UFC Fight Island 2: Redemption for Both Figueiredo and Benavidez

Deiveson Figueiredo and Joseph Benavidez, UFC Fight Island 2
ABU DHABI, UNITED ARAB EMIRATES - JULY 17: (L-R) Opponents Deiveson Figueiredo of Brazil and Joseph Benavidez face off during the UFC Fight Night weigh-in inside Flash Forum on UFC Fight Island on July 17, 2020 in Yas Island, Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates. (Photo by Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC via Getty Images)

After a disappointing end to their first fight for both men, Deiveson Figueiredo and Joseph Benavidez look to redeem themselves by winning the flyweight title at UFC Fight Island 2.

The road to Fight Island for Deiveson Figueiredo was fraught with so many pitfalls that many believed he simply would not make it to the fight. After having a false positive test for COVID-19 roughly a week out from the fight, his road to Saturday night was almost over before he even left Brazil.  Questions about his ability to make weight for the bout were so concerning that the UFC booked another top contender in Alexandre Pantoja just in case there was any issue.  It has led to a fight week change-up of epic proportions, to the point that Benavidez has already completed his mandatory 48 hour quarantine in his hotel room well ahead of Figueiredo.

That said, Figueiredo is the fighter going into Saturday night who got the job done inside the Octagon in the first fight.  That February meeting ended with Figueiredo’s hand raised, but no belt was wrapped around his waist due to missing weight.  It left a mark on his reputation that erased the fact that he had posted a 6-1 record in the UFC that includes wins over the aforementioned Pantoja, Tim Elliott, and John Moraga.  While the story going into the fight is how he will deal with all of the added scrutiny, he can erase all doubt should he notch an impressive victory over Benavidez without controversy.

Joseph Benavidez has admitted that this is “definitely” his last shot at a UFC belt.  His pursuit of championship gold is well-chronicled as he had four attempts to claim either UFC or WEC gold thwarted in the last decade.  Many figure gold would have long been around his waist had he competed at another time in MMA history as his only losses in title fights (prior to this year) came against all-time greats in Dominick Cruz and Demetrious Johnson.  As his turn on Fight Island approaches, there is a growing narrative over his career about whether or not he will join the list of the greatest fighters to never win a UFC title.

Lost in the story is exactly how great Benavidez has been for more than a decade.  Outside of Cruz and Johnson, his only other losses came to Sergio Pettis and Figueiredo.  Dating back to his days of the WEC where he first fought Dominick Cruz in 2009, Benavidez has been a perennial title challenger at both bantamweight and flyweight with victories over the likes of Miguel Torres, Jussier Formiga, John Moraga, Tim Elliott, and Henry Cejudo.  Even as the flyweight division looks to complete its turnover, Benavidez remains as the top ranked contender behind his current body of work and years of consistency.

Stylistically, the explosiveness and grappling of Figueiredo will look to pose bigger problems than before for Benavidez after having been successful in the first matchup.  The Brazilian contender should look to keep the fight at mid-range and work behind crisp boxing.  Benavidez should look to use feints and push forward into close range where a brawl favors his style.  Whether unloading with short punches or initiating the clinch to work for a takedown, Benavidez’s physicality will serve him best against the fence.

The night is set up for the victor to likely face the winner of Alexandre Pantoja and Askar Askarov who will fight earlier in the evening.  Considering that the division was still considered near life-support back when the two fought in February, the level of activity in the weight class lends support to the idea that the division is indeed here to stay as contenders like Pantoja, Askarov, and Brandon Moreno continue to make their way up the rankings.