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UFC Fight Island 2 preview, ‘Figueiredo vs Benavidez 2’ predictions

Let’s try this again.

Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) will once again attempt to crown a new flyweight champion following the departure of Henry Cejudo and once again, will put assign that task to top contenders Deiveson Figueiredo and Joseph Benadivez. It’s basically a do-over of the UFC Norfolk main event from last February, when the Brazilian won the fight but failed to capture the crown, thanks to a disastrous scale fail that nixed his championship eligibility.

Shortly before Figueiredo and Benadivez run it back for the vacant strap, middleweight hopefuls Jack Hermansson and Kelvin Gastelum will collide for a spot in the 185-pound title chase. Both combatants are looking to rebound from disappointing losses and no question this is a must-win situation, at least in terms of contending for the division title.

Before we get to the main and co-main event breakdown, be sure to check out the complete UFC Fight Island 2 preliminary card breakdown, expertly deconstructed by the jet-setting Patrick Stumberg here. Fighter-turned-writer-turned-fighter again, Andrew Richardson, did most of the heavy lifting for the rest of the main card right here.

Let’s crunch some numbers.

125 lbs.: Deiveson Figueiredo vs. Joseph Benadivez

Deiveson “Daico” Figueiredo

Record: 18-1 | Age: 32 | Betting line: -200
Wins: 8 KO/TKO, 6 SUB, 3 DEC | Losses: 0 KO/TKO, 0 SUB, 1 DEC
Height: 5’5“ | Reach: 68” | Stance: Orthodox
Striking accuracy: 177 of 338 (52%) | Takedown attempts: 7 of 18 (40%)
Current Ranking: No. 1 | Last fight: TKO win over Joseph Benavidez

Joseph “Joe Jitsu” Benavidez

Record: 28-6 | Age: 35 | Betting line: +170
Wins: 8 KO/TKO, 9 SUB, 11 DEC | Losses: 1 KO/TKO, 0 SUB, 4 DEC
Height: 5’4“ | Reach: 65” | Stance: Southpaw
Striking accuracy: 1039 of 3084 (34%) | Takedown attempts: 16 of 97 (30%)
Current Ranking: No. 2 | Last fight: TKO loss to Deiveson Figueiredo

What kind of chance you give Joseph Benavidez in his championship rematch against Deiveson Figueiredo largely depends on how much weight — pun intended — you put behind the Brazilian’s scale fail ahead of UFC Norfolk earlier this year. In addition, we also have to take into account the errant head butt that left “Joe Jitsu” on queer street and may (or may not) have set him up for a technical knockout finish in the second stanza.

To be honest, Figueiredo looked one step ahead of Benavidez from the jump and again, you can equate that to his ability to avoid the rigors of a brutal weight cut. But you can also argue that “Daico” is a large, muscular flyweight with a ton of power who may just be the superior fighter. You don’t get to 18-1 at this level of competition by sidestepping land mines. In addition, Benavidez was 0-2 on takedown attempts, leaving him in a striking war with the most dangerous flyweight in the division. “Joe Jitsu” is a talented grappler but certainly no Henry Cejudo in the wrestling department, so I don’t know why the UFC Fight Island 2 main event would look any different than UFC Norfolk.

In order to beat Figueiredo, Benavidez has to be faster and more nimble on his feet, something that may have been possible a decade ago, but the former Team Alpha Male (TAM) standout turns 36 at the end of the month. I think the only way Benavidez wins this is by taking Figueiredo into deep water and finishing him late in the fight. Even though “Daico” appeared to hit the 125-pound limit without incident, his weight cut is not a pleasant one and something tells me the fourth or fifth round will prove why. That’s assuming “Joe Jitsu” can survive that long without getting his head caved in and that’s not exactly the sort of prediction I would lay money on.

Prediction: Figueiredo def. Benavidez by technical knockout

185 lbs.: Jack Hermansson vs. Kelvin Gastelum

Jack “The Joker” Hermansson

Record: 20-5 | Age: 32 | Betting line: -110
Wins: 11 KO/TKO, 5 SUB, 4 DEC | Losses: 2 KO/TKO, 2 SUB, 1 DEC
Height: 6’1“ | Reach: 77.5” | Stance: Orthodox
Striking accuracy: 247 of 441 (56%) | Takedown attempts: 8 of 17 (47%)
Current Ranking: No. 6 | Last fight: TKO loss to Jared Cannonier

Kelvin Gastelum

Record: 15-5, 1 NC | Age: 28 | Betting line: -120
Wins: 6 KO/TKO, 4 SUB, 5 DEC | Losses: 0 KO/TKO, 1 SUB, 4 DEC
Height: 5’9“ | Reach: 71.5” | Stance: Southpaw
Striking accuracy: 637 of 1458 (71%) | Takedown attempts: 9 of 18 (50%)
Current Ranking: No. 7 | Last fight: Split-decision loss to Darren Till

Jack Hermansson has been a pleasant surprise for fans of the middleweight division, racking up seven wins — with five highlight-reel finishes — in 10 trips to the Octagon following his UFC debut roughly four years back. Momentum can pay dividends in a sport as unpredictable as MMA and that probably has a lot to do with his spot in the 185-pound rankings, which of course was helped by his upset win over perennial contender Ronaldo Souza. With that in mind, it’s also fair to point out that “Jacare” was 40 years old at the time and “The Joker” does not have another win over a fighter currently ranked in the Top 15. It’s also telling that he was bombed by Thiago Santos and Jared Cannonier in bouts that may have served as a litmus test for where the submission-savvy Swede stands in an increasingly competitive weight class.

The same can be said for Kelvin Gastelum, a natural welterweight who could never quite figure out his weight-cutting problems at 170 pounds. To date, there has been little reason to second-guess his trip north, particularly after watching him over-perform against Israel Adesnaya in their interim title fight back in April 2019. Like Hermansson, the 28 year-old Gastelum has made a career out of knocking around weary veterans who were long on name value but short on durability, evidenced by the fact that Tim Kennedy, Vitor Belfort, and Michael Bisping are no longer competing in UFC. I don’t think that diminishes what he’s accomplished at 185 pounds but it should at the very least temper our enthusiasm when looking ahead. Hermansson may be a “Joker” but when it comes to combat sports he’s certainly no joke.

What I like most about Hermansson is his fidelity to the fundamentals of MMA. He’s well-rounded and proficient in most disciplines and there isn’t an aspect of cage fighting where I would consider him perilously outmatched. Getting knocked out by bricklayers like Cannonier and Santos don’t tell us much as those two monsters can finish just about anyone. Conversely, Gastelum’s biggest fight seems to take place inside his own head and despite his smaller frame, some of the world’s best middleweights still struggle to figure him out. I don’t expect that to be any different for Hermansson who is missing that dynamic “something’ required to make a serious run at a championship title. Unless Gastelum makes a dumb mistake like shoot with his neck exposed like a Thanksgiving gizzard, “The Joker” will likely find himself on the losing end of an action-packed unanimous decision.

Prediction: Gastelum def. Hermansson by unanimous decision

Remember to get the rest of the UFC Fight Island 2 main card predictions RIGHT HERE.

MMAmania.com will deliver LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the entire UFC Fight Island 2 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.

For the rest of the UFC Fight Island 2 fight card and ESPN+ line up click here.