UFC on ESPN 23 Update: Benitez-Pearce Canceled After Benitez Nearly 5 Pounds Heavy

By: Jay Pettry
Apr 30, 2021

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Ultimate Fighting Championship featherweight Jonathan Pearce is a firm believer that discretion is the better part of valor.

At the UFC on ESPN 23 weigh-ins on Friday, Gabriel Benitez (22-8) came in at 150.5 pounds for his featherweight bout against Pearce (10-4). For a weight miss this substantial – Benitez came in 4.5 pounds over the limit – the on-weight fighter can elect to take the fight or decline it. Per Pearce’s Instagram account shortly after the weigh-ins were complete, he has decided not to compete on Saturday, so he does not give his foe a competitive advantage. It is uncertain at this time if the UFC will rebook the pairing for a later date, or go in a different direction entirely.

“Unfortunately, my opponent came in almost 5lbs overweight and our fight is off,” Pearce wrote. “I did my part by showing up and making weight and I won’t reward him by accepting a fight and giving away any advantage. I’m trying to be smart about my career, and I hope to be back in the cage soon.”

Pearce returned to the win column in November by punching out Kai Kamaka III, and in the process handed the Hawaiian his first loss due to strikes. The fighter known as “JSP” made his way to the promotion with a victorious performance on the third season of Dana White's Contender Series, where he stopped Jacob Rosales with one punch to earn himself a contract. His debut came in 2019 against Joe Lauzon, and Pearce suffered his first career knockout in 93 seconds to the longtime vet. Pearce maintains a high finish rate of 90 percent, with stoppages in each of his last eight victories.

Benitez too came back from a loss at the end of last year, knocking out Justin Jaynes with a knee to the body and follow-up elbows in December. The victory snapped a two-fight skid where he was knocked out by Sodiq Yusuff and beaten on the scorecards by Omar Morales. “Moggly” also posts a high finish rate, although lower than his former opponent’s at 82 percent. Benitez made his UFC debut at UFC 180 in November 2014, one week after Pearce made his own professional debut.

UFC on ESPN 23 will move ahead on May 1 at the UFC Apex in Las Vegas with 11 fights, and the light heavyweight headliner of Dominick Reyes vs. Jiri Prochazka is still intact. The co-main assignment remains a featherweight scrap between Cub Swanson and Giga Chikadze, while a sudden grudge match sits as the featured fight on the card. Ion Cutelaba and Dustin Jacoby got into a physical altercation at the weigh-ins ahead of their light heavyweight battle, as Cutelaba grabbed the back of Jacoby’s neck, and Jacoby was none too thrilled.

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