Deiveson Figueiredo dominated Joseph Benavidez to cap off the third essential occasion on Combat Island and develop into the UFC flyweight champion. The primary-round end featured an amazing show of placing energy, grappling and in the end a profitable submission. Benavidez confirmed unimaginable coronary heart, surviving a number of rear-naked choke makes an attempt, however he could not work out a option to keep away from Figueiredo’s grasp.
Figueiredo is likely to be the one man strolling away with gold Saturday in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, however he was removed from the one standout. There have been a lot of spectacular finishes, together with devastating kicks, triangles, a kneebar and extra. There have been additionally rising prospects who made statements, and some surprises.
Who’s subsequent for the primary occasion and co-main occasion fighters?
Murphy on Figueiredo: After lacking weight for his title shot in February, Figueiredo’s dream situation performed out Saturday in Abu Dhabi.
Three choices stand out for Figueiredo’s first true protection, so as of the UFC flyweight rankings: Brandon Moreno, Alex Perez and Askar Askarov. Recency bias — which is actual in fight sports activities — ideas Askarov, who began off the primary card Saturday with an eye-opening win over Alexandre Pantoja. For me, although, I am going to decide Moreno for 2 causes.
First, “The Murderer Child” was unfortunate to attract Askarov when the 2 met September in Mexico Metropolis. In a sport during which “theft” will get bandied about for each shut determination, Moreno was robbed; he ought to have received that struggle.
Each bit as vital, Moreno presents a stand-and-trade stylistic matchup towards the aggressive Figueiredo that may make followers salivate. E book it as a pay-per-view co-main or cable essential occasion. Then, go forward and make out the Combat of the Evening bonus checks to these two. They’re going to earn it.
Raimondi on Benavidez: I’ve a coverage to not ever say if a fighter ought to retire. Merely, that is how fighters select to make a residing, and if there’s a promoter who’s keen to pay them to proceed to compete, then extra energy to them. I can not fault it. Typically there are circumstances that get uncomfortable, comparable to when a fighter has been knocked out too many occasions. That isn’t a problem right here in any respect. Benavidez remains to be probably the greatest flyweight fighters on the planet, as he has been for a few decade.
At 35 and with completely nothing to show to anybody, Benavidez may step away proper now and everybody would perceive. “Joe B” is likely one of the most beloved fighters on the roster, by the followers and his friends. Benavidez can be an clever man and will do any variety of issues sooner or later. His thought to showcase fighter style has led to a preferred social media following.
If he does need to struggle once more, nice. Somebody like Moreno would offer an amazing opponent, seeing as he is one of many few elite flyweights Benavidez has not already crushed.
Jack Hermansson and his coach clown round following a submission win over Kelvin Gastelum and Hermansson will get tossed to the canvas for messing along with his coach an excessive amount of.
Murphy on Hermansson: Hermansson’s heel hook not solely will get him again within the win column, nevertheless it leaves him recent for a turnaround at his leisure — happily for Hermansson, he absorbed zero important strikes. Sadly, the consequence complicates the highest tier at 185 kilos.
It is not fairly so simple as “The Joker” specified by his postfight dialog with Paul Felder.
Former champ Robert Whittaker and Darren Until meet in subsequent week’s essential occasion. The winner places himself within the dialog for No. 1 middleweight contender. Jared Cannonier — who knocked out Hermansson final September — can be ready within the wings.
There isn’t any incentive for Cannonier to face Hermansson proper now, nor do I foresee the Whittaker-Until winner trying down the ladder to the damaging Norwegian-Swede. The loser of Whittaker-Until makes much more sense. It offers him alternative for a high quality rebound, and Hermansson can show he really belongs among the many division’s elite.
Wagenheim on Gastelum: After his third straight loss, Gastelum wants a confidence-builder. The place’s he going to seek out it? In all probability not within the prime 10. Gastelum got here in at No. 7 in ESPN’s middleweight rankings, forward of Hermansson, Jacare Souza (whom Gastelum has already defeated) and Bellator fighter Rafael Lovato Jr.
So the place can he go however additional downward? Perhaps Gastelum ought to struggle the winner of subsequent weekend’s assembly between veteran Derek Brunson and younger Edmen Shahbazyan — placing Gastelum in both a gatekeeper bout or a showdown of rebuilding 185-pounders.
Which prospect had probably the most spectacular efficiency?
Davi Ramos feels the stress as Arman Tsarukyan goes on an all-out assault with a pleasant show of placing.
