LOS ANGELES – As the seconds were counting down to end the second round of the bantamweight bout between ninth-ranked Pedro Munhoz and No. 14 Brett Johns on Saturday, the UFC 227 crowd at Staples Center stood and roared in unison.
Johns and Munhoz stood near the cage and exchanged punches like Rock ’Em Sock ’Em robots. Munhoz had battered Johns for much of the round. He kicked Johns in the midsection and Johns went down in agony, but he got up to fight back.
Munhoz kicked at Johns’ left leg repeatedly until it could no longer bear his weight and he collapsed on it. Munhoz followed him to the ground and beat on him. Johns got to his feet and spent the final 45 seconds trading with Munhoz, much to the crowd’s delight.
Munhoz hurt Johns badly with another kick to the midsection early in the third, but Johns’ toughness saved him again. He managed to grapple for the final several minutes and made it to the bell.
In the end, it didn’t matter much, as Munhoz took a unanimous decision by scores of 30-26, 29-28 and 29-27.
But it was a great display of toughness from Johns, who was barely able to walk down the steps following the bout to exit the cage. He had an agonized look on his face and tears were welling in his eyes as he was helped by his corner to the locker room, but he did not give in.
“I was very surprised I didn’t get the finish after I had him hurt badly a few times but, man, Brett Johns is a really tough guy,” Munhoz said.
Munhoz was brilliant in many ways, but he could have finished the bout on several occasions and failed to do so. Both times when he kicked Johns in the midsection and crumpled him, Munhoz followed Johns to the floor, but inexplicably never delivered a punch to the body.
It was, though, a thoroughly entertaining fight and one that brought UFC owner Ari Emanuel out of his seat to applaud robustly at the end of the second round.
The bout sent a shockwave of energy throughout the arena just as the preliminary bouts ended. Munhoz got a hard-fought and well-deserved victory, but Johns proved he’s one of the toughest man in the world with that gritty and determined effort.
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