UFC

Johnson silences Sacramento with one-punch KO over Benavidez

Demetrious Johnson knocked out Joseph Benavidez with a vicious right hand.
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Damon Martin

Damon Martin is a veteran mixed martial arts journalist who has been covering the sport since 2004. His work has been published in CNN, Bleacher Report, MMAWeekly.com, Yahoo! Sports, UFC.com and SportsIllustrated.com. He also co-hosts The Great Debate Radio MMA podcast, and has appeared on ESPN Radio and SportsNet Radio. Follow him on Twitter.

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SACRAMENTO

It was the shot heard throughout Sacramento that silenced an entire city.

Demetrious Johnson with one right hand solidified his standing as the UFC flyweight champion while ending his rivalry with Joseph Benavidez in one of the most impressive and awe-inspiring performances the 125-pound division has ever seen.

The first fight between Johnson and Benavidez was as close as a bout could be with the final scores returning a split decision between the competitors. That night ended with Johnson's hand raised as the first-ever UFC flyweight champion.

The defeat only motivated Benavidez, who began working with coach Duane "Bang" Ludwig not long after the first fight with Johnson, while vowing to get back to another title shot. Three fights, three wins and two knockouts later and Benavidez got his wish.

The only problem was Johnson wasn't sitting back and just waiting for Benavidez to return — he went out and twice defended his belt. His recent win over John Moraga was at the time the crowning achievement of Johnson's reign, but that all changed after what transpired on Saturday night in Sacramento.

As the two fighters met in the center of the Octagon, Benavidez immediately tried to set the tone with a few powerful punches and kicks being tossed at the champion. As composed as any fighter in the UFC, Johnson quickly avoided the dangerous strikes and reset for an offensive attack of his own.

Just as the two-minute mark in the fight expired, Johnson and Benavidez moved toward the cage as both uncorked punches aimed at each other's heads. Johnson's landed with surgical precision, and as his right hand crashed into Benavidez's jaw, the Team Alpha Male fighter crumbled to the mat.

Johnson jumped on top and quickly dropped four or five more punches, but that was only because referee John McCarthy was behind the fighters when the first one landed that knocked Benavidez out cold. Johnson popped up from the ground and immediately began his celebration as a stunned and shocked crowd sat with their collective jaws on the floor wondering what they just witnessed.

The finish came at 2:08 of the first round. Johnson landed just nine total strikes, but only one mattered when it was over.

Benavidez (19-4) laid motionless on the mat for a few moments before sitting up with a look of obvious disappointment after suffering the first knockout loss of his 20-plus fight career. It was a heartbreaking moment for the New Mexico-native as he tried to bring back the first major title to Team Alpha Male, but instead went home without the gold and a second loss to Johnson on his record.

While the flyweight division is less than two years old, Johnson has been the king atop the throne since the beginning. He can now tout his first knockout since moving to the UFC in early 2011 and first in his career since 2010.

The win keeps Johnson (19-2-1) flawless at 125 pounds since the division was created by the UFC, and he also puts to bed his rivalry with Benavidez, who he has now defeated on two different occasions. The second fight ending by knockout in the first round all but guarantees there won't be a third fight.

“Tonight was a great moment for my career but in reality it’s just another fight," Johnson said after the win. "My goal is to keep evolving and displaying my skill set to fans and having them enjoy my fights."

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