Coming in, the technique appeared easy for Tsarukyan: preserve it on the ft and outpoint the Brazilian. Ramos, in spite of everything, is a adorned grappler with medals at a number of main worldwide occasions and has earned seven of eight MMA finishes by submission.
However Tsarukyan seemed totally snug in Ramos’ guard and rolled out of an early leglock with obvious ease. On the ft, the Armenian almost tripled Ramos in strikes, going an unofficial 18-for-18 attacking the legs, and landed sufficient third-round left palms to summon the cageside doctor.
Throw in that Tsarukyan is simply 23 — nonetheless years away from his prime — his efficiency generated extra pleasure for the longer term than the opposite spectacular prospects Saturday in Abu Dhabi.
Raimondi: I can not say sufficient about Tsarukyan. He seemed fairly spectacular in a choice loss to the excellent Islam Makhachev final yr, however every part clicked for Tsarukyan within the victory over Ramos on Saturday night time. Tsarukyan’s placing seemed a lot improved. However what was most spectacular was his grappling.
Ramos is a chiseled, well-built Brazilian jiu-jitsu monster. Tsarukyan wasn’t simply not afraid of Ramos’ grappling — he really took him down a number of occasions. At 23, Tsarukyan goes to be an actual downside. The UFC’s light-weight division is one of the best within the promotion, however a well-rounded prospect with glorious wrestling and floor work will get numerous wins.
Wagenheim: The place do we start? This struggle card, like Wednesday’s, didn’t have the star energy of final weekend’s three-title-fight occasion. However there have been prospects up and down Saturday’s lineup, and there are a number of instructions to look, actually, in deciphering who was most spectacular. I am going with Rafael Fiziev, a 27-year-old out of Kyrgyzstan who coaches Muay Thai within the martial arts self-discipline’s birthplace, Thailand. He was going through a high-level striker in Marc Diakiese, and Fiziev schooled him. Fiziev misplaced his UFC debut final yr, however two straight wins since then have him solidly on a path upward. Let’s examine what he can do towards a grappler’s completely different model of stress.
Which flyweight stood out probably the most?
Murphy: How may a flyweight have impressed greater than Figueiredo? Dominating a veteran like Benavidez was spectacular sufficient — that was the primary submission lack of his profession — however the obstacles to even attain Combat Island make Figueiredo’s win one of many tales of the yr.
Between quarantines in Sao Paulo, Brazil, two transcontinental flights and extra quarantine within the UAE, Figueiredo was not capable of transfer freely in regards to the fighter resort till the night earlier than weighing in. Rationales for Benavidez profitable Saturday’s rematch may very well be written earlier than the struggle.
To endure all that, then drop Benavidez inside 45 seconds and supply unrelenting punishment and choke him out chilly was really gorgeous. The previous hairdresser-cowboy-bricklayer is likely to be originally of an extended title reign.
Usually, arguments may very well be made for Ariane Lipski and Askarov. No disrespect to them, each fantastic wins, however there was just one possibility from this occasion.
Raimondi: There’s the reply of Figueiredo after which there are solely improper solutions after that. Figueiredo is unimaginable and continues to impress along with his energy and ending means each single time he will get into the cage.
Flyweight shouldn’t be a division identified for knockouts. Demetrious Johnson held the UFC flyweight title for 5 years and had solely two of them. However Figueiredo has three in his previous six wins, and has the sort of dynamite in his palms to knock down an extremely sturdy fighter like Benavidez thrice in a single spherical. That’s no joke.
Figueiredo now turns into probably the most intriguing champions on the roster, a must-watch each time he will get into the Octagon. And that certain is one thing contemplating flyweight was a division the UFC lately thought of folding up altogether.
Wagenheim: Askar Askarov in all probability earned himself a title shot with an eye-opening efficiency towards a troublesome man ranked above him, and Lipski’s end was flashy. However this night time belonged to Figueiredo. Performances don’t get extra virtuosic than what he delivered in profitable the 125-pound belt.
It was going to be tough for him to outdo his February knockout win towards Benavidez, however he did so in a giant approach. He despatched Benavidez to the canvas with an overhand proper hand simply 45 seconds in, and two occasions he almost had him choked out earlier than lastly getting the end at 4:48. Figueiredo made it look straightforward towards a person who has been second finest within the flyweight division since there was a flyweight division. That is spectacular. Good luck getting the belt away from this man.
What was the largest shock of the night time?
Murphy: You could possibly have gotten higher than 6-to-1 odds for Joel Alvarez to submit Joe Duffy. These are extremely lengthy for somebody who, getting into Saturday, had 14 of 16 wins by way of faucet.
