This weekend sees a rare UFC Fight Night card with a title fight as its main event, as Joseph Benavidez faces off with Deiveson Figueiredo for the vacant UFC Flyweight title in Norfolk, Virginia. Unfortunately for the fans, this is about as close to a boxing card as you’ll get from the UFC; there are a couple of intriguing fights on the undercard, but nothing that’s likely to affect any title pictures. Thankfully UFC 248 – a genuinely huge card – is on tap for a week later, so there you go.
Here are the predicted outcomes for UFC Fight Night 169: Benavidez vs. Figueiredo.
#1 Joseph Benavidez vs. Deiveson Figueiredo
After Henry Cejudo defeated Marlon Moraes to become the UFC’s latest double champion, it seemed pretty obvious that he’d never defend his Flyweight crown again, and with that in mind, it’s tricky to understand why it took the UFC so long to simply come to an understanding with him with regards to dropping the title and crowning a new champion.
Well, over a year after the last Flyweight title fight – Cejudo’s knockout of TJ Dillashaw – here we are. At least there’s no question that both men deserve this opportunity; ignoring a contentious split decision loss to Sergio Pettis, Joseph Benavidez has only ever lost to one man at 125lbs – Demetrious Johnson – and he also holds a win over Cejudo, while Deiveson Figueiredo has just one loss to his name too, dropping a decision to Jussier Formiga in 2019.
This will be Benavidez’s 3rd attempt at claiming UFC gold following two failed attempts against Johnson, so can ‘Joe-B-Wan’ finally get his hands on the big prize? In all honesty, he has to be the favorite coming in. Not only does he have far more experience against high-level opponents than his Brazilian foe, but he also knocked out Formiga last year, just two months after Formiga had beaten Figueiredo.
MMA math doesn’t always work, but in this case, it does appear to bode well for Benavidez. If Formiga had simply used his wrestling to beat ‘The God of War’ then that’d be one thing, but in actuality, the Brazilian struck with Figueiredo for portions of the fight too and had no problem in simply avoiding his power shots and landing counters to set up his takedowns.
Not only is Benavidez a much better striker than Formiga – he’s knocked him out twice, after all – but he’s also a superior wrestler, even if his skill at controlling an opponent from the back isn’t quite on the level of the Brazilian’s. So, does that mean Figueiredo has no chance? Well, not exactly.
The issue for Benavidez here is that he’s now 35 years old, and he’s also been fighting for ages – since 2006 to be exact. The general rule is that top fighters tend to fall off after around a decade at the top, and ‘Joe-B-Wan’ of course debuted in the WEC back in 2008 – just over a decade ago. So while he looked amazing against Formiga a year ago, it’s hard to tell when a sudden decline could begin. After all, he certainly looked a little slower in that loss to Pettis.
Then there’s the fact that Figueiredo appears to hit harder than any other 125lber on the roster. The Brazilian is a huge, ripped Flyweight who throws insane power into his shots, and we saw that when he knocked out the tough John Moraga back in 2018. And while Benavidez throws with good technique, he is susceptible to exchanging bombs at times, which could be a mistake against a guy who hits as hard as ‘The God of War’.
I’m favoring Benavidez here; overall the styles seem to mesh well for him, he has far more experience and the main event slot and the fact that a title is on the line won’t affect him as it could Figueiredo, but I’d certainly give the Brazilian a puncher’s chance. Overall though, I think Benavidez works him over and takes a late stoppage to pick up his first major title.