The best part about the end of a mid-week fight card? Less time until the weekend fights. The UFC remains on Fight Island for their third event, live and free on ESPN featuring title fights and dangerous machups Saturday night. Here is what to expect:
Deiveson Figueiredo vs Joseph Benavidez 2
With Henry Cejudo moving up to bantamweight before ultimately retiring in May, he was the flyweight champion of the world who had vacated his title. The UFC put on Deiveson Figueiredo (18-1 Career, 7-1 UFC) fought veteran Joseph Benavidez (28-6 Career, 19-6 UFC/WEC) this past February to crown a new champion.
The fight and outcome was absolutely covered in question marks. Figueiredo missed weight they day before the fight, making him ineligible to win a championship. Mid fight, Benavidez was cut open from an accidental clash of heads, which inherently led to Figueiredo’s finish of Benavidez in the second round.
Because Figueiredo missed weight and won, the belt remained vacant, with no champion replacing Cejudo. We are now five months removed from the first fight, and the UFC has booked the rematch on Fight Island, hoping to officially crown a champ at 125.
What to Expect
It’s so hard not to feel for Benavidez in his career. He only has 6 losses to his name. His first two were very close decisions to Dominick Cruz – the greatest bantamweight of all time. He dropped a weight class to lose to Demetrious “Mighty Mouse” Johnson twice – one of their fights was close. A very questionable split decision against Sergio Pettis and now the strange stoppage from February.
Figuieredo is obviously a very powerful striker who will stalk Benavidez all night trying to land bombs. Minus the accidental headbutt, it will be interesting to see how an established veteran like Benavidez will be in the cage he can get comfortable and calmly establish his grappling against a ballistic opponent. I think he will find a way to make it work, and finally get to his first UFC Title
Jack Hermansson vs Kelvin Gastelum
Saturday night’s co feature is an interesting battle between two men who are on the cusp of being part of the middleweight elite. Swedish well rounded fighter Jack Hermansson (20-5 Career, 7-3 UFC) will face off against former Ultimate Fighter winner and title contender Kelvin Gastelum (15-5, 1 NC, 10-5, 1 NC UFC).
Both men are in interesting positions in their career, in that they have both had growing success but have most recently been beat in each of their last fights. Hermansson seemed to be on a fast track to fighting for a championship before being stopped by Jared Cannonier in September, snapping a four fight win streak. Gastelum lost a tough decision to current champion Israel Adesanya, and lost an even closer decision to Darren Till in November.
Both fighters know that a win in dramatic fashion can launch them right back into the top 5 at 185, which would give them a fairly shallow track back to a title fight.
What to expect
The reason I high have high hopes for this fight’s entertainment value is both fighters conditioning levels. It seems like Hermansson and Gastelum never have any quit in them, and Gastelum has definitely came back in several fights from behind because his conditioning wins him late rounds. I’d expect a high volume output and probably a little ground work if Gastelum has his way. Interesting fight with contender implications.
Fighters to Watch
If you had me do a power ranking of “The best kept secret in MMA” Alexandre Pantoja (22-4 Career, 6-2 UFC) would likely be at the top of my list. Since his loss to Dustin Ortiz in 2018, Pantoja has won 4 of his last 5 fights, his only loss being a decision loss to #1 ranked Figuieredo. He has moved to American Top Team in Florida and is coming off a huge win against Matt Schnell.
He is facing underrated Russian talent Askar Askarov (11-0-1 Career, 1-0-1 UFC) who has been fast tracked tremendously through the flyweight rankings. I’m not sure if Pantoja will get a title shot upon victory, but he will definitely be in the conversation.
To wrap things up I wanted to put a spotlight on world class Brazilian Jiu Jitsu practitioner Davi Ramos (10-3 Career, 4-2 UFC) who will be featured during the prelim portion of the card. Ramos was winning trophies on the no gi BJJ circuit at the highest level before taking his skills to the fight business.
While several BJJ specialists have made their move to MMA and struggled with the stand up elements of the sport, it’s not hurting Ramos too bad at all. He has four wins in the UFC, and his most recent fight was a loss against who I think is the most underrated fighter in the world, Islam Makhachev.
He will look to get back in the win column this Saturday when he fights Arman Tsarukyan (14-2 Career, 1-1 UFC). Tsarukyan is a freakishly talented young fighter who was booked against Makhachev in only his second UFC bout, he’s now getting in there with Ramos. He is a legitimate threat, but if Ramos gets you to the ground, the third degree BJJ black belt will likely close the show.
Main Card (5pm PST, ESPN)
Joseph Benavidez def. Deiveson Figuieredo (Submission)
Jack Hermansson def. Kelvin Gastelum (Decision)
Mark Diakiese def. Rafael Fiziev (KO)
Ariane Lipski def. Luana Carolina (Decision)
Alexander Pantoja def. Askar Askarov (KO)
Prelims (2pm PST, ESPN)
Roman Dolidze def. Khadis Ibragimov (KO)
Grant Dawson def. Nad Narimani (Submission)
Joel Alvarez def. Joe Duffy (Submission)
Montel Jackson def. Brett Johns (KO)
Amir Albazi def. Malcolm Gordon (Decision)
Davi Ramos def. Arman Tsarukyan (Submission)
Carlos Felipe def. Sergei Spivak (KO)