It was trying as if Joseph Benavidez may simply get the job completed. Early on in his Feb. 29 combat with Deiveson Figueiredo, Benavidez seemed sharp. He escaped a submission menace within the opening minutes and, after getting the combat again to standing, was touchdown laborious, straight punches that began to have an impact. Earlier than the primary spherical was over, Figueiredo, who had missed weight, was slowing down a bit. Was Benavidez’s third shot on the UFC flyweight belt going to lastly make him a champion?
The reply got here lower than two minutes into Spherical 2, and it got here abruptly and harshly. Because the fighters moved towards one another in an trade of winging punches, there was a conflict of heads. Benavidez took a step backward, and there was blood from a reduce above his left eye. Moments later, proper after Benavidez wiped blood from his face, Figueiredo got here at him with an overhand proper that completed the combat.
Now, lower than 5 months later, they’re at it once more. Maybe due to Figueiredo lacking weight final time or maybe due to the fluky head conflict, the UFC has granted Benavidez one other shot at Figueiredo and the vacant 125-pound title. The belt was vacant due to a transfer to bantamweight by the since-retired Henry Cejudo. This rematch headlines UFC Combat Night time on Saturday in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates. The principle card is on ESPN+, beginning at eight p.m. ET, with prelims on ESPN and ESPN+ at 5 p.m.
It is an odd flip of occasions, however the flyweight division was constructed for Benavidez, in a way. A decade in the past, he was an undersized mainstay at bantamweight, beating everybody apart from champion Dominick Cruz. Then, in 2012, the UFC launched a four-man event to crown a flyweight king. That September, the ultimate pitted Benavidez towards Demetrious Johnson, who gained a break up determination to develop into the inaugural champion.
“Mighty Mouse” reigned for six years, together with a first-round knockout of Benavidez of their 2013 rematch. Nonetheless, Benavidez (28-6, 15-Four within the UFC) remained the No. 2 125-pounder for years.
Figueiredo (18-1, 7-1 UFC) might have made the division his personal in February if not for the burden miss. And this time he has needed to overcome a special type of impediment. The 32-year-old Brazilian examined constructive for COVID-19 on July 10, placing the combat in jeopardy, however subsequent checks got here again unfavorable. Figueiredo’s supervisor, Wallid Ismail, says he believes the primary take a look at was a false constructive attributable to Figueiredo having the virus in Might.
So right here they’re, Figueiredo and Benavidez united once more, with every man having come to Combat Island searching for to writer a brand new chapter in his private narrative. Time to show the web page.
By the numbers
2: Fighters who’ve been granted a UFC title shot after going 0-Three in championship bouts. Benavidez is the second, and the opposite is Urijah Faber, who additionally misplaced in his fourth attempt at a belt.
31: Vital strikes landed by Benavidez in Spherical 1 of the primary Figueiredo combat. He linked with greater than twice as many as Figueiredo (15).
0: Brazilian males who’ve held a UFC title since Jose Aldo was dethroned at featherweight in June 2017. Since then, Brazilian males are 1-6 in championship fights, with the one winner being Figueiredo in February (when he was ineligible to win the belt).
7: Wins by Figueiredo since his UFC debut in 2017, probably the most for a flyweight throughout that span. His 5 finishes are also probably the most for a 125-pounder since he joined the promotion.
13: Flyweight victories by Benavidez, tying him with ex-champion Demetrious Johnson for probably the most in division historical past.
Sources: ESPN Stats & Info and UFC Stats
5 vs. 5
Deiveson Figueiredo’s most up-to-date outcomes
Win: Joseph Benavidez (TKO2, Feb. 29; watch on ESPN+)
Win: Tim Elliott (SUB1, Oct. 12; watch on ESPN+)
Win: Alexandre Pantoja (UD, July 27; watch on ESPN+)
Loss: Jussier Formiga (UD, March 23, 2019; watch on ESPN+)
Win: John Moraga (TKO2, Aug. 25, 2018)
Joseph Benavidez’s most up-to-date outcomes
Loss: Deiveson Figueiredo (TKO2, Feb. 29; watch on ESPN+)
Win: Jussier Formiga (TKO2, June 29, 2019; watch on ESPN+)
Win: Dustin Ortiz (UD, Jan. 19, 2019; watch on ESPN+)
Win: Alex Perez (TKO1, Nov. 30, 2018)
Loss: Sergio Pettis (SD, June 9, 2018)
And the winner is …
Contemplating that Figueiredo stopped Benavidez with one devastating punch of their first assembly in February, it will make sense to lean towards the Brazilian within the rematch. However nothing is sensible within the flyweight division, which has been hanging on by a thread for years. For a lot of that point, Benavidez has been a transparent No. 2 who couldn’t fairly get his palms on the brass ring. It is time for that run of frustration to return to an finish. Although this is likely to be an unbelievable time for it to occur, that makes it an applicable subsequent twist for the 125-pound division. Benavidez was trying good towards Figueiredo till a conflict of heads left him open for that ending punch. This time — in his fourth shot on the belt — he will get the job completed. Benavidez by fourth-round TKO.
