Figueiredo could be the one man strolling away with gold Saturday in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, however he was removed from the one standout. There had been a variety of spectacular finishes, together with devastating kicks, triangles, a kneebar and extra. There had been additionally rising prospects who made statements, and some surprises.
Marc Raimondi, Jeff Wagenheim and Phil Murphy react to the most important moments from UFC Fight Night, together with Jack Hermansson‘s heel hook win over Kelvin Gastelum within the co-main occasion.
Who’s next 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’ll decide Moreno for two causes.
First, “The Assassin Baby” was unfortunate to attract Askarov when the 2 met September in Mexico City. In a sport through which “robbery” will get bandied about for each shut determination, Moreno was robbed; he ought to have received that struggle.
Every bit as necessary, Moreno presents a stand-and-trade stylistic matchup towards the aggressive Figueiredo that may make followers salivate. Book it as a pay-per-view co-main or cable important occasion. Then, go forward and make out the Fight of the Night bonus checks to these two. They’ll earn it.
Raimondi on Benavidez: I’ve a coverage to not ever say if a fighter ought to retire. Simply, 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. Sometimes there are circumstances that get uncomfortable, resembling when a fighter has been knocked out too many occasions. That shouldn’t be a problem right here in any respect. Benavidez continues to be among the finest flyweight fighters on the earth, as he has been for a few decade.
At 35 and with completely nothing to show to anybody, Benavidez might 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 also be an clever man and will do any variety of issues sooner or later. His thought to showcase fighter trend has led to a preferred social media following.
If he does wish to struggle once more, nice. Someone like Moreno would supply an excellent opponent, seeing as he is one of many few elite flyweights Benavidez has not already overwhelmed.
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, but it surely leaves him contemporary for a turnaround at his leisure — luckily for Hermansson, he absorbed zero important strikes. Unfortunately, the end result complicates the highest tier at 185 kilos.
It’s not fairly so simple as “The Joker” specified by his postfight dialog with Paul Felder.
Former champ Robert Whittaker and Darren Till meet in next week’s important occasion. The winner places himself within the dialog for No. 1 middleweight contender. Jared Cannonier — who knocked out Hermansson final September — can also be ready within the wings.
There’s no incentive for Cannonier to face Hermansson proper now, nor do I foresee the Whittaker-Till winner wanting down the ladder to the harmful Norwegian-Swede. The loser of Whittaker-Till makes much more sense. It offers him alternative for a high quality rebound, and Hermansson can show he actually belongs among the many division’s elite.
Wagenheim on Gastelum: After his third straight loss, Gastelum wants a confidence-builder. Where’s he going to seek out it? Probably not within the high 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? Maybe Gastelum ought to struggle the winner of next 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 essentially the most spectacular efficiency?
Davi Ramos feels the stress as Arman Tsarukyan goes on an all-out assault with a pleasant show of hanging.
Murphy: If you tuned in late Saturday, return and discover Arman Tsarukyan dismantling UFC veteran Davi Ramos.
Coming in, the technique appeared simple for Tsarukyan: maintain it on the ft and outpoint the Brazilian. Ramos, in spite of everything, is a embellished grappler with medals at a number of main worldwide occasions and has earned seven of eight MMA finishes by submission.
But 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 fingers 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 little thing clicked for Tsarukyan within the victory over Ramos on Saturday evening. Tsarukyan’s hanging seemed a lot improved. But 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 the most effective within the promotion, however a well-rounded prospect with glorious wrestling and floor work will get numerous wins.
Wagenheim: Where do we start? This struggle card, like Wednesday’s, didn’t have the star energy of final weekend’s three-title-fight occasion. But 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’m 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 see what he can do towards a grappler’s totally different model of stress.
Which flyweight stood out essentially the most?
Murphy: How might 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 Fight 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 concerning the fighter resort till the night earlier than weighing in. Rationales for Benavidez profitable Saturday’s rematch could possibly 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 actually gorgeous. The former hairdresser-cowboy-bricklayer could be originally of an extended title reign.
Normally, arguments could possibly be made for Ariane Lipski and Askarov. No disrespect to them, each great wins, however there was just one choice 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 capability each single time he will get into the cage.
Flyweight shouldn’t be a division recognized for knockouts. Demetrious Johnson held the UFC flyweight title for 5 years and had solely two of them. But Figueiredo has three in his previous six wins, and has the sort of dynamite in his fingers to knock down an extremely sturdy fighter like Benavidez thrice in a single spherical. That is not any joke.
Figueiredo now turns into one of the intriguing champions on the roster, a must-watch each time he will get into the Octagon. And that positive is one thing contemplating flyweight was a division the UFC just lately thought-about 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. But this evening 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 method. 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’s spectacular. Good luck getting the belt away from this man.
What was the most important shock of the evening?
Murphy: You might have gotten higher than 6-to-1 odds for Joel Alvarez to submit Joe Duffy. Those are extremely lengthy for somebody who, getting into Saturday, had 14 of 16 wins through 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.
Yet Alvarez noticed Duffy’s neck uncovered on a takedown try. Alvarez grabbed his personal reverse wrist to threaten a guillotine. Without even getting Duffy absolutely into his guard to maximise leverage, Alvarez secured the faucet. Alvarez shrugged his shoulders — nearly stunned — strolling away.
Duffy admitted postfight in an Instagram submit asserting his retirement, “I think it’s time to realize that I haven’t got what it takes any more.”
Duffy evidently anticipated extra from himself. The ease of Alvarez’s win was sufficient to immediate “Irish Joe” to name it a profession.
Raimondi: If you’d 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 break of day (native time), I’d have stated you had been having a fever dream. But sure, that’s precisely what simply occurred. Hermansson obtained 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 degree. Hermansson is a wonderful grappler, however few might have foreseen this end result. That will probably be on the submission-of-the-year listing when 2020 is over.
Wagenheim: For me, it is a tie between two lookalike outcomes. In the co-main occasion, Hermansson made fast work of Gastelum, and he did not do it along with his traditional excessive output in stand-up preventing (he got here in with a 2.57 strike differential, highest in UFC middleweight historical past). No, this time Hermansson obtained the job accomplished 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 way in which 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. Applying a kneebar that made Luana Carolina scream her verbal submission at 1:28 of Round 1 was completely on model for the Lipski nickname.
What was the most effective end of the evening?
Ariane Lipski flooring Luana Carolina with a robust 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 practice barreling full-steam forward. I made a daring prediction in a earlier “Five 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 any individual 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 searching for Carolina’s knee. Within seconds, concern shifted from Lipski leaving herself susceptible 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 Round 1.
Raimondi: There was just one knockout or TKO on Saturday evening’s card and it was a doozy. Roman Dolidze, making his UFC debut, starched Khadis Ibragimov with a kick that actually ended up being a knee. Dolidze, a southpaw, went for a change kick along with his left leg. At the identical time, Ibragimov was leaning in with an assault of his personal. Dolidze’s knee related flush with Ibragimov’s jaw. Right on the button. Ibragimov was out and Dolidze, a local of the nation of Georgia, earned his first UFC win in completely spectacular trend.
Dolidze, a grappler by commerce with politics as his household’s enterprise, looks as if somebody to regulate within the UFC’s mild heavyweight division.
Wagenheim: Half of the night’s dozen fights resulted in finishes, and there have been some lovely ones. But I’ve to think about energy of competitors and the stakes of the struggle, so Figueiredo will get the nod. He was taking over 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 obtained it accomplished through submission and is a world champion. Bravo to the Brazilian dynamo.