Henry Cejudo Surrenders 125-Pound Title; Benavidez, Figueiredo to Vie for Vacant Belt

By Jay Pettry Dec 19, 2019


Henry Cejudo has decided to give up his flyweight belt, and the Ultimate Fighting Championship will put it up for grabs in February.

According to a report from BJPenn.com on Thursday evening, Joseph Benavidez (28-5) will contend with Deiveson Figueiredo (17-1) for the flyweight strap. MMA Junkie later reported that the vacant belt would be on the line as two-division champ Cejudo would be giving up his flyweight crown. ESPN confirmed this news with Cejudo on Thursday night. Benavidez and Figueiredo will come to blows in the headliner of UFC Norfolk on Feb. 29 at the Chartway Arena in Norfolk, Virginia.

Benavidez has won his last three, and nine of his last ten, dating back to a knockout loss at the hands of Demetrious Johnson in 2013. In that span, he became the first fighter to knock out Alex Perez, and most recently finished Jussier Formiga with a head kick and punches in June. Benavidez holds a split decision victory over former champ Cejudo, and he has competed for the flyweight belt twice, but lost on both occasions to Johnson.

Figueiredo bounced back from the first loss of his career in March by beating Alexandre Pantoja on the scorecards and tapping Tim Elliott in October. Sporting a finish rate of 82 percent, the only man to defeat Figueiredo -- Formiga -- did so across three rounds, and was unable to finish his fellow countryman before the final bell. With four stoppage wins to his credit in his Octagon career, Figueiredo is tied for the fourth-most finishes in UFC flyweight history with Dustin Ortiz. Only John Moraga (5), Benavidez (6) and Johnson (7) hold more.

Cejudo won the flyweight belt in a rematch with pound-for-pound great Johnson, capturing 125-pound gold by contentious split verdict. The strap changing hands led to bantamweight king T.J. Dillashaw dropping down to flyweight to attempt to become a simultaneous two-division champ. Cejudo smashed Dillashaw in just over 32 seconds, and went up to chase the 135-pound throne after Dillashaw tested positive for EPO.

"The Messenger" dispatched Marlon Moraes for the vacated bantamweight belt in June at UFC 238, becoming the fourth fighter in UFC history to reign over two divisions at the same time. Recovering from injury which put him out of action for the second half of 2019, Cejudo frequently discussed potential challenger options in the bantamweight division including Urijah Faber, Dominick Cruz, Jose Aldo and others. No concurrent two-division champ has ever defended both belts inside the Octagon after earning them, and Amanda Nunes can be the first if she defends her featherweight title. Nunes is now the only remaining champion in two weight classes, as Conor McGregor, Daniel Cormier and Cejudo all vacated or were stripped of their belts before defending both.

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