Two top ten flyweights face off at UFN 28 in what could very well be an audition for a potential title shot. Habitual #1 contender Joseph Benavidez, fresh off of a KO victory over Darren Uyenoyama in his last fight, meets Jussier “Formiga” Da Silva, who bounced back from a loss in his UFC debut to win a decision victory over Chris Cariaso.
Joseph Benavidez (18-3 overall, 5-1 UFC)
Strengths: Well-rounded, good striker, plenty of power, capable of subs
Weaknesses: Not quite at the level of champions (if you can call that a weakness)
Jussier “Formiga” Da Silva (15-2 overall, 1-1 UFC)
Weaknesses: Lack of experience against elite opponents
Fight Breakdown – This might be a classic case of striker vs. BJJ guy, but in the bantamweight division, the fighters are so quick, skilled and versatile that anything can and usually does happen. Benavidez trains with Team Alpha Male and is well known for his blend of speed, strength and power. He’s not a guy to stand in the pocket and trade with.
Benavidez is going to be the bully in this one. His striking prowess and strength in the clinch will dictate the majority of this fight. Formiga has never won a fight by KO/TKO and he’s probably not going to end that drought against Benavidez, but Benavidez easily has the ability to finish Formiga on the feet.
Formiga would do well to keep Benavidez in pursuit and catch him with counters while constantly staying on the move. Take a look at Benavidez’ training partner Chad Mendes and what he did to Clay Guida. Guida kept moving, but eventually he got caught and Mendes battered him against the cage. That’s exactly what Formiga wants to try and avoid, getting caught in exchanges against Benavidez, especially against the cage. If he could bait Benavidez to get impatient and come charging in, that could lead to success, but he has to have the ability to hurt Benavidez with an assortment of front kicks and punches. It would have to be something special though, as Benavidez is a very tough fighter who can take a lot of punishment and still fight his fight.
Benavidez will probably have one mission: finish this guy. He has to know how good Formiga is as a ground specialist, so look for JB to pick his shots and unload at the right moment, all the while remaining wary of Formiga’s attempts at takedowns. Benavidez is both smart enough and able enough to fend off such attempts, so we’re likely to see the majority of this fight happen in the stand up.
For Formiga, keeping his distance while landing counters would be a good plan, but it’s not likely to win him the fight. Formiga has one chance at this really, and that’s by taking Benavidez down and keeping him there.
Key to Victory: Can Formiga take Benavidez down?
If Formiga had it his way, he’d be tangling with Benavidez on the ground for the duration of the fight. He’d probably flip his lid if JB pulled guard in this fight. Getting him down is not going to be an easy task and we’re likely to see JB’s takedown defense in full effect. He has the skills to keep this thing where he wants it, but if by some chance Formiga does get him down with consistency, it boosts his chances of winning by a great deal.
A submission win over Benavidez would add another notch to his belt, but it would be extra impressive considering the caliber of fighter Benavidez is, along with the fact that Benavidez has never lost by submission (or KO). If Formiga has any type of success in bringing this to the ground (without voluntarily pulling guard of course) then we’re going to have an interesting fight. If not, he’s going to be playing in Benavidez’ world. Let’s remember that the only guy with a clear advantage in the stand up against JB is probably Demetrious Johnson. Formiga, unless he has made some kind of miracle advancements in his stand up game these past few months, is not on the same level as Johnson. You can do the math.
Why It Matters – The division is still relatively new and very thin compared to the other established weight classes. This isn’t necessarily a guaranteed, put-a-stamp-on-it title eliminator, but with the way Demetrious Johnson has run through all challengers (although in very close fights at times) and the lack of deserving opponents, anything is possible. Eventually, Johnson will have to rematch against guys he already beat (Benavidez, McCall) or take on guys who aren’t quite ready yet, like he just did against John Moraga.
A solid performance here and it’s only a matter of time until Benavidez earns another shot at the title. He has to be very careful though, he’s venturing into that Urijah Faber territory of beating anyone and everyone up until a title fight, then losing against the champ. Either way, the division just isn’t that deep and Benavidez is always at the top of the pile.
Formiga has a chance to gain some respect and move higher up the ladder. He’s ranked high on the list, but it’s only his third fight in the UFC and he’s currently 1-1 in the division. A win over JB boosts his stock immensely and makes him a viable contender and a finish would be even more spectacular considering Johnson couldn’t do that in five rounds.
One of these guys will be in the thick of the title talk with a win, and on paper, it’s Benavidez fight to win or lose.
Prediction – Benavidez
Tags: Joseph Benavidez, Jussier Formiga