Opportunity knocked not once, not twice, but three times. Then it knocked once more.
Martin Kampmann seized his big chance with less than a minute left in a fight he was on his way to losing. He grabbed a hold of Thiago Alves while being taken down, secured a guillotine choke as the fighters hit the mat, and shockingly forced a tapout 4:12 into the third round of the main event of Friday night's UFC on FX event at Allsport Arena in Sydney, Australia.
But while that was the top-billed bout, the pair of fights that preceded it were of more consequence in the big picture, as title shots were at stake. And the two semifinals of the UFC's tournament to crown its first flyweight championship became the story of the night, in part because of an exhilarating knockout but even more so because of a controversy revealed an hour after the final punch was thrown.
First, the KO: Joseph Benavidez scored it 14 seconds into the second round against an overwhelmed Yasuhiro Urushitani, who nearly was choked out at the end of the first, then ate a looping right hand five seconds into Round 2 and was swarmed until referee Steve Perceval jumped in. It was a ferocious performance for Benavidez (16-2), putting him in the 125-pound title bout against . . .
Well, the other finalist was Demetrious Johnson, who a few minutes earlier had his hand raised as a split-decision winner against Ian McCall. The crowd had booed the announcement, having just watched "Uncle Creepy" take down Johnson twice in the last round, seize full mount position for much of the final minute and throw down more than 40 unanswered punches, with referee Leon Roberts hovering nearby, looking for reason to pull McCall off. "Mighty Mouse" sure didn't look like a superhero to the Aussie fans when the horn sounded, and maybe they were on to something.
An hour later, UFC president Dana White began the post-fight press conference with a deep sigh and some ominous words: "We have another controversy." It seems that one of the judges' scorecards had not been tabulated correctly by the fight commission -- Sal D'Amato's 10-8 for McCall in the third round had been marked as a 10-9. Once corrected, the bout was scored a majority draw.
The UFC had made a provision for the possibility of a draw, having the tournament fighters agree to go a fourth round if their bout was deadlocked after three. But that wasn't going to happen an hour after the fight had ended. So it goes into the books as a draw. And the UFC must book Johnson-McCall II.
"I thought I had the victory," said Johnson (14-2-1). "It sucks."
McCall (11-2-1), who with Benavidez and Johnson having been toiling in the UFC's 135-pound weight class was widely ranked as the world's top flyweight, saw the turn of events differently, as you might expect. "Things happen," he said. "We'll put on a show again."
One big fan of the rematch is Benavidez, who doesn't seem to mind waiting. "My initial feeling is I'm pretty excited to see that fight again," he said. "It was awesome."
It was. While Benavidez was the most dominant victor and Kampmann made the biggest UFC comeback since, well, since last weekend's Tim Boetsch turnaround against Yushin Okami, Johnson and McCall put on a seesaw battle that you might call a thrill a minute if you didn't mind making it sound slower-paced than it was. Indeed, the most arduous job of the night had to be keeping tabs of the striking statistics for FightMetric or CompuStrike, as the punches and kicks were coming nonstop in a blur of assaults.
The same might be said for the other flyweight bout, except that the assault was all Benavidez's. As for Urushitani (19-5-6), who vacated his Shooto championship to fight in the UFC's tournament, what he brought to the table was the blur -- in his eyes after he was knocked senseless. "I felt like I was going to bring power to this division," said Benavidez. "That's the first thing people say: 'It's not going to have power; these guys don't finish.' I was rockin' everyone at (135) and not quite putting them down. So I think that's just a sign of things to come now for me in the flyweight division."
Speaking of a sign of things to come, Kampmann had high hopes after his main event win. Bruised and bloodied in his post-fight interview in the cage, he said he has his sights set on interim welterweight champion Carlos Condit. It might seem preposterous for a guy who'd just been on the verge of defeat, and who'd lost two of his previous three fights, to call out a belt holder. But Kampmann's two most recent losses, to Diego Sanchez and Jake Shields, both were fights a lot of people think he won, and prior to being derailed by cageside judges, the Dane had won four of five, a streak that included a win over Condit. "I know he'd want to get a chance to avenge that loss he got against me," said Kampmann. "So let's go."
That bout probably won't happen, but Kampmann (19-5) did resuscitate his UFC career in a way that Alves (19-9), a loser of four of his last six bouts, could not. Sometimes opportunity knocks, and sometimes the door slams in your face.
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