It ended exactly the way the first meeting did: with Demetrious Johnson having his hand raised in victory.
But this time that meant something.
What it meant was that Johnson, by winning a unanimous decision over Ian McCall in the main event of UFC on FX 3 on Friday night in Sunrise, Fla., has secured a spot in the first flyweight championship bout in the MMA promotion's history.
That made "Mighty Mouse" the happiest 125-pound man around. The second happiest? That'd surely be Joseph Benavidez, who has been frozen in time since early March, when he knocked out Yasuhiro Urushitani in the four-man tournament's other semifinal to earn a spot in the inaugural title fight. That same night in Sydney, the first Johnson-McCall meeting turned into theater of the absurd. After a tight three rounds, Johnson was announced as the winner. But then a member of the Australian fight commission sheepishly appeared at the post-fight press conference to reveal that he'd erred in tabulating the judges' scores. The fight was a majority draw, and it was too late to trigger the UFC's contingency plan: a tiebreaking fourth round. So there'd have to be a rematch.
Not that that was a bad thing, as inconvenient as it was for the UFC and its tourney. The flyweights are poetry in motion -- poetry written while at the wheel of a Formula 1 race car. I mean, if you DVR'd the FX telecast of Friday's main event, view it at real speed only to be awed and have your hair blown back. To catch the nuances, try watching in slow motion. That'll make it look like Johnson (15-2-1) and McCall (11-3-1) are tussling at the actual speed of the all-heavyweight main card the UFC put on two weeks ago. Those 10 big guys, by the way, averaged 248.5 pounds, which is around the combined weight of Friday's main event fighters.
The only thing lighter than these fighters was the crowd, which numbered just 6,635 at 22,000-seat BankAtlantic Center. That prompted an entertaining rant by UFC president Dana White, who told the South Florida media at the post-fight press conference, "I'm not saying we're never coming back, but it's going to be a while. Hope you guys like Vegas."
The thousands who didn't show up missed a masterful performance by Johnson. It would be an exaggeration to say he was dominant, but he controlled the fight by dictating where it took place. His striking was as effective as it was three months ago, maybe even more so, since he dropped McCall with a short right hand in the first round. At the same time, Demetrious nullified the wrestling advantage "Uncle Creepy" had last time. According to FightMetric, the keeper of official UFC statistics, McCall was successful on only 1 of 11 takedown attempts. My eyes saw him put Johnson on the ground more than that, but it's not worth arguing over, because McCall simply could not keep the fight there. Whereas in the first meeting McCall was on top of Johnson for much of the third round, nearly getting a ground-and-pound stoppage, in the rematch he was unable to impose his muscle. Or his will.
That's not to diminish the fight Demetrious was in. "Toughest guy I've ever fought in the UFC," Johnson, who's been in the octagon with bantamweight champ Dominic Cruz and ex-champ Miguel Torres when he was toiling in their weight class. "(McCall's) tougher than Dom, all the guys I fought at 135."
Next up, Johnson gets someone who might be even tougher. Benavidez (16-2) has won four straight since a split-decision loss to Cruz, who also handed him his other defeat. He's a handful. But Johnson can't wait to get his mitts on him. "I'm looking forward to it, man," he said. "Joseph, he's a killer. I like that guy. It's going to be a great fight between me and him."
One person who'll be watching is McCall, who wouldn't mind turning this speed dating with Johnson into a trilogy. "I'm going to go beat up everybody else," he said. "If he beats Joe, then we'll have three."