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UFC Fight Night 123 card: Jason Knight vs Gabriel Benitez full fight preview

MMA: UFC 211-Skelly vs Knight Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) Featherweight finishers Jason Knight and Gabriel Benitez will collide this Saturday (Dec. 9, 2017) inside Save Mart Center in Fresno, California.

Unofficially nicknamed “Hick Diaz” by fans for his aggressive combination of boxing and Brazilian jiu-jitsu, Knight scored four straight wins and a pair of finishes to rise into the Top 15. He ultimately came up short in a big step up against Ricardo Lamas, resulting in this step back in competition. Sporting a 3-2 record inside the Octagon, Benitez is a high-action Southpaw with dangerous finishing ability. He has been unable to carve out a big win streak just yet, but the Mexican prospect has definitely shown some real potential.

Let’s take a look at the keys to victory for each athlete:

Jason Knight
Record: 17-3
Key Wins: Chas Skelly (UFC 211), Dan Hooker (UFC Fight Night 101), Alex Caceres (UFC on FOX 23)
Key Losses: Ricardo Lamas (214), Tatsuya Kawajiri (TUF 22 Finale)
Keys to Victory: Knight is all about aggression. On the feet, he marches down his foe and slings heavy combinations. That’s all well and good, but Knight’s real end goal is to grab a body lock, heave his foe through the air, and strangle the life from him shortly after.

His opponent is a great kicker with a nasty guillotine. Despite some time at the American Kickboxing Academy (AKA), his takedown defense hasn’t quite come along as quickly as one would hope. Last time out, he was soundly out-wrestled for all three rounds.Knight has the toughness and boxing skill to close distance. He might get hit along the way, but that’s never discouraged him before. The gameplan for Knight is shockingly simple, as the takedown is nearly a guarantee if he can get his hands on Benitez.

Once on top, Knight can look to land his 14th career win via tapout.


Gabriel Benitez
Record: 19-6
Key Wins: Sam Sicilia (UFC Fight Night 94), Clay Collard (UFC 188)
Key Losses: Andre Fili (TUF Latin America 2 Finale), Enrique Barzola (UFC 211)
Keys to Victory: Benitez is a solid athlete with one of the nastiest left kicks in the game. His kickboxing is built around that weapon, and Benitez does a great job of punishing his opponents at range until they take a bad shot into his waiting guillotine.

The wrestling defense is a problem for Benitez, as he doesn’t want to trade submission attempts with Knight. Other than that, though, Benitez does match up fairly well with “Mississippi Mean.”

Knight is not an overwhelming wrestler who can chain together shots like Barzola: He’s a jiu-jitsu guy who relies on timing and one big slam. If Benitez can make this a distance kickboxing match, he stands a fair chance of keeping this thing on the feet. In past fights with Caceres and Hooker, Knight struggled to close the distance and ate shots, leading to him losing rounds. He ultimately won those fights — in part because of sheer tenacity — but the performances show that Benitez kicking from range is a viable path to victory. If Benitez can do damage to the lead leg early, it will go a long way in preventing any rally from his opponent.

Bottom Line: It’s a step back in competition for Knight and a big opportunity for Benitez.

Knight earned his high-profile moment against Lamas, even if it proved to be too much, too soon. Despite the loss, Knight is still an intriguing and entertaining prospect at 145 pounds, currently holding the No. 15 spot in the division. That position does put some pressure on him to perform, as Knight doesn’t want to lose his spot. A win, on the other hand, sets him up for a fellow ranked opponent next time out.

Benitez lost his last bout, making this a riskier fight for him. Consecutive losses don’t eject him from the division, but it’s a setback that will have him fighting newcomers on the prelims or only appearing on cards in Mexico. There’s also more to be gained, as Knight would far and away be the biggest win of his career, a sign that Benitez has truly developed a well-rounded and functional mixed martial arts (MMA) game.

At UFC Fight Night 123, Jason Knight and Gabriel Benitez will square off in the co-main event. Which fighter will remain standing when the dust settles?

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