Image: Zuffa/Josh Hedges/Getty
The MMA scales of justice were not on Joseph Benavidez’s side Saturday in Norfolk, VA, as he failed in his third attempt to wear UFC flyweight gold in a second round knockout loss to Deiveson Figueiredo.
The problem: Figueiredo didn’t walk out with the title either as he was ineligible to win the vacant strap because he missed weight by 2.5 pounds Friday. Therefore, the UFC is without a flyweight champion for the foreseeable future.
Figueiredo had Benavidez in trouble in the first, forcing him to fight off two armbar attempts. He looked unfazed by Benavidez’s strikes, pursuing his challenger around the cage and landing punches of his own.
The end came in the second round when Benavidez led in with his head (something the announce team noted earlier in the fight) and clashed heads with Figueiredo, opening up a bad cut over his left eye. As he tried to recover, Figueiredo hit a straight right to the mouth that floored Benavidez, followed by some equally hard hammer fists for the TKO finish with 1:54 left in the round.
Figueiredo told ESPN’s Brett Okamoto in a post-fight interview that he considers himself the champion because he won the fight. In his in-cage interview with Michael Bisping, neither Figueiredo or his team were subdued in their celebration despite the lack of winning the title.
The UFC stripped Henry Cejudo, also the company’s bantamweight champion, of the flyweight championship in order to move both divisions forward. Cejudo is scheduled to defend his title against Jose Aldo later this year. Unfortunately, UFC doesn’t have a lot of options for one of its most beleaguered divisions.
Should they give Figueiredo another opportunity, which seems likely even with the weight cut blunder, they could go with Jussier Formiga as a challenger even though he is coming off a loss to Benavidez. He did beat Figueiredo prior to that, however. Other options are coming off a single win, so there is no clear cut pecking order or star name.