Tim Elliott’s best effort was not nearly good enough.
Demetrious Johnson scored with takedowns, scrambled into advantageous positions and shredded his opponent’s defenses with unending guard passes, as he retained the Ultimate Fighting Championship flyweight crown in “The Ultimate Fighter 24” Finale headliner on Saturday at the Palms Casino Resort in Las Vegas. Johnson swept the scorecards with 49-46, 49-46 and 49-45 marks from the judges.
The five-round five was not without its share of unexpected drama. Elliott (13-7-1, 2-5 UFC) had “Mighty Mouse” in real danger in the first round, where he freed himself from an armbar, caught a tight guillotine and transitioned to a brabo choke. Johnson kept his composure, escaped to his feet and pitched a shutout from there. Elliott emptied his gun in a bid to dethrone the champion, utilizing a quirky standup approach, Donkey Kong hammerfists and even open-handed palm strikes. He was game but ultimately outclassed. Johnson spent the majority of the second, third, fourth and fifth rounds in top position, floating from half guard and side mount to the north-south position, the back and the topside crucifix. Only Elliott’s airtight submission defense prevented the finish, as “The Ultimate Fighter” Season 24 winner withstood the champion’s attempts at rear-naked chokes, straight armbars and kimuras to see the final bell (online betting).
The 5-foot-3 Johnson (25-2-1, 13-1-1 UFC) has rattled off 11 consecutive wins and towers above the rest of the flyweight division.
Benavidez Edges Rival Cejudo
Elevation Fight Team’s Joseph Benavidez withstood a knockdown, benefitted from a point deduction and earned a split decision over 2008 Olympic gold medalist Henry Cejudo in the flyweight co-main event. Judges Glenn Trowbridge and Derek Cleary scored it 30-26 and 29-27 for Benavidez, while Marcos Rosales cast a dissenting 29-27 nod for Cejudo.
Neither man seemed interested in giving ground to the other. The result was a 15-minute barnburner. Cejudo (10-2, 4-2 UFC) dropped the Duane Ludwig protégé with a left hook in Round 1 but saw his good work erased when he was docked a point for a pair of low blows. The two rivals went back and forth in the second and third rounds. Cejudo worked over his rival’s body with punches and kicks, while Benavidez (25-4, 12-2 UFC) answered with sustained punching bursts, knees and leg kicks.
Benavidez, 32, has won six fights in a row.
Masvidal-Ellenberger Ends in Bizarre Finish
American Top Team mainstay Jorge Masvidal was awarded a technical knockout when Jake Ellenberger’s big toe became entangled in the fence in the first round of their featured battle at 170 pounds. Referee Herb Dean called for a pause to the action, consulted the Nevada Athletic Commission and then signaled the stoppage 4:05 into Round 1.
Masvidal (31-11, 8-4 UFC) appeared to be headed for a clear-cut victory prior to the bizarre finish. He zeroed in on Ellenberger’s legs with kicks and had him in full retreat with left hooks to the body and knees upstairs. “The Juggernaut” briefly collapsed at the base of the cage, even as Dean hovered above deciding whether or not to intervene. Ellenberger (31-12, 10-8 UFC) survived but later charged across the Octagon, lost his balance and slid into the fence.
Cannonier Subdues Hulking Cutelaba
Jared Cannonier made a successful transition to 205 pounds, as he pocketed a unanimous decision over Ion Cutelaba in a three-round light heavyweight showcase. All three cageside judges arrived at the same verdict: 29-28 for Cannonier (9-1, 2-1 UFC).
Cutelaba (12-3, 1-2 UFC) uncorked body-head combinations and secured two takedowns inside the first five minutes but pushed a pace he could not keep. Cannonier turned the corner in Round 2, where he put together basic but effective two- and three-punch combinations before scrambling into top position and cutting loose with some ground-and-pound. By the time the third round arrived, Cutelaba was a spent force and resorted to winging wild punches in desperation. Cannonier blasted him with probing right hands from distance and crushing uppercuts in close, as he pulled away down the stretch.
McMann Choke Submits Davis
Sara McMann submitted fellow former title contender Alexis Davis with a second-round arm-triangle choke in a featured women’s bantamweight clash. In her first appearance since April 25, 2015, Davis (17-7, 4-2 UFC) conceded defeat 2:52 into Round 2.
McMann (10-3, 4-3 UFC) sailed through some choppy seas. The 2004 Olympic silver medalist executed a takedown in the first round but wandered into the Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt’s venomous guard. Davis cut loose with high-guard elbows that left the South Carolinian with significant damage to her left eye. McMann was undeterred. She scored with a hip toss early in the middle stanza, passed to half guard and framed the arm-triangle. McMann then cleared Davis’ legs, tightened her squeeze and coaxed the tapout.
A 24-fight veteran, Davis had never before been submitted.
Surging Moreno Edges Benoit
Well-conceived takedowns and sharp combination punching spurred Brandon Moreno to a split decision over Ryan Benoit in a three-round flyweight showcase. All three cageside judges scored it 29-28: Junichiro Kamijo and Jeff Mullen for Moreno, Rick Winter for Benoit.
Moreno (13-3, 2-0 UFC) operated behind an active jab, countered beautifully throughout and integrated takedowns when the situation called for them. Benoit (9-5, 2-3 UFC) had a brief window of opportunity in the second round, where he knocked down the off-balance Entram Gym prospect with a looping left hook. Moreno withstood the impact, returned to his feet and got back to business.
The 22-year-old Moreno has recorded 10 consecutive victories.