In terms of quality action, UFC Fight Night 172: Figueiredo vs. Benavidez 2 was probably the best of the three ‘Fight Island’ cards we’ve been treated to thus far. From the opening prelims right up to the main event, practically every fight delivered the goods.
Whether that was through a highlight reel finish or a ton of back-and-forth action honestly didn’t matter. Every fighter on show last night deserves credit as this was one of the more memorable cards of the COVID-19 era.
Here are the best and worst moments from UFC Fight Night 172: Figueiredo vs. Benavidez 2.
#1 Best: We’ve finally got a new UFC Flyweight champ!
For a while at least, it felt like the men’s version of the UFC Flyweight title was becoming cursed. When Henry Cejudo took the title from longtime champ Demetrious Johnson in 2018 and then TKO’d reigning Bantamweight king T.J. Dillashaw in his first defense, a new era for the division seemed nigh.
But then ‘Triple C’ decided he had bigger fish to fry, moved up to 135lbs, and quickly claimed the UFC Bantamweight crown. And so the UFC Flyweight title was left dormant for the best part of a year until Cejudo decided to vacate – giving us February’s controversial meeting between Deiveson Figueiredo and Joseph Benavidez, a fight that left more questions than answers.
Well, those questions were well and truly answered last night. Unlike in February, Figueiredo made weight comfortably, and then smashed Benavidez in the opening round, choking him unconscious and leaving nothing to doubt.
And so finally, it feels like the men’s Flyweight division is back on track. After years of rumors that the UFC were ready to can the weight class altogether, every indicator points to the promotion now being behind their new champ.
Figueiredo isn’t as charismatic a champion as Cejudo, but UFC history has proved that there’s always room for a stoic, ultra-violent Brazilian to rise to stardom. Just ask Jose Aldo, Anderson Silva, and to a lesser extent, Renan Barao.
Who’s up next for the new champ? It’s unclear, as a number of challengers could step forward based on their recent records. That’s not a bad thing at all. Hopefully, Figueiredo will be an active champion who can restore some prestige to this division. All hail ‘Deus da Guerra’.
#1 Worst: Benavidez falls at the final hurdle again
The UFC is littered with the names of fighters who attempted and failed in their quest to claim a UFC title. Joseph Benavidez is arguably at the top of that list, particularly after last night saw him come up short in his fourth title bout – his fifth if you include his WEC Bantamweight title clash with Dominick Cruz in 2010.
From all reports, Benavidez is one of the nicest and most genuine fighters in MMA. Over the last decade, he’s also been one of the best. His ledger stands at 28-7, with 15 of those wins coming in the UFC. He’s beaten the likes of Henry Cejudo, Jussier Formiga, Ian McCall, and Miguel Torres – all of whom were considered the very best in the world either at 125lbs or 135lbs at one time.
And yet after this loss to Figueiredo, he’ll still be remembered as perhaps the UFC’s ultimate bridesmaid. Where does Benavidez go from here? In all honesty, it’s hard to say.
Can he get back in line for another title shot? It’s highly doubtful. Even if he were to put a strong run together, the one-sided nature of this loss means nobody would buy into the idea of him beating ‘Deus da Guerra’ anyway.
The honest likelihood is that he’ll continue to beat lower-level contenders until he ends up past his prime – which could be soon given he turns 36 in a week or so. And so, unfortunately, this tremendously talented fighter will end up as an interesting footnote in UFC history, which is extremely sad indeed.
#2 Best: Lipski lives up to her ‘Violence Queen’ nickname
Thus far into her UFC career, Flyweight Ariane Lipski hadn’t quite lived up to her ‘Violence Queen’ moniker. Prior to last night’s show, she’d gone 1-2 in the Octagon with all three of her fights going the distance. Essentially, she’d flattered to deceive.
Last night was different. Faced with fellow Brazilian Luana Carolina, Lipski came out to send a message. After dropping Carolina with a right hand, she pounced for the finish, only to find herself stuck in a potential heel hook.
That didn’t matter. Lipski instead sat down into the hold, isolated her opponent’s left leg – and hyper-extended it with a vicious kneebar. Carolina’s screams of agony were audible as she quickly tapped out. And while that may have been due to the lack of a crowd, even with fans it’s likely we would’ve heard her cry out.
A nickname like ‘The Violence Queen’ immediately springs up images of nasty knockouts, but this submission was as brutal – and as painful - as any striking combination would’ve been. It was also a thing of beauty for grappling aficionados – and will go down as one of the year’s best tap outs.
#2 Worst: What’s happened to Joseph Duffy?
2015 honestly doesn’t feel like half a decade ago, but in the fight game, all kinds of changes can happen over a period like that. Case in point is the tale of Irish Lightweight Joseph Duffy.
Signed by the UFC in early 2015 with a 12-1 record, the main selling point for ‘Irish Joe’ was a 2010 submission win over Conor McGregor. Duffy always claimed he’d love to fight ‘The Notorious One’ again, and so he set out on a quest to climb through the UFC’s ranks.
Duffy took out Jake Lindsey and Ivan Jorge in 2015 with ease. The UFC seemed to want to get behind him, and quickly put him into a fight with surging contender Dustin Poirier. That fight turned out to be a step too far for the Irishman, but he still went the distance with ‘The Diamond’, something that few others were able to do.
After that though, ‘Irish Joe’ has never quite rebounded. Sure, he won his next two fights, but between them was a layoff of almost a year. He ended 2017 with a loss – a KO at the hands of James Vick – and due to injuries, it wasn’t until March 2019 until we’d next see him in another losing effort against Marc Diakiese.
Last night was his most disappointing defeat to date. Again coming off a layoff of more than a year, Duffy was faced with a seemingly beatable foe in Joel Alvarez. And yet he was defeated just after the two-minute mark, seemingly falling right into a potentially avoidable guillotine choke.
Duffy still has clear talent, but something clearly happened to him during all those layoffs that meant he just couldn’t live up to his true potential in the UFC. He’s since announced his retirement – showing that in the cut-throat world of the UFC, time waits for no man.
#3 Best: Hermansson gets back on track with a big win
Last night’s co-main event was a compelling one in the UFC Middleweight division. Highly ranked contenders Kelvin Gastelum and Jack Hermansson were both coming off disappointing losses, but a win for either man here would’ve vaulted them right back into title contention.
In the end, it was Hermansson who came out on top. After finding himself on the bottom following a failed takedown attempt, he surprised Gastelum with a heel hook attempt. The TUF 17 winner seemed taken aback by the move and had no response before he was forced to submit at just 1:18 of the first round.
Gastelum’s high ranking prior to the fight – and the fact that he pushed current champ Israel Adesanya to the limit in 2019 – means that this probably ranks as Hermansson’s best-ever win. Particularly as Gastelum had only ever been finished once in his UFC career before.
Will the win net ‘The Joker’ a title shot? Certainly not, but it should put him in line for another big fight at 185lbs and with another win under his belt, who knows? With his length, striking power, and grappling prowess he’d make an interesting fight for Adesanya, at any rate.Published 19 Jul 2020, 15:23 IST