Joseph Benavidez believes he deserves a third crack at Demetrious Johnson.
Ali Bagautinov wants to prove he is not a dirty fighter.
The two flyweights will headline this Saturday’s UFC 192 prelim card, as the bout anchors the FOX Sports 1 broadcast.
The 31-year-old Benavidez (22-4) has suffered four losses in his MMA career, and they have come at the hands of two men. Twice before, Johnson, the reigning UFC flyweight champion, has bested the Team Alpha Male fighter.
Back in 2012, Johnson scored a split decision victory in the finals of the first-ever flyweight tournament. A year later, “Mighty Mouse” handed Benavidez his first and only knockout loss to date.
Those other two losses came in the WEC, as Dominick Cruz earned three- and five-round decisions.
Other than that, Benavidez has looked the part of a champion himself. He’s currently on a three-fight win streak that includes back-to-back decisions over John Moraga and Dustin Ortiz.
Overall, he’s 6-1 in his last seven, having also bested the likes of Jussier Formiga and Ian McCall.
But to try and secure that third meeting with Johnson, Benavidez will have to go through a motivated Bagautinov.
The 30-year-old from Russia was dealt a loss at the hands of the champion in 2014 and a one-year suspension by the British Columbia Athletic Commission after testing positive for erythropoietin.
Bagautinov (13-3) pushed Johnson to the distance, but never really threatened him. He was unable to showcase the same skills that earned him the title shot after wins over John Lineker, Tim Elliott and Marcos Vinicus.
Now, with the sting of a failed drug tested added to his first defeat since 2011, Bagautinov knows he must make an impact in Houston.
Other key prelim fights of note include a women’s strawweight affair between Rose Namajunas and Angela Hill (also on FS1), and the Octagon debut of prospect Sage Northcutt vs. Francisco Trevino – which begins the night on UFC Fight Pass.