Figueiredo win leaves UFC flyweight title vacant


Deiveson Figueiredo added to the turbulent history of the UFC men’s flyweight division Saturday by winning a title fight in which he was not eligible to capture the belt.

Figueiredo opened up a cut on Joseph Benavidez‘s forehead, possibly on a clash of heads, and knocked him out with a straight right hand at 1 minute, 54 seconds of Round 2 at Chartway Arena in Norfolk, Virginia.

But Figueiredo, a 32-year-old from Soure, Brazil, did not become champion, because he had missed the 125-pound limit at Friday’s weigh-in. The title remains vacant, as two-division champion Henry Cejudo relinquished the championship in December to focus on his bantamweight reign. Had Benavidez won, he would have claimed the belt.

“I am very sorry for missing weight,” Figueiredo said through an interpreter. “But I told everybody I’m gonna put on a big show.”

The fight was all action from the start. Figueiredo nearly ended it early by submission, as he locked in an armbar off a first-round scramble on the canvas. But Benavidez escaped, and when he got back to his feet, he started winging big punches, only a few of which came close to landing.

Benavidez, 35, appeared to be the fresher fighter entering the second round, but then he was cut. As he was wiping blood from his forehead, Benavidez absorbed the punch that ended the fight and left Figueiredo celebrating an electrifying victory, albeit not a title-winning one.

In winning his third fight in a row since suffering his lone career defeat early last year, Figueiredo (18-1) vanquished a mainstay of the 125-pound division. Benavidez (28-6) competed in the 2012 tournament to crown the inaugural UFC flyweight champ, losing a split decision to Demetrious Johnson in the final that September. Fifteen months later, after Benavidez had won three consecutive fights to earn a rematch, Johnson knocked him out in the first round.

It took Benavidez more than six years to get back to a title fight, and when he got there, Figueiredo was too much for him to handle.

“Everybody’s going through ups and downs,” a dazed Benavidez said afterward. “This is mine, on display.”

The flyweight division was ruled for years by Johnson, until a 2018 upset win by Cejudo changed everything. But when Cejudo set his sights on winning a second title, at bantamweight, there was talk that the UFC might abolish the 125-pound division altogether. But when Cejudo relinquished the title and this fight was booked, it appeared flyweight was back in business. Then Figueiredo missed weight, throwing things back into disarray.

Figueiredo entered the fight No. 4 in the ESPN men’s flyweight rankings. Third-ranked Benavidez had won his previous three fights and nine of his past 10.

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