Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) is right back at it again, as UFC Fight Night 169 is set to go down later TONIGHT (Sat., Feb. 29, 2020) from inside Chartway Arena in Norfolk, Va., streaming exclusively on ESPN+. Headlining the event will be a men's Flyweight title fight between Joseph Benavidez and Deiveson Figueiredo, though only Benavidez will be eligible to win the strap (read why here). In the co-main event, Felicia Spencer collides with Zarah Fairn in women's Featherweight action in a fight that could have major title implications.
The UFC men's Flyweight division is still alive and well, though it may be hanging on by a thread despite rumors of its apparent demise subsiding. Still, if we've learned anything about Dana White and Co. is that they are full of surprises, and today's reality may not be the same as tomorrow's. So if they up and choose to do away with the weight class at the drop of a hat, fans and fighters alike shouldn't be too surprised.
After Henry Cejudo was forced to vacate his title for inactivity, the promotion called on Joseph Benavidez and Deiveson Figueiredo to fight for the vacant strap. Indeed, there weren't two more deserving combatants than these men. But once weigh-ins rolled around, things went south in a hurry. Figueiredo missed weight by 2.5 pounds and after choosing not to take the extra hour to lose the excess baggage, he was deemed ineligible to win the title. He was also forced to fork over 30-percent of his fight purse to Benavidez.
But hey, stuff happens.
It's a tough break for Figueiredo, who still needs a win in the worst way to make up for his debacle. That said, if he wins, the title will still be vacant, leaving the promotion in a predicament. Do they stage a rematch between Benavidez and Figueiredo? Do they find two other worthy contenders to fight for the strap? Do they do away with it once and for all? Indeed, Figueiredo's scale fail could have major ramifications for a lot of people.
Still, a new champion can be crowned if “Joe Jitsu” gets the job done. And if his recent track record shows us anything, he is more than capable of becoming the new face of the division. This will he his third attempt at winning the title, and it could very well be his last should he lose given the uncertainty of the division's future following the event.
What can I say? It's another average Fight Night card that will likely struggle to get live views. I love the main event, but the rest of the card is severely lacking. Granted, it was hit hard with injuries, so there isn't much the promotion can do about that.
Original Card vs. Actual Card:
Alex Oliveira and Mickey Gall were set to tango in Welterweight action before the bout was scratched for undisclosed reasons. Chas Skelly and Grant Dawson were set to collide in Featherweight action before an injury forced Skelly out of action. Darrick Manner -- who will be making his UFC debut -- stepped in to fill the void. Mike Davis and Giga Chikadze’s fight was canceled after Davis was struck down with an injury. Luckily for Giga, he was booked to replace an injured Movsar Evloev at UFC 248 against Jamall Emmers.
Aside from Mike Davis and Chas Skelly, Alex Munoz was also struck down by the injury bug and was forced out of his Lightweight bout against Luis Pena. In turn, Steve Garcia stepped in on super-short notice to face "Violent Bob Ross."
Not much is known about Norma Dumont, who will face Megan Anderson in women’s Featherweight action. She is undefeated, but at 4-0, there isn’t a whole lot of tape available on her. She hasn’t competed since 2018, so ring rust could be a major factor when she faces off against the former Invicta FC 145-pound champ.
Kyler Phillips was supposed to make his debut in 2019 against Ray Borg, but the fight was canceled due to an injury. Now, the former Dana White’s Contender Series (DWTNCS) alum will compete for the first time in over a year. In his last fight, he knocked out Emeka Ifekandu under the Legacy Fighting Alliance (LFA) banner in the very first round. He’ll have a tough task against Gabriel Silva, who is 8-1 in his combat career, with his lone loss coming to the aforementioned Borg last July.
Darrick Manner will also be making his UFC debut when he takes on Grant Dawson. Manner has a ton of experience under his belt, but has been rather inconsistent, going 5-4 in his last nine outings. Also, Steve Garcia got a late call up to face Luis Pena after Alex Munoz bowed out with an injury. Fighting out of Jackson-Wink MMA, Garcia has won four straight, including his fight on the “Contender Series.” Pena is definitely in for a challenge, as Garcia comes to scrap every single time, and is looking forward to making a splash in his Octagon debut.
