UFC 172 notebook: Benavidez talks head injuries, Team Alpha Male coach search

Joseph Benavidez meets Tim Elliott at UFC 172 on Saturday in Baltimore.

Josh Hedges/Zuffa LLC/Zuffa LLC via Getty Images

BALTIMORE — Joseph Benavidez hasn’t done a ton of research. He hasn’t read many surveys about brain injury. But he’s smart enough to know when to cut back on blows to the head.

After the first knockout of his career against Demetrious Johnson at FOX UFC Saturday in December, Benavidez didn’t do any hard sparring for more than two months. The Team Alpha Male product said he still trained, but chose not to get hit in the head for about nine weeks following the one-punch KO.

"I knew that was the right thing to do and that was going to be better in the long run, to benefit my health," Benavidez said Wednesday at pre-UFC 172 media availability.

Brain injury is a serious, hot-button topic in MMA right now. The UFC and other combat sports organizations are helping to fund a study being done by the Cleveland Clinic, which should shed some more light on an issue that science and medicine have just scratched the surface on figuring out.

Benavidez, 29, felt it was better to be safe than sorry. He knew he was concussed, but he doesn’t know all the facts about the long-term effects of blows to the head.

"The longer something is around, the longer people have a chance to dissect it," Benavidez said of MMA. "When people are getting hit in the head, those are the questions that are going to arise. "

Benavidez meets Tim Elliott on the FOX Sports 1 prelims of UFC 172 on Saturday night here at Baltimore Arena. It’ll be the last bout the flyweight contender gets cornered by Duane "Bang" Ludwig, who is leaving Team Alpha Male at the end of May to start his own business in Colorado. Ludwig will coach T.J. Dillashaw and Chris Holdsworth for their fights at UFC 173 on May 24 and corner them for those bouts. Then he’ll leave the Sacramento camp.

"We can’t fault him," Benavidez said. "Obviously, he’s going to be missed and we wish he would stick around, but at the end of the day he’s doing what he thinks what is best for him and his family."

The search for a new coach is still ongoing. Benavidez said Alpha Male would prefer someone whose base is striking and former UFC featherweight No. 1 contender Mark Hominick is a contender for the job. Robert Follis, a former coach at Team Quest, is also in the running, though he has more of a wrestling background.

Alpha Male patriarch Urijah Faber has been running point on finding a new coach, but he has been out of the country, in the Philippines and then Abu Dhabi. Benavidez expects a replacement to be in place relatively soon.

Joe Rogan, Dominick Cruz inspired Tim Elliott

Tim Elliott (left) said he got away from his herky jerky style somewhat in a loss to Ali Bagautinov (right).

Tim Elliott knows the key against Benavidez on Saturday is his funky, herky jerky fighting style. He got away from it a little bit in a loss to Ali Bagautinov in November, but he’s bringing it back in a big way.

It was actually Joe Rogan’s commentary during his fight with John Dodson in 2012 that led to him implementing the strategy.

"Joe Rogan said it perfect," Elliott said. "He was faster and more athletic than me, but I made up for it with awkward movement. It just stuck with me."

Elliott was first introduced to footwork when training with former UFC bantamweight champion Dominick Cruz nearly five years ago.

"One day with him, I started trying to mimic his style as a joke and it worked really well," Elliott said. "I kept it from then on out."

Jim Miller: Brother hopes for return in July

Dan Miller (left) should be returning to the Octagon this summer, according to his brother Jim.

Jim Miller is excited to fight Yancy Medeiros at UFC 172 on Saturday, but he’s also happy to see his brother Dan get back into the gym.

Last July, Dan had significant surgery on his neck to repair a narrowing spinal column and herniated disc. He was recently cleared to return to full contact and Jim said he’s targeting a return to the UFC in July.

"I rolled with him the other day and he hasn’t lost a step — it sucks," Jim joked.

Underrated Boetsch still underrated

Tim Boetsch is the underdog — again.

For a guy with a very respectable 5-3 record in the UFC, Tim Boetsch is almost always an underdog. So it is again Saturday. Boetsch is a 5-to-1 ‘dog against Luke Rockhold. It’s not something that he enjoys very much.

"I take a lot of abuse when it comes to the oddsmakers," Boetsch said.

The middleweight says fighters are judged to much on what they did in their last fight and not their entire body of work. He’s coming off a decision win over C.B. Dollaway in October, but many people think he should have lost that fight and previously he was on a two-fight losing streak.

Ideally, Boetsch said he’ll do enough against Rockhold that "even the naysayers would say, ‘OK, Tim Boetsch is legit.’"