Joseph Benavidez owns a stellar 27-5 record and plies his trade in the Ultimate Fighting Championship’s flyweight division. In his latest assignment, the 34-year-old will rematch Jussier Formiga in the UFC on ESPN 3 co-main event this Saturday at the Target Center in Minneapolis.
As Benavidez makes final preparations for his high-stakes battle with Formiga, here are five moments that have come to define him:
FIRST TASTE OF DEFEAT … Benavidez was a 10-0 bantamweight when he fought Dominick Cruz at WEC 42 on Aug. 9, 2009. The contest proved to be a highly competitive affair under the World Extreme Cagefighting banner. The taller Cruz utilized fleet footwork and pinpoint striking to good effect. Benavidez displayed strong defense and connected with some big shots. However, after 15 minutes of action, the judges all called it for Cruz. The entertaining clash received “Fight of the Night” honors. A year later, Benavidez lost a rematch to the future two-time UFC bantamweight titleholder.
MAKING A STATEMENT … In his third appearance with the UFC, Benavidez on March 3, 2012 made his flyweight debut opposite Yasuhiro Urushitani at UFC on FX 2. The matchup also served as a semifinal in the promotion’s flyweight grand prix. Following a dominant first round, Benavidez came out aggressively for the second. After dropping the Japanese fighter with a punch, he unleashed ground-and-pound until referee Steve Perceval called a halt to the beatdown 11 seconds into Round 2. It had become apparent that Benavidez was going to be a force in the UFC’s new weight class.
THINNEST OF MARGINS … At UFC 152 on Sept. 22, 2012, Benavidez challenged Demetrious Johnson for the inaugural flyweight championship. There was little to separate the pair in a back-and-forth affair. While Johnson appeared to get the better of the first and fifth rounds, Benavidez looked the stronger in the second and fourth. Having dropped Johnson to the floor in Round 4, Benavidez latched on to a guillotine choke, but “Mighty Mouse” survived. After five rounds, Johnson was awarded a split decision and the inaugural flyweight title.
REMATCH ROUT … Following the narrow loss to Johnson, Benavidez rebounded with three consecutive victories. His impressive run set the stage for a rematch with Johnson for the flyweight title at UFC on Fox 9 on Dec. 14, 2013. Another closely contested battle was anticipated. However, a mere 2:08 into the first round, Bermudez was preyed upon by a Johnson right hook that sent him tumbling to the mat in an unconscious state. It remains the only time he has been stopped in his career.
STAYING RELEVANT … Benavidez was coming off of a split decision loss to Sergio Pettis when he met Alex Perez at “The Ultimate Fighter 28” Finale on Nov. 30. Many wondered if Benavidez would struggle against his surging opponent, who came into the match riding an eight-fight winning streak. The aggressive Perez impressed in the early going. However, late in the first round, Benavidez appeared to be on the verge of victory when he laid into his adversary with ground-and-pound. Referee Yves Lavigne bizarrely placed both of his hands on Benavidez, who assumed the fight was over and paused the beatdown. Soon after a restart, Perez found himself languishing on the canvas with Benavidez on top of him in side control and landing heavy right hands. The barrage resulted in the contest being stopped 4:21 into Round 1. The TKO was Benavidez’s first stoppage win in over four and a half years and proved he was still a force to be reckoned with at 125 pounds.