UFC Flyweight Tournament Semifinals
Joseph Benavidez (15-2, 2-0 UFC) vs. Yasuhiro Urushitani (19-4-6, 0-0 UFC)
The Matchup: Benavidez put together a solid run fighting at bantamweight in the WEC and the UFC. The Team Alpha Male product lost only twice, both times to Dominick Cruz, who was able to use his range and quickness to keep Benavidez from finding a consistent rhythm in their meetings. The introduction of the flyweight class seems to come at a perfect time for the 27-year-old, as Cruz remains the 135-pound champion and teammate Urijah Faber is locked in for another bout with “The Dominator” in July.
Long considered to be the frontrunner to capture a flyweight belt, Benavidez will be heavily favored in his half of the 125-pound bracket against Urushitani. The Japanese fighter is the Shooto 123-pound champion and carries a five-fight winning streak into his UFC debut. While 14 of his 19 career victories have gone to a decision, Urushitani has finished three of his last five opponents. Most recently, he stopped Yuki Shojo in the second round at a Shooto event last July. The 35-year-old spent most of that bout circling and finding a home for his left hand, which helped to set up a straight left-high kick combination that essentially ended the fight.
Urishitani’s style has earned him recognition as one of the top flyweights in the world, but it is a long shot that it will carry him to victory against Benavidez. The former WEC standout likes to bang on the feet early and, once he gets comfortable, will shoot for single- and double-leg takedowns. All of this is done with amazing quickness that allows him to dictate the tempo of his bouts with constant pressure.
Urushitani’s ideal scenario involves him using solid counterboxing to land multiple jabs and outpoint Benavidez. Though his striking is solid overall, the Shooto champion lacks the dynamic power on the feet to finish his opponent. This is problematic because Benavidez is certainly quick enough to outstrike Urushitani, and he can also use his standup to set up scrambles.
As the stronger fighter, Benavidez should dominate the action in the clinch and on the ground, and his excellent gas tank allows him to constantly work in transitioning from one hold to another.
The Pick: It is hard to imagine Benavidez allowing Urushitani to pick him apart in a jab fest. Benavidez wins the striking battle early and the ground game late en route to a third-round submission.
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