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Joseph Benavidez’s Quest to be Sacramento’s King of UFC

No pressure when the ace of Team Alpha Male steps into the cage on Saturday night at UFC on FOX 9 at Arco Arena in Sacramento against UFC Flyweight champion Demetrious Johnson, right?

“It’s already a fight, it’s intense enough. I don’t need to bring any emotion in.”

Those words, from a recent Sherdog interview, echo the mentality of a fighter who is comfortable in his own skin and ready to serve revenge against his rival who beat him 15 months ago by split decision to crown a new UFC Flyweight champion. Johnson has maintained his perch on top with impressive wins over John Dodson & John Moraga. Benavidez has three wins in 2013 — against Ian McCall, Darren Uyenoyama, and Jussier Formiga.

Benavidez, look to avenge his decision loss to Mighty Mouse, caught a big break when their fight was shifted from the November 30th Mandalay Bay Events Center card in Las Vegas to Arco Arena in Sacramento. Sacramento is Team Alpha Male turf. Benavidez is fighting in the biggest bout of his life on home soil and in the main event slot of a Fox broadcast event.

“I feel like I’m calling all my buddies and we’re going to jump some dudes. … And it’s like four of us going to Arco (Arena) to do it in front of a bunch of people. That’s how I’m looking at it, man. Just another day and another fight. I get to wake up in my home, you know, and go over there and it’s just like practice happens to be at the arena today and I’m sparring this Demetrious guy. Just trying to look at it like another fight.”

Fighting at home has its benefits.

“It just added, you know, a little extra excitement.”

Living up to expectations

Make no mistake about it — the pressure will build as he enters the cage to defend his honor, his team’s honor, and Sacramento’s supportive fight fans against the indefatigable technical machine who seems impossible to slow down.

Rather than obsess about the point loss to Johnson, Benavidez has taken an “onwards and upwards” climb back into title contention. Ask him whether or not he’s dwelled on the UFC 152 fight and his answer is a flat out no.

“I just watched it once and moved on, man,” Benavidez quipped to TJ De Santis of Sherdog. “It’s not something I really wanted to do. You’ve got to have a short memory in this sport and you can’t dwell on things. I know what he does well from his other fights but it’s like, you know, I’ve got to just forget about that. I know I didn’t fight to my best…

“It’s just a hard thing for me to watch.”

There is one big change today in Joe Benavidez’s career as compared to when he fought Mighty Mouse 15 months — a new coach in Duane “Bang” Ludwig.

“What we’ve done at Team Alpha Male is totally, you know, turn our routine and our structure over here 180 (degrees) with a new coach and that’s not something that happens between fights every year. It’s pretty rare and obviously I think it’s been a good training camp.”

In other words, Benavidez has changed up his game. Or so he claims. It’s up to Mighty Mouse to figure out the puzzle. Benavidez thinks he has a pretty good clue what kind of game plan Demetrious Johnson will use in the cage on Saturday night. The question is whether or not he can stop it from being executed.

Heading into their UFC 152 bout, Benavidez was the favorite. For Saturday night’s Sacramento fight, Johnson is a very slight favorite. The betting public has tons of respect for Benavidez and it comes as no surprise that perhaps some punters will be expected home cooking with the judges assigned to the show by the California State Athletic Commission. Wade Vierra, Ed Collantes, Michael Bell, and Marcos Rosales are the judges booked for the show. Vierra was involved in the controversial decision of the Ben Henderson/Gilbert Melendez fight. Ed Collantes is the top boxing referee in Northern California. Marcos Rosales is a veteran who has drawn heat from hardcore MMA fans. Michael Bell rolls at Big John McCarthy’s gym and is one of Andy Foster’s up-and-coming MMA referees.

If Joseph Benavidez wants to remove all doubt in obtaining victory in this fight, he should listen to the words of his promoter Dana White.

“Don’t let it go to the judges.”

If it goes to the score cards, it’s more than likely that Demetrious Johnson will walk out of Arco Arena with the Flyweight title belt. He’s that damn good of a technical point fighter.