There were a lot of storylines surrounding Saturday’s flyweight showdown between multi-time title challenger Joseph Benavidez and Askar Askarov at UFC 259.
For starters, if you ask Benavidez, he’ll tell you he’s had his final title shot in the UFC. After losing two title fights in 2020, both against Deiveson Figueiredo, Benavidez believes his title fight days are behind him. And he’s at peace with that. Instead, he’s fallen in love with the sport again, and wants to continue competing against the best of the best.
Enter Askarov. One of the new breed of UFC flyweights, Askarov entered the night on a two-fight win streak, with the only thing close to a blemish on his record being a draw with Brandon Moreno. Given where Moreno’s at these days, that draw has aged pretty well. But on the flip side, Askarov missed weight for Saturday’s contest by a single pound. Suddenly, what seemed like a title eliminator, for Askarov at least, had a question mark attached to it.
Askarov opened the affair with a front kick. Not long after, a right hand hit home on Benavidez. The front kick would come back again as well; Benavidez fired a right hand of his own, but he was already showing redness on the body from those kicks. Askarov’s right hand was also heavier, and definitely had Benavidez’s attention. The pair traded blows, but Askarov was winning the exchanges. In the final minute, Askarov landed a short punch, then took the back while Benavidez was still reacting. A big takedown followed, and Askarov finished the round with a body lock in place.
Benavidez was rocked early in the second thanks to a couple of right hands by Askarov. Though hurt, Benavidez tried a flying knee, which fell well short. Askarov then took his opponent down with authority. Askarov controlled from the back, with Benavidez firing back elbows. The veteran would make it back to his feet, but he wouldn’t stay standing for long. Askarov seemed to have all the answers, both on the feet and on the ground. While Benavidez did make it back to his feet late in the frame, the round finished with Askarov landing a crisp right hand.
By the third and final frame, Benavidez was keeping his hands low to defend the troublesome front kicks of Askarov. He also nearly landed a head kick, but Askarov just managed to avoid it. That missed kick summed up the night for Joseph Benavidez: he appeared to be a step behind. Benavidez would later block a high kick himself. A right hand landed for Benavidez that backed Askarov up, cementing the fact that the third round was the best for Joseph Benavidez. But with two rounds in his pocket, that really wasn’t a concern for Askarov, as Benavidez couldn’t find the finish. And in the end, all three frames were awarded to Askar Askarov.
Official Result: Askar Askarov def. Joseph Benavidez by unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 30-26)