A failed weight cut, an ill-timed headbutt and continued indifference from the public have left the Ultimate Fighting Championship’s flyweight division in shambles and placed the future of its title in doubt. What comes next for the maligned weight class remains anyone’s guess.
Deiveson Figueiredo put away Joseph Benavidez with punches in the second round of their UFC Fight Night 169 headliner on Saturday at Chartway Arena in Norfolk, Virginia. Benavidez succumbed to blows 1:54 into Round 2 and failed for the third time to capture promotional gold. Excitement around Figueiredo’s performance was understandably muted, as his inability to meet the 125-pound threshold for the fight made him ineligible to win the vacant flyweight crown and put a damper on the entire event.
Benavidez to his credit and perhaps his detriment did not hold back. He was far busier and far more effective than Figueiredo in the early standup exchanges, but he found himself ensnared in an armbar late in the opening round. Benavidez freed himself from the Brazilian’s clutches with one of his patented scrambles and went on to outstrike him by a 2-to-1 margin through the first five minutes. However, an inadvertent clash of heads in Round 2 opened a serious cut near the San Antonio native’s hairline, altered the direction of the fight and set the stage for a sudden finish. While Benavidez was wiping away blood, Figueiredo sent a searing straight right crashing into his face. The impact floored the American and left him in no condition to shield himself from the barrage of punches and hammerfists that followed.
In the aftermath of UFC Fight Night “Benavidez vs. Figueiredo,” here are five matches that ought to be made:
Deiveson Figueiredo vs. Top 15 bantamweight: Figueiredo committed an unforgivable sin when he missed weight for a championship fight in the UFC, joining a list of disgraced competitors that includes Travis Lutter, Joe Riggs, Anthony Pettis and Yoel Romero. His failure on the scale casts serious doubt about his long-term viability in a division that already appears to be on the ropes. Perhaps the Brazilian should contemplate a move to 135 pounds—a weight class that could offer him stability, fewer restrictions and a host of new opportunities. Three of the five fighters currently ranked 10-15 in the UFC’s bantamweight division do not have a bout scheduled: Rob Font, John Dodson and Yadong Song. Figueiredo could provide viable opposition for any of the three.
Felicia Spencer vs. Amanda Nunes: Given a co-main event assignment following her spirited decision loss to Cristiane Justino some seven months ago, Spencer did not disappoint. The former Invicta Fighting Championships titleholder steamrolled Zarah Fairn dos Santos in less than four minutes, as she disposed of her overmatched counterpart with ferocious elbow-laced ground-and-pound. Spencer drew the curtain 3:37 into Round 1, likely cementing herself as the No. 1 contender in the women’s featherweight division. On a 10-fight winning streak, Nunes has not competed at 145 pounds since she defeated the aforementioned Justino for the undisputed championship in December 2018.
Magomed Ankalaev vs. Ion Cutelaba: Immediate rematches are sometimes warranted, this being a prime example. A showdown between two of the UFC’s most promising light heavyweights was interrupted after just 38 seconds when referee Kevin MacDonald called for the stoppage while Cutelaba appeared to play possum. The Moldovan staggered on the end of an Ankalaev left hook, but it soon became clear he was engaging in gamesmanship in an attempt to lure his overzealous opponent into a trap. Cutelaba was incensed by MacDonald’s decision and offered an immediate protest, to no avail. Neither man seemed satisfied with the outcome. Run it back in a month or two.
Grant Dawson vs. Herbert Burns: Dawson improved to 3-0 in the UFC and 15-1 overall, as he submitted fellow Dana White’s Contender Series graduate Darrick Minner with a rear-naked choke in the second round of their featherweight showcase. Minner bowed out 1:38 into Round 2. Just 26 years old and on a six-fight winning streak, Dawson has the potential to advance quickly at 145 pounds, provided he keeps his issues with the scale in check. He blew weight by 3.5 pounds ahead of his clash with Minner—a miscue that cost him 30 percent of his purse. Burns last appeared at UFC Fight Night 166 on Jan. 25, when the Hard Knocks 365 standout wiped out Nate Landwehr with a first-round knee strike.
Sean Brady vs. Nicolas Dalby-Danny Roberts winner: Brady has managed to fly under the radar through two UFC outings, but the welterweight’s time in the shadows of relative anonymity could be drawing to a close. The former Cage Fury Fighting Championships titleholder remained unbeaten on the undercard, as he took a unanimous decision from the highly regarded Ismail Naurdiev in a three-round pairing that aroused widespread interest from hardcore fans. Scores were 29-28, 29-28 and 30-27. Brady dominated the second and third rounds with takedowns, positional control and ground-and-pound to push his record to a perfect 12-0. Dalby and Roberts will lock horns at UFC Fight Night 171 on March 21.