UFC Norfolk: Benavidez and Figueiredo Usher in New Chapter at 125

Joseph Benavidez and Deiveson Figueiredo, UFC Norfolk
Joseph Benavidez and Deiveson Figueiredo, UFC Norfolk ceremonial weigh-in Credit: Jay Anderson/Cageside Press

Joseph Benavidez has a chance to usher in a new chapter in the flyweight division with a victory over Deiveson Figueiredo at UFC Norfolk.

Perennial contender Joseph Benavidez has been on the cusp of championship gold for the better part of several years.  Over a decade ago in the WEC, Benavidez fought all-time great bantamweight Dominick Cruz in two close decisions.  In the UFC, his battles with Demetrious Johnson for flyweight gold are well-chronicled.  On Saturday, he has arguably his best opportunity to finally win a world title as he takes on an unheralded challenger.

To overlook Benavidez’s resume would be a disservice of the highest degree.  His 13 victories in the flyweight division is a mark only Demetrious Johnson is on par with.  Consider this, he went on a six fight win-streak in 2014 and is on a three fight win-streak going into this latest title bout.  The flyweight division has flown largely under the radar, in large part due to the fact that the dominant former champion Johnson turned a long list of talented martial artists into metaphorical shadows behind glass in the MMA landscape.  While this makes Benavidez’s two fights with the former champion easy to focus on, it overlooks the incredible resume he has put together in his Octagon tenure.

Not to be overlooked, Deiveson Figueiredo has put together a stellar UFC resume himself since entering the promotion in 2017.  To be frank, Figueiredo is a testament to the fact that there is elite talent in the division outside of the established and familiar names.  He is 6-1 in the promotion with four of his victories coming by way of a finish.  His ledger also contains former title challengers such as John Moraga and Tim Elliott.  Combined with his work outside of the Octagon, the Brazilian contender is owner of an impressive 17-1 mark overall in the sport.

While Saturday’s contest was expected to be a major opportunity for Figueiredo, his weight miss at 127.5 pounds means he is ineligible to win the title with a victory at the fight.  A victory over an elite fighter like Benavidez would still be a major feather in his cap, but it would also lead to questions about the future of the title picture and entire weight class.  Notably, Benavidez is still able to become champion should he be victorious in the fight.

Stylistically, both men carry complete skill-sets going into the fight with several victories by knockout and submission between them.  The output of Benavidez figures to be a major factor as the former title challenger is known for having one of the highest work rates in the division.  That said, Figueiredo can stifle that attack by putting pressure on Benavidez and initiating exchanges.

The return of Henry Cejudo to the division is an unlikely one considering the bevy of options at bantamweight.  A victory for Benavidez would likely set up a fight with another ranked contender, such as Alexandre Pantoja or Kai Kara-France, who in the future could be a possibility.  A Figueiredo victory, at least in the short term, could see a rematch or a fight with another contender once again for the vacant championship.