Beneil Dariush picked up a huge win over No. 5-ranked contender Michael Johnson, but to say the split decision was contentious may be understating it.
Dariush landed a plethora of jabs and kicks over the three rounds, but Johnson was very active with combinations. That includes nearly dropping Dariush in the opening round.
In the end, it goes down as a victory for the Iranian. It will undoubtedly move him into the top-10 of the division, and with that, comes potential opportunities for title eliminators. Johnson will not lose much ground after the questionable decision, but it is still a setback.
What was learned from the lightweight tilt? Let’s have a look.
What We’ll Remember About this Fight
The most memorable portion of this fight was when Johnson nearly knocked Dariush down. Dariush managed to stay upright ultimately, but it was the biggest strike of the fight.
Other than that, there wasn’t much to remember about this fight. It was technical and interesting, but not memorable. Dariush utilized a quick jab and leg kicks while Johnson’s continual combinations and pressure created most of the offense in the fight.
What We Learned About Beneil Dariush
We learned he is not outmatched against the upper echelon of the division. He ascended into the top-15 and his reward was a fight against someone in the top-five. He performed well.
Dariush will learn a lot from this experience. Johnson was much faster than he was, and he couldn’t get in for a takedown. Even still, he held his own and picked up the win.
What We Learned About Michael Johnson
We learned that Johnson is a legitimate contender in this division. It will officially go down as a loss, but he shouldn’t be dropped too far in the lightweight rankings.
Johnson had been submitted by lesser opposition such as Reza Madadi but rebounded with four straight wins over credible opponents. It put him in the top-five, but there were definitely still questions regarding his legitimacy as a contender.
He put those to rest in this performance. His takedown defense was on point, and his combinations made it difficult for Dariush in each round. Johnson is a formidable foe for anyone at 155 pounds. His work with the Blackzilians has transformed him into an elite lightweight.
What’s Next for Beneil Dariush
After beating the No. 5-ranked contender, Dariush will have to fight someone significant. Looking at the rankings, the name that pops right up is Edson Barboza.
Barboza is someone whom Johnson previously defeated and offers similar problems for Dariush. It will be a good stylistic matchup to either right a wrong or prove Dariush can handle this type of fighter. It makes sense in the division and could possibly lead to a title tilt should the stars align.
What’s Next for Michael Johnson
After the disappointing loss, Johnson has to go back in the pecking order just a bit. He should fight the winner of Reza Madadi vs. Norman Parke.
If Madadi wins, Johnson has a chance to get vindication from a poor performance. Should he fight Parke, it’s a fun stylistic matchup that fans should enjoy. It’s a win-win for the UFC and a great way to give Johnson a favorable matchup.
Even still, the UFC has a deep roster of lightweights to pick from. It would be hard to miss having a good fight for Johnson in his return bout.
Read more MMA news on BleacherReport.com