split decision win for Johnson—if the judges had botched the outcome. Johnson’s crushing KO victory has forced MMA insiders to re-think not only his in-ring abilities, but also the width of the growing gap between the champ and the rest of the 125-lb weight class as well.
The two fighters traded several leg kicks to start the fight before a Johnson (19-2-1, 4 KO, 7 Sub) takedown attempt was stuffed a minute into the opening round. D.J.’s dazzling footwork was on display as he constantly circled just outside the range of the ever-advancing Benavidez’ (19-4, 6 KO, 8 Sub) lunging punches. Suddenly as Benavidez found his back close to the fence, Johnson became the aggressor. Benavidez threw a right thrust kick, but pulled it after Johnson nimbly stepped back out of range again. In the split-second it took for Benavidez to pull his leg back, Johnson stepped forward from the orthodox stance with a perfect right hook to the chin that knocked Benadvidez cold instantly before he had even hit the ground. As he fell, the lightning-quick Johnson pile-drove four more short jackhammer rights into the unconscious Benavidez’ chin before the ref tackled him off of his prone opponent. The official stoppage time was at 2:08 of the first round. Benavidez, who had never even been stopped previously, remained on the canvas for several minutes.
After the bout, Johnson said that the hard work with his team had help him defy critics about his knockout power, but also thanked Benavidez and his hometown Sacramento fans. The once hostile Sleep Train Arena cooled, and offered the enemy combatant the polite reception reserved only for fighters whose startling performance has unmistakably won a crowd’s respect.