Saturday’s combat schedule
ESPN+, eight p.m. ET
Deiveson Figueiredo vs. Joseph Benavidez | Males’s flyweight
Jack Hermansson vs. Kelvin Gastelum | Middleweight
Marc Diakiese vs. Rafael Fiziev | Light-weight
Ariane Lipski vs. Luana Carolina | Ladies’s flyweight
Alexandre Pantoja vs. Askar Askarov | Males’s flyweight
ESPN/ESPN+, 5 p.m. ET
Khadis Ibragimov vs. Roman Dolidze | Mild heavyweight
Grant Dawson vs. Nad Narimani | Catchweight (150 kilos)
Joe Duffy vs. Joel Alvarez | Light-weight
Brett Johns vs. Montel Jackson | Males’s bantamweight
Malcolm Gordon vs. Amir Albazi | Males’s flyweight
Davi Ramos vs. Arman Tsarukyan | Light-weight
Serghei Spivac vs. Carlos Felipe | Heavyweight
What else to search for … past the principle occasion
Co-main combatants searching for a turnaround
The middleweight co-main occasion between Jack Hermansson and Kelvin Gastelum pits two fighters coming off disappointment.
Hermansson (20-5, 7-Three within the UFC), a local of Sweden who fights out of Oslo, Norway, noticed a four-fight profitable streak finish in September. What’s worse, the combat was in Copenhagen, in entrance of a lot of his Scandinavian followers.
Gastelum (16-5, 1 NC; 10-5, 1 NC UFC) has misplaced two in a row, together with an interim title combat towards Israel Adesanya in April 2019.
Listed here are some causes for hope for every man:
For Hermansson: His 2.57 strike differential is the very best in UFC middleweight historical past (minimal 5 fights) and he holds the division document for most vital strikes landed in a five-round combat (148 vs. Ronaldo “Jacare” Souza final 12 months).
For Gastelum: That is his seventh straight important or co-main occasion, and he has gained postfight bonuses for 4 of his previous six bouts, together with the loss to Adesanya. He is at all times bringing a combat.
5 extra issues to know (from ESPN Stats & Info)
1. The principle occasion will not be the night time’s solely essential flyweight combat. In the principle card opener, Alexandre Pantoja, who’s No. 6 within the ESPN 125-pound rankings, takes on seventh-ranked Askar Askarov, who’s undefeated. Pantoja is 4-1 in his previous 5 fights, the lone loss coming in a fight-of-the-night efficiency towards Deiveson Figueiredo final July.
2. Ariane “Queen of Violence” Lipski has the excellence of being the one ladies’s flyweight champion within the historical past of the KSW MMA group. Lipski gained the title in Might 2017 by way of a first-round submission and defended it twice earlier than vacating to affix the UFC.
3. In his earlier combat, Montel Jackson landed 11 takedowns en path to a unanimous determination victory. That takedown complete tied him for second most in a UFC bantamweight combat with Merab Dvalishvili and Jackson’s opponent on Saturday, Brett Johns. Johns did it in his UFC debut in November 2016.
4. Saturday’s occasion will proceed the worldwide really feel of the Combat Island playing cards. The 24 fighters symbolize 13 international locations: the USA, Brazil, Norway, England, Kyrgyzstan, Russia, Georgia, Eire, Spain, Wales, Canada, Sweden and Moldova.
5. Roman Dolidze, Malcolm Gordon, Amir Albazi and Carlos Felipe are making their UFC debuts. Fighters making their debut are 20-27 in 2020, and each earlier Combat Island occasions have seen 4 fighters make their UFC debut. Earlier than this journey to Abu Dhabi, the final time there have been that many debuting fighters on a card was final August at UFC Combat Night time: Andrade vs. Zhang in Shenzhen, China.
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