UFC takeaways: Sad seeing Benavidez get crushed by Figueiredo

UFC-flyweight-Joseph-Benavidez-speaks-during-a-press-conference

UFC flyweight Joseph Benavidez speaks during a press conference. (Matthew Sherwood/CP)

Joseph Benavidez might one day find himself in the UFC Hall of Fame, although he’ll be one of the rare fighters to get there without ever having won a title.

Benavidez was submitted for the first time in his mixed martial arts career Saturday night when he was choked unconscious by new flyweight champion Deiveson Figueiredo.

The longtime fan favourite fell to 0-5 all-time in title fights and this one came in particularly devastating fashion.

Benavidez was dropped by a counter right hook just 45 seconds into the fight but gutted it out for four more minutes. He was dropped two additional times and fought off several tight rear-naked choke attempts before Figueiredo put him to sleep with 12 seconds remaining in the first round.

It was one of the most one-sided beatdowns you’re likely to see while watching a UFC event.

Benavidez has been fighting elite-level competition since debuting in the WEC more than a decade ago and came oh so close to wrapping a gold belt around his waist.

Benavidez fought Dominick Cruz for the WEC bantamweight championship in 2010 but lost a split decision. He fought Demetrious Johnson for the inaugural UFC flyweight title in 2012 but lost a split decision. He was knocked out by Johnson in their rematch 14 months later and was knocked out by Figueiredo earlier this year in February.

The soon-to-be 36-year-old was emotional during his post-fight media availability Saturday when he said he realizes he’s “not gonna get another title shot” and that retirement is around the corner.

The Las Cruces, N.M., native added that he still wants another fight before stepping away from the sport because he’s “not going out like that.”

Benavidez is highly respected in the MMA community and widely regarded as one of the best fighters in UFC history to never win a title.

Hermansson lays out ideal scenario for middleweight division

Jack Hermansson made quick work of Kelvin Gastelum, submitting The Ultimate Fighter 17 winner with a heel hook in just 78 seconds. The win means he remains a threat near the top of the 185-pound division. The Oslo, Norway native is 21-5 and was ranked as the No. 6 contender in the weight class heading into Saturday.

There is plenty of intrigue at middleweight these days. Israel Adesanya is expected to defend his title against Paulo Costa at UFC 253 in September. In his post-fight interview, Hermansson laid out how he sees the division unfolding in the next little while.

He said wants the winner of next week’s main event between former champion Robert Whittaker and rising contender Darren Till. That would make sense. He then said No. 3-ranked Jared Cannonier, who beat Hermansson by TKO last September, should fight the winner of Adesanya-Costa. That also makes sense. Then whoever emerges from his hypothetical matchup with Whittaker or Till would be next in line.

All that makes sense, on paper at least, but we’ll have to see how it plays out.

Askarov could be next in line at flyweight

Askar Askarov remained undefeated in MMA after picking up a hard-fought unanimous decision win over Alexandre Pantoja. Askarov (12-0-1) defended three Pantoja submission attempts in the first minute of the opening round but eventually went on the offensive and did more over the course of the final two rounds to get the nod on all three judges scorecards.

Just like lightweight champion Khabib Nurmagomedov, Askarov is a dominant wrestler from Dagestan with an unmatched work ethic. If Askarov isn’t next in line for Figueiredo then perhaps that opportunity will go to Brandon Moreno who’s currently ranked third in the division.

Moreno lost to Pantoja in 2018, but since MMA math doesn’t always make sense that might not factor into the UFC’s decision. Moreno and Askarov fought to a split draw last September in Mexico City. Those two could always fight again, this time in a title eliminator, with the winner getting a shot at Figueiredo.

Tsarukyan a name to keep an eye on at lightweight

We’ve seen a number of high-ceiling prospects compete on these Fight Island cards and Arman Tsarukyan added his name to the list after earning a unanimous decision win over ADCC World Championships gold medallist Davi Ramos.

Tsarukyan (15-2) has some excellent wrestling and became the first person to complete a takedown on Ramos, while also defending submissions with ease. He looks like he could be a real player at lightweight in the coming years.

His only loss in the past five years was a decision to No. 11-ranked Islam Makhachev in a Fight of the Night performance in his UFC debut last April. The 23-year-old rebounded with an impressive win over standout Canadian Olivier Aubin-Mercier and showed improvements against Ramos, displaying a nice mix of grappling and striking.

Dolidze makes statement in debut

Roman Dolidze said he didn’t like the way in which Khadis Ibragimov stared him down during Friday’s weigh-ins and he made him pay for it in the featured preliminary bout Saturday.

Dolidze improved to 7-0 in MMA by knocking out Ibragimov in the first round of their light-heavyweight encounter. Dolidze’s left knee connected flush on Ibragimov’s chin when he was throwing a high kick and that was that.

The 32-year-old native of Batumi, Georgia has won four in a row by knockout. Not bad considering his strength prior to starting MMA was grappling. He even finished first place at the 2016 ADCC Asian & Oceanic Championship in the 99-kilogram division.

We’ve seen a few impressive debuts from 205-pounders in the past week with Jiri Prochazka at UFC 251, Modestas Bukauskas on Wednesday and now Dolidze.

Canadian falls short in first UFC bout

Half of Malcolm Gordon’s 12 career wins have been by submission, but the Toronto resident was out-grappled by Amir Albazi. Gordon, who had UFC veteran Sam Stout in his corner, was submitted with a triangle choke late in the first round.

Gordon took this bantamweight matchup on short notice and he typically competes at flyweight – he was the 125-pound champion in the Canadian TKO promotion before getting the call from the UFC – so let’s hope he gets another shot in the Octagon despite the disappointing result.

Duffy retires after 12-year MMA career

Joe Duffy was submitted by a Joel Alvarez guillotine choke midway through the first round of their lightweight matchup. It was Duffy’s third consecutive loss dating back to 2017 and the Donegal, Ireland native announced his retirement following the bout.

“I have been blessed on this journey in MMA and am truly grateful for every experience,” Duffy posted on Instagram. “I felt great all through camp and even warming up, I believed I was back to my former self then when I went in there it just falls to pieces. I think it’s time to realize that I haven’t got what it takes anymore. Congrats to Joel Alvarez and thank you to the UFC for all the opportunities. I’m sorry I didn’t achieve what I set out to achieve for my fans, family, friends and myself but it just wasn’t meant to be. I am officially retiring from MMA competition.”

Duffy ends his career with a 16-5 record and will be remembered most for the submission victory he earned in his seventh pro fight when he tapped out some guy named Conor McGregor.

Here are the complete results from UFC Fight Night: Figueiredo vs. Benavidez.

MAIN CARD
— Deiveson Figueiredo def. Joseph Benavidez by submission (rear-naked choke)
— Jack Hermansson def. Kelvin Gastelum by submission (heel hook)
— Rafael Fiziev def. Marc Diakiese by unanimous decision
— Ariane Lipski def. Luana Carolina by submission (kneebar)
— Askar Askarov def. Alexandre Pantoja by unanimous decision

PRELIMINARY CARD
— Roman Dolidze def. Khadis Ibragimov by knockout
— Grant Dawson def. Nad Narimani by unanimous decision
— Joel Alvarez def. Joe Duffy by submission (guillotine choke)
— Brett Johns def. Montel Jackson by unanimous decision
— Amir Albazi def. Malcolm Gordon by submission (triangle choke)
— Arman Tsarukyan def. Davi Ramos by unanimous decision
— Serghei Spivac def. Carlos Felipe by majority decision

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