The Flyweight Division: A New Division & Its Dramatic Beginning

Zuffa fulfilled its promise to the fans by creating the long desired flyweight division in the UFC. They decided that such a special occasion warrants a special presentation so they formed a tournament amongst the top four prospects who planned on competing at 125 pounds. The UFC sought to preempt delays in the tournament due to any match ending in a draw by instituting the possibility of an overtime round. Unfortunately for the fans, the fighters and the promotion, the organization’s efforts evaded all but a menial act incompetence.

The most popular of the group, Joseph Benavidez was the favorite pick for winning the tournament and being crowned as the first UFC flyweight champion. He overtook the bantamweight flock but couldn’t prevail against the champion Dominick Cruz, twice presumably because of their difference in size. Benavidez’ ability to beat everyone but the champ has been the primary reason for the desire of a flyweight division. His wait is finally over.

Yasuhiro Urushitani, his opponent, made his UFC debut in the tournament. He entered the octagon after a 29 fight career in Japan. With his background in judo and boxing he hoped to challenge the Alpha Male product. Benavidez had conflicting intentions. Urushitani was overwhelmed in both striking and grappling portions of the skirmish. He couldn’t keep up with Benavidez’ speed and superior technique on the mat. After dominating the fight for the first five minutes, Benavidez landed a right counter on Urushitani’s chin 5 seconds into the second round. Urushitani dropped to the mat as his opponent landed the finishing blows.

The other tournament match, which actually preceded the Benavidez fight on the FX card, lasted a very entertaining three rounds. These flyweights are so athletic and fast that a fight going to decision is no boring feature. They’re fast, well conditioned and are more capable of flamboyant moves than their heftier peers. Ian McCall and Demetrious Johnson made comparable efforts and the judges scored appropriately. Unfortunately for everyone, the score was tallied incorrectly by the Department of Sport and Recreation in New South Wales, Australia and Johnson was announced as the winner. The live audience showed their disappointment with a downpour of boos. Johnson’s speech was drowned out by the noise. McCall left the octagon immediately without a word. The mistake wasn’t caught until it was too late for the officials to begin the extra round. After the event, UFC President Dana White announced the miscalculation and that the draw warrants a rematch.

The most disappointing result of this mistake is that we were robbed of a chance to see overtime for the first time in the UFC. How likely is it that the first time a mistake like this is made would occur on the first match that had the possibility of a tie breaker?

The rematch is expected to take place on The Ultimate Fighter Live Finale on June 1 in Las Vegas. The winner will then be scheduled to face Benavidez who will now have a layoff of a few months. We should have our first flyweight champion this fall.