"This means the world to me," Johnson said. "But I have to improve upon a lot of things. I'll go home, rest and get ready for the next battle."
Johnson, who was unsuccessful in his first attempt at becoming a UFC champion when Dominick Cruz claimed a decision victory over him last year, scored on five takedown attempts against Benavidez.
"Joe is a great competitor," Johnson said. "I trained hard. I've dedicated my life to this sport."
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After out-landing Benavidez, 110-80, and stuffing all of the Team Alpha Male fighters' takedown attempts, "Mighty Mouse" was a little surprised to hear the verdict was a split decision. Johnson also landed 49 kicks to just 18 by Benavidez.
"I took him down more, I controlled him," Johnson said. "But the judges are doing their jobs, and I'm doing my job; and that's to fight."
Benavidez became the third member of Team Alpha Male to be denied a UFC title this year, as Urijah Faber and Chad Mendes were unsuccessful in their fights, as well.
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