Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) Flyweight contenders Joseph Benavidez and Jussier Formiga will square off this Saturday (June 29, 2019) at UFC on ESPN 3 from inside Target Center in Minneapolis, Minnesota.
Since 2014, Benavidez has picked up eight victories over top-notch competition, his only loss in that time a spit-decision defeat following an 18 month layoff. Most importantly, Benavidez is the most recent athlete to defeat current double champ Henry Cejudo, making a potential title shot opposite “Triple C” a distinct possibility. Formiga, meanwhile, is on a solid four-fight win streak himself, and his performances in recent wins have shown considerable improvement. The two are ranked as the top pair of contenders at 125 lbs., so this is pretty much guaranteed to be a title eliminator for either man — assuming Cejudo does eventually return to his old stomping grounds.
Let’s take a closer look at the keys to victory for each man:
Key Wins: Henry Cejudo (TUF 24 Finale) , Jussier Formiga (UFC Fight Night 28), Dustin Ortiz (UFC Fight Night 143, UFC Fight Night 57), Alex Perez (TUF 28 Finale), Ali Bagautinov (UFC 192)
Key Losses: Demetrious Johnson (UFC on FOX 9, UFC 152), Dominick Cruz (WEC 50, WEC 42), Sergio Pettis (UFC 225)
Keys to Victory: Benavidez has been an elite contender of the lighter weight classes for at least a decade now, squaring off with the best competition available the entire time. The veteran is an extremely well-rounded fighter, best known for his crushing chokes, tricky combinations, and general scrambling ability.
The last time the two faced off, Benavidez pretty much walked through Formiga, as the Brazilian could neither take him down nor strike with “Beefcake.” Since then, Formiga has become a far more formidable kickboxer, making better use of his range, developing hard kickers, and more accurate counter punches.
Realistically, Benavidez won’t just smash him inside a round. However, the rest of his advantages remain. Benavidez is a more varied striker, mixing up his targets very well while switching between Southpaw and Orthodox. Plus, the wrestler can push a higher pace, which will likely be important if this bout goes to the judges.
Key Wins: Deiveson Figueroa (UFC Fight Night 148), Sergio Pettis (UFC 229), Wilson Reis (UFC Fight Night 67), Dustin Ortiz (UFC Fight Night 95)
Key Losses: Joseph Benavidez (UFC Fight Night 28), Henry Cejudo (UFC Fight Night 78), John Dodson (UFC on FX 5)
Keys to Victory: Formiga is a relatively straightforward mix of Muay Thai and jiu-jitsu, though his recent transition to American Top Team has served him well to fill in the gaps. In general, Formiga is all about back control, where he’s known for locking foes down for entire rounds or quickly securing the choke.
Unfortunately for the Brazilian, Benavidez has proven fairly impossible to hold down for more than a handful of seconds, so spending energy towards the takedown seems like a waste. Instead, Formiga would be better off accepting a kickboxing match, only ducking down if he sees the perfect moment.
At distance, Formiga should look to replicate Sergio Pettis’ success opposite Benavidez. The Brazilian is slightly taller and longer, and he should make it a goal to land jabs and hard low kicks at range. When Benavidez swarms forward with his combinations, Formiga should look to step back and interrupt him with a cross.
Last time out, Formiga employed the perfect game plan to defeat Deveison Figueroa — he’ll have to do so again if he’s to have his hand raised here.
Bottom Line: This is the best Flyweight title eliminator available.
Joseph Benavidez has more than earned another shot at gold over the years. Even after a torn ACL and close loss to Pettis, “Beefcake” bounced back immediately to knock off arguably the division’s hottest up-and-comer as well as a stud wrestler hitting his prime. Benavidez has made it clear that his eyes are still on the belt, and he only needs one more victory to earn the chance.
Formiga has risen up a level as well, fixing the issues that needed to be handled and doubling down on his core strengths. While Formiga does have previous losses to both Benavidez and Cejudo, a win here is evidence that the Brazilian has grown enough to even the score with both.
At UFC on ESPN 3, Joseph Benavidez and Jussier Formiga will rematch in the co-main event. Which man will have his hand raised?