Joseph Benavidez owns victories over a former UFC two-division champion (Henry Cejudo), two former WEC champs (Miguel Torres and Eddie Wineland), a former Bellator titleholder (Zach Makovsky), and three UFC title challengers (Ali Baguatinov, John Moraga, and Tim Elliott).

Keep in mind that subsequent time somebody fixates on the very fact Benavidez got here up brief in his title challenges over the course of his profession.

Whereas we’re at it, Benavidez’s subsequent victory within the UFC flyweight division will break his tie with the division’s all-time standard-bearer, Demetrious “Mighty Mouse” Johnson, for many in historical past, which is at the moment 13. Since he’s not retiring after his loss to Deiveson Figueiredo in Saturday’s UFC on ESPN+ 30 most important occasion which crammed the vacant belt, we’re assured in saying the one factor that may cease him from reaching this feat could be a call to go as much as bantamweight. 

Keep in mind that, too, if you focus on the profession legacy of the soon-to-be-36 12 months previous from Las Cruces, N.M.

Benavidez dropped to 0-Four in UFC title fights on Saturday night time, together with his second loss to Figueiredo in as many efforts in 2020. Benavidez likewise dropped two fights to Johnson, and earlier than that, two to WEC bantamweight standard-bearer Dominick Cruz (one earlier than Cruz turned champion).

Ask the Buffalo Payments of the 1990s how simple it’s to fixate on a statistic like 0-4. The crew was one of many best in NFL historical past, boasting 5 future Professional Soccer Corridor of Famers, an HOF head coach, and gained 4 consecutive AFC championships. All that excellent play will get decreased to not then successful the Tremendous Bowl on every of these 4 events.

Make no mistake: the circumstances which separate the champions from the highest contenders may be razor-thin. The Payments misplaced the Tremendous Bowl to the Giants in 1991 after kicker Scott Norwood barely missed what would have been a game-winning subject objective on the finish. If that kick is a pair toes to the left, they’re not even on this dialog. Don’t imagine that? The Boston Bruins are 1-7 within the Stanley Cup Finals since Bobby Orr’s groups gained two within the 1970s, a stretch which incorporates a number of the most horrific meltdowns within the historical past of sports activities. However they eked one out in 2011, and get spared from these form of lists. 

Benavidez twice fought to separate choices in title fights: In a WEC 40 in a loss to Cruz, and at UFC 152 in a loss to Johnson within the bout to crown the UFC’s first 125-pound champ. In each contests, one of many playing cards which went in opposition to him was 48-47, that means he was twice one spherical on one judges’ card from successful a significant title. One spherical flips on one card in both of these fights and we’re not having this dialog as we speak. 

That’s the distinction which places Benavidez alongside somebody like Chael Sonnen, who owns seven victories over males who held main belts, as a substitute of Michael Bisping, who appeared destined to go down as the best UFC fighter by no means to win the massive one earlier than he capitalized in opposition to Luke Rockhold in 2017.

After all, Sonnen obtained caught dishonest greater than as soon as, and his plight led to a way of schadenfreude amongst many. That’s removed from the case with Benavidez, who has by no means had a lot as a whiff of a scandal round him. He’s universally regarded on the within as one of many actual good guys in a enterprise which doesn’t have almost sufficient of them. Spouse Megan Olivi does an impressive job as an interviewer, first with FOX and now ESPN. They’re each thought of approachable, a reporter’s dream of an interview, these contained in the UFC love working with them, they usually deal with the followers nice.

Which made Saturday’s combat all of the extra powerful to look at. Figueiredo positive seems like the subsequent Nice One of many lighter weight courses, and it was apparent from the second he dropped Benavidez within the opening seconds this was going to be Figgy’s coronation. 

That Benavidez fought the inevitable as valiantly as he did — all the way in which to going out reasonably than tapping out — was an admirable coda to this story. 

“I’ve died freaking 100 occasions,” Benavidez informed MMA Junkie throughout an emotional post-fight press convention. “What’s one other demise? It’s totally different as a result of I do know I did the whole lot proper in preparation. I didn’t take any shortcuts. I did the whole lot proper. … I felt good in there, actually. I felt targeted and current even with the no crowd. Fights go quick however I might see little actions felt targeted.”

And that’s how Benavidez, who isn’t by but, needs to be remembered: As somebody who did the whole lot proper. Somebody who all the time dusted himself off when he was knocked down, picked himself again up, vowed to enhance his craft, then went out and did so. Somebody who would have gotten extra credit score for his constructive perspective and relentless work ethic earlier than the game was overrun by Twitter trolls and bad-faith actors. 

There are many former NBA benchwarmers operating round with a number of rings as a result of they’d the dumb luck of taking part in on the identical crew as Michael Jordon or Kobe Bryant. In the meantime, Charles Barkley and John Stockton don’t have rings. That’s not unhealthy firm to have.