Alvarez’s avenue to victory was clear, however Duffy signified a step up in expertise and boasts jiu-jitsu credentials that ought to have been a roadblock for the 27-year-old from Spain.
But Alvarez noticed Duffy’s neck uncovered on a takedown try. Alvarez grabbed his personal reverse wrist to threaten a guillotine. With out even getting Duffy absolutely into his guard to maximise leverage, Alvarez secured the faucet. Alvarez shrugged his shoulders — virtually stunned — strolling away.
Duffy admitted postfight in an Instagram put up saying his retirement, “I feel it is time to understand that I have never bought what it takes any extra.”
Duffy evidently anticipated extra from himself. The benefit of Alvarez’s win was sufficient to immediate “Irish Joe” to name it a profession.
Raimondi: For those who would have instructed me just a few months in the past that Jack Hermansson would end Kelvin Gastelum with a leglock in a pivotal middleweight contest on a desert island on the morning time (native time), I might have mentioned you have been having a fever dream. However sure, that’s precisely what simply occurred. Hermansson bought Gastelum in a precarious place on the bottom — maybe Gastelum underestimated it — and Hermansson locked within the heel hook, getting the faucet. Leglocks are so uncommon in MMA on the highest stage. Hermansson is a wonderful grappler, however few may have foreseen this consequence. That can be on the submission-of-the-year listing when 2020 is over.
Wagenheim: For me, it is a tie between two lookalike outcomes. Within the co-main occasion, Hermansson made fast work of Gastelum, and he did not do it along with his ordinary excessive output in stand-up combating (he got here in with a 2.57 strike differential, highest in UFC middleweight historical past). No, this time Hermansson bought the job executed on the canvas and did so in simply 1:18, even after Gastelum reversed his takedown and put him on his again. That modified the best way I have a look at Hermansson.
Likewise, Ariane Lipski put a brand new twist on her “Queen of Violence” nickname by getting her first UFC end not by knockout (she has six of these in her profession), however by submission. Making use of a kneebar that made Luana Carolina scream her verbal submission at 1:28 of Spherical 1 was completely on model for the Lipski nickname.
What was one of the best end of the night time?
Ariane Lipski flooring Luana Carolina with a strong proper hand to the intestine, then forces Carolina to faucet out with a savage knee bar.
Murphy: Ariane Lipski arrived within the UFC because the KSW flyweight champion, a hype prepare barreling full-steam forward. I made a daring prediction in a earlier “5 Rounds” she would earn a title shot towards Valentina Shevchenko in 2019.
Losses in Lipski’s first two Octagon appearances derailed any hope of that, however she impressed sufficient in a November determination win to ink a brand new four-fight contract. Now at 26, Lipski carried out Saturday with the boldness of anyone with promotional backing, tapping Luana Carolina to a kneebar in lower than 90 seconds.
Lipski’s mixture of composure and killer intuition stood out. She basically conceded her again to a grounded opponent to go looking for Carolina’s knee. Inside seconds, concern shifted from Lipski leaving herself weak to a heel hook or calf slicer to Carolina screaming in ache from a kneebar and the referee diving in.
Lipski torquing that knee will stay etched in followers’ minds, giving her the momentum to lastly ascend a division in determined want of compelling challengers.
Roman Dolidze lands a punishing kick to the top of Khadis Ibragimov, knocking him out in Spherical 1.
Raimondi: There was just one knockout or TKO on Saturday night time’s card and it was a doozy. Roman Dolidze, making his UFC debut, starched Khadis Ibragimov with a kick that basically ended up being a knee. Dolidze, a southpaw, went for a change kick along with his left leg. On the similar time, Ibragimov was leaning in with an assault of his personal. Dolidze’s knee related flush with Ibragimov’s jaw. Proper on the button. Ibragimov was out and Dolidze, a local of the nation of Georgia, earned his first UFC win in completely spectacular style.
Dolidze, a grappler by commerce with politics as his household’s enterprise, looks as if somebody to control within the UFC’s mild heavyweight division.
Wagenheim: Half of the night’s dozen fights led to finishes, and there have been some stunning ones. However I’ve to consider power of competitors and the stakes of the struggle, so Figueiredo will get the nod. He was taking up Benavidez, the second-greatest fighter in males’s flyweight historical past, a person who had fought 34 occasions earlier than and never been submitted as soon as. And it took Figueiredo solely 4:48 to choke him out.
Now, the submission was the direct results of a discombobulating knockdown simply 45 seconds into the struggle, however he bought it executed by way of submission and is a world champion. Bravo to the Brazilian dynamo.