Aalon Cruz won an instant contract with UFC after knocking out Steven Nguyen with a beautiful flying knee on the "Contender Series." Floored by the knockout, Dana could be seen telling Cruz that he had earned a contract right away. He will face fellow newcomer Spike Carlyle, who is on a four-fight win streak. Of his eight wins, Spike has finished them all but one, going the distance just once, proving victorious in that bout as well. And finally, TJ Brown will look to make his presence felt at Featherweight, all while looking to score his fifth straight win. He made good on his “Contender Series” bout, defeating Dylan Lockard via submission. Standing in his way will be Jordan Griffin, who has lost his first two fights inside the Octagon.
How The 'Prelims' Look:
Tom Breese and Brendan Allen will collide in Middleweight action. At 11-1, Breese has done pretty good for himself, winning four of his five fights under the UFC banner. Allen, meanwhile, has also been on a tear, winning five in a row including making a successful UFC debut last October.
Luis Pena, meanwhile, will look to get back in the win column when he takes on newcomer, Steve Garcia, while Ismael Naurdiev will take on Sean Brady at 170 pounds.
Furthermore, Kyler Phillips and Gabriel Silva will headline the underbelly of the ESPN+-streamed event. Phillips will be making his UFC debut, so first-time jitters could come into play here. Silva is a tough draw for anyone, despite the fact he came up short against Ray Borg. In 265-pound action, Marcin Tybura will look to snap out of his funk when he faces Sergey Spivak.
At the end of the day, the undercard features a lot of new blood and contenders who are simply looking for emphatic wins to somehow, someway, get some spotlight on them and onto the main card.
Who Needs A Win Badly:
Marcin Tybura has lost two in a row, so he can't afford to lose his third straight, as UFC hasn't been shy in handing out pink slips to struggling fighters as of late. He will have a tough challenge against Sergey Spivak, who was last seen taking out Tai Tuivasa. Spivak cracks hard, and if Marcin isn't careful, he could find himself on his way out of the company with a third straight loss. A win is crucial for Tybura if he wants to remain under the Endeavor-owned fight promotion.
Interest Level: 5.5 of 10
It’s rare that you get a title fight that isn’t on pay-per-view (PPV), but the fact that we’re not guaranteed the crowning of a new champion kind of puts a damper on the mood. At the end of the day, it should be a great scrap at as Benavidez and Figueiredo are two of the best 125-pound fighters on the planet. Plus, we could very well find out of the division moves forward or comes to a halt once the dust settles.
Aside from Spencer and Fairn colliding in women’s 145-pound action, Megan Anderson will take on Norma Dumont. And when you take into consideration UFC recently announcing that division queen, Amanda Nunes, will compete at UFC 250 without naming an opponent, there is a good chance that either Spencer, Santos, Anderson or Dumont could be her opponent.
In further main card action, Ion Cutelaba will face off against Magomed Ankalaev, who has won three straight and has amassed a near-perfect 13-1 record in his mixed martial arts (MMA) career. It’s an interesting match up to say the least, and the victor could make great strides in cracking the Top 15 in what is a highly-competitive division.
Enjoy the fights!
Full Fight Card:
UFC Fight Night 169 Main Event on ESPN+:
125 lbs.: Joseph Benavidez vs. Deiveson Figueiredo for vacant flyweight title
UFC Fight Night 169 Main Card on ESPN+ (8 p.m. ET):
145 lbs.: Zarah Fairn vs. Felicia Spencer
205 lbs.: Magomed Ankalaev vs. Ion Cutelaba
145 lbs.: Megan Anderson vs. Norma Dumont
145 lbs.: Grant Dawson vs. Darrick Minner
135 lbs.: Kyler Phillips vs. Gabriel Silva
UFC Fight Night 169 Prelims Card on ESPN+ (5 p.m. ET):
185 lbs.: Brendan Allen vs. Tom Breese
155 lbs.: Luis Pena vs. Steve Garcia
265 lbs.: Serghei Spivac vs. Marcin Tybura
145 lbs.: Jordan Griffin vs. T.J. Brown
145 lbs.: Spike Carlyle vs. Aalon Cruz
170 lbs.: Sean Brady vs. Ismail Naurdiev
MMAmania.com will deliver LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the entire UFC Fight Night 169 fight card RIGHT HERE, starting with the ESPN+ “Prelims” undercard bouts at 5 p.m. ET, followed by the ESPN+ main card start time at 8 p.m. ET.