Saturday on Yas Island, the UFC closes off their third “fight island” event with a very heavily anticipated Vacant Flyweight Title fight rematch between longtime veteran Joseph Benavidez and rising star Deiveson Figueiredo.
In their first matchup, Figueiredo finished Benavidez by KO after a controversial clash of heads that caused a nasty cut over the veteran’s left eye. As Benavidez wobbled backward in retreat, after the head-clash, Figueiredo hit him with a well-timed right hand that put “Joey B’s” lights out.
In the first round of their first fight, there was a lot to see in regards to what to expect Saturday night. Benavidez was the more aggressive and active fighter while Figueiredo stayed back and reacted more while landing good counters on his opponent. Benavidez kept throwing hard shots at Figueiredo leaning in with his head.
In the grappling exchanges, Figueiredo was able to pretty easily defend Benavidez’s takedowns and at one point threatened the veteran with a very dangerous armbar.
The path to victory for Benavidez is to keep his high-pressure style, while closing distance more effectively and throwing more well-advised shots. Keeping his head charging forward ahead of his punches is too dangerous of a technique against a great counter striker like Figueiredo. If he keeps his head back, pressures Deiveson, closes distance safely, and changes levels at appropriate times when going for the takedown, then Benavidez can win this fight by decision.
I don’t see much of a possibility for Benavidez to finish Figueiredo unless he is able to grab a choke in a scramble. The safest bet for a Benavidez victory is by decision after all five rounds have surpassed. It is also important to note that for better or for worse it seems like Benavidez is very aware that this is most likely his last shot at UFC gold.
The path to victory for Figueiredo is to do much of what he was able to do in the first fight. Continue to keep his distance, land the effective counter strikes (as it is always expected for Benavidez to be charging forward), and defend the takedown. Figueiredo did a great job of using his distance to shut down the grappling offense of Benavidez in their first fight and if he continues to do that effectively, this will be a very tough fight for the veteran to come out on top in.
What should we expect to see Saturday night? I would expect the latter to occur. Figueiredo is just a more dangerous fighter with more ways to win than Benavidez. However, Benavidez is ALWAYS game, and we can expect to see a great fight no matter what happens. Unless something crazy happens, we can finally expect to see a new Flyweight Champion on Saturday Night.