UFC Fight Night - Figueiredo, Benavidez Meet Again for Vacant Flyweight Title
BarnBurner Sports Writer
Friday, July 17, 2020
UFC Fight Island continues tomorrow night in Abu Dhabi with the main event a battle for the vacant flyweight title between Deiveson Figueiredo (18-1) and Joseph Benavidez (28-6). The two fighters met for the title on February 29 with Figueiredo scoring a second round knockout victory. Figueiredo, however, failed to make weight and as a result, could not the claim the title.
That fight was also marred by an accidental headbutt early in the second round that opened up a serious cut above Benavidez’s left eye, leaving him somewhat dazed and setting the stage for Figueiredo to close the deal. Benavidez claims the headbutt changed the entire complexion of the fight, pointing out how he felt he won the first round of their first encounter.
Figueiredo’s journey to Fight Island has not been easy.
He tested positive for Covid-19 last Friday, but was cleared to travel to Yas Island after testing negative on the back of a two-day quarantine. At the time of writing, it looks like everything is trending towards this fight happening. Benavidez will be out to capture his first title fight in four attempts, while Figueredo has another chance to claim the crown he believes is rightfully his.
Oddsmakers have Figueiredo a modest favourite. This again looks like a matchup of Figueiredo’s power vs. Benavidez’s speed. I think this one goes to the judges with Figueiredo earning a split decision.
The co-main promises to be an interesting tussle with middleweights Jack “The Joker” Hermansson (20-4) and Kelvin Gastelum (16-5-0-1) squaring off. Gastelum will be looking to bounce back after two tough losses. He gave champion Israel Adesanya a scare back in April 2019, coming out on the short end of the decision in what was declared the best UFC fight of that year. Most recently, he lost a split decision to Darren Till. Gastelum claims he is in the right frame of mind and is now physically ready for this fight, his first since suffering an LCL tear last January.
Hermannson comes into this one having won four of his last five, including an impressive unanimous decision win over Jacare Souza in April 2019. His latest fight however, was a disappointing second round tko loss at the hands of Jared Cannonier.
Hermansson’s skill set is undeniable. He has five first round finishes on his resume and his 2.57 strike differential is first all-time in the division. Gastelum’s one punch power is unquestioned, his body of work including a devastating first round knockout of Michael Bisping.
Hermansson and Gastelum are ranked sixth and seventh in the division respectively, and with both fighters looking to get back on track, there is certainly a great deal at stake. With the power each possesses, this one will likely not go the distance. Vegas has this virtually a toss up with Gastelum a slight favourite. Gastelum showed a lot in his fight with Adesanya and I look for him to flash that form here. I don’t see this going to the judges.
Looking at the rest of the main card, the fight which looks most interesting to me pits Marc Diakiese against Rafael Fiziev in a lightweight tilt. Diakiese is looking for his third straight win after three consecutive losses. Of note, his losing streak came against quality competition including highly ranked Dan Hooker. Diakiese is not a high volume fighter, as evidenced by the fact he has only landed more than fifty significant strikes only once in eight UFC fights. He has power to be sure and has demonstrated improvement in his kicking game in his last two fights. Fiziev sports an overall record of 7-1 with five knockouts -- he’s 1-1 in the UFC. He has a kickboxing background and will no doubt be a strong test for Diakiese. This also looks to be a close fight, but I’ll go with Diakiese in a split decision.
DRAFT KINGS LINEUP
After a brutal DK performance on Wednesday’s card, I will look to redeem myself on Saturday. My usual caveat applies -- use this lineup at your risk!
I’m going to go with Deiveson Figueiredo ($9000) and hope he can deliver a knockout to capture the flyweight title. He’ll likely be highly owned, but to me, he simply has too much power for Benavidez. The Gastelum/Hermansson fight is almost too close to call, but get this one right and your DK lineup can really benefit. As mentioned above, I like Gastelum -- at $8200 -- he’s in.
I also like Grant Dawson ($9200) against Nad Narimani. Dawson has registered over 100 DraftKings points in three UFC wins -- that’s good enough for me. Montel Jackson ($9100) is a highly regarded prospect and while Brett Johns has faced some strong competition, I think Jackson can pile up some points here. I’ll round out my lineup with a dart throw in Malcolm Gordon making his UFC debut against another UFC first timer, Amir Albazi. Gordon has shown some power on the regional circuit, but has reportedly taken a lot of punishment as well. He’s enabling us to afford some higher priced fighters however, as we opt for more of a “stars and scrubs” approach to this lineup. Joel Alvarez, at $6900, is another value pick as he takes on veteran Joe Duffy. Alvarez enjoys a significant reach advantage over his opponent which he hopefully can take advantage of.
Enjoy another fun night at Fight Island everyone!