UFC Fight Night Norfolk: The Fallout
By Ross Markey
The title picture at flyweight has never been more confusing. The main event at UFC Norfolk between Joseph Benavidez and Deiveson Figueiredo was set to determine the new king of the UFC’s 125-pound ranks – but nothing seems to ever be straight forward in MMA.
Weight-cut mishaps for Brazil’s Figueiredo made him ineligible to claim the vacant throne on Saturday night with a win – which he managed – while Benavidez was the only eligible party. A second-round knockout for championship debutante, Figueiredo ended similarly to Yoel Romero’s clash with Luke Rockhold – with both leaving the arena title-less.
Upon the beginning of our headliner, the title became officially vacant as Henry Cejudo turns his attention to bantamweight – yet we still have no official champion at flyweight.
Prior to the event in my Fighter Profile features on both – I noted Figueiredo’s ridiculous power for a 125-pound contender, and dangerous submission game. Within seven minutes both were on full display. Benavidez almost suffered a broken arm in the opening frame – courtesy of an armbar attempt from Figueiredo.
Inside the opening two minutes of the second round, ‘Joey Two Times’ was at the mercy of ‘Deus Da Guerra’ via a brutal right hand. It seemed as if Figueiredo had walked Benavidez onto the shot for an age before finally unloading.
I think few would argue the fact that Deiveson Figueiredo is the best flyweight the promotion has to offer on Sunday morning – despite the fact the title firmly remains at UFC headquarters. Nevertheless, join me as I play matchmaker for the flyweight mainstays – and a pair of featherweight contenders.
Deiveson Figueiredo vs. Jussier Formiga – Brandon Moreno winner:
As mentioned earlier, Figueiredo is the best 125-pound fighter in the UFC’s ranks right now, regardless of championship exploits. The 32-year-old was involved in a high-stakes matchup with countryman, Jussier Formiga back in March of last year – losing a unanimous decision to the grappling ace. Formiga looks to rebound from a defeat to Benavidez in his last outing, as he meets with Brandon Moreno at UFC Fight Night Brasília in two weeks time. Given his prior win over Figueiredo – the rematch writes itself.
On the other hand, we’ve got Mexican contender, Brandon Moreno. Since his return to the UFC back on home soil in September, the 26-year-old has looked supremely impressive.
Beginning his second stint with the promotion, Moreno was matched with highly-touted contender, and former ACB champion, Askar Askarov. In a hugely exciting affair, Moreno and Askarov fought to a majority draw.
In his next outing, Moreno was paired with Kai Kara-France and managed a much more clear-cut unanimous decision triumph. I picked Moreno as a future champion back in 2017 – and with a victory over Formiga, ‘The Assassin Baby’ may just make that prediction, a possibility.
Joseph Benavidez vs. Alexandre Pantoja:
35-year-old veteran, Benavidez, has fought the whos who of the flyweight division for years now. Within the current ranks, the Texan has bested the likes of Tim Elliott, Alex Perez, and the aforementioned, Formiga. A clash with top-five contender, Alexandre Pantoja puts both men within touching distance of the ultimate goal with a victory.
Brazil’s Pantoja recently returned to the win column via a knockout of Matt Schnell in South Korea – and a litmus test against Benavidez would go a long way in determining the adjustments he’s made since his UFC 240 loss to Figueiredo.
Amanda Nunes vs. Felicia Spencer:
Realistically, we’ve got about six legitimate contenders within the UFC’s ‘featherweight’ division. Felicia Spencer, Megan Anderson, Zarah Fairn dos Santos, Norma Dumont Viana, Germaine de Randamie, and Holly Holm.
GDR and Holm won’t get near another title fight as long as Amanda Nunes reigns supreme over 135-pounds and 145-pounds. A deserved challenger for featherweight gold, is Canada’s, Felicia Spencer. The former Invicta FC best finished Zarah Fairn with nasty ground-and-pound last night – and already holds a stoppage win over division standout, Anderson.
Nunes is expected to make the first defence of her featherweight throne at UFC 250 in May – pair her with the ever-improving, Spencer.
Amanda Nunes vs. Megan Anderson:
This one is somewhat of a wildcard. Spencer has already lodged a rear-naked choke win over Megan Anderson – but the promotion has made no qualms surrounding their intentions to pair Anderson with a champion in the past.
The Queensland native was signed from Invicta FC back in July of 2017 – with the intentions of matching with former featherweight best Cris Cyborg in her promotional debut. Anderson has noted how she holds a two-fight win streak at 145-pounds, to back up her title contender case. We’ve seen stranger things from the promotion in the past.
Photo Credit: Peter Casey – USA TODAY Sport