This last week, one of the best fighters in the history of the UFC‘s flyweight division announced his retirement. That fighter was Joseph Benavidez (28-8). Benavidez announced that he was walking away from the sport following a recent three-fight skid.
When it comes to the good guys of the game, Joseph Benavidez is one of those guys. A guy that always showed up, never made excuses, and did things the right way. That’s why he was such a fan-favorite and why the UFC cherished him.
Benavidez first burst onto the scene in the WEC in the bantamweight division. At the time, the lowest weight class that he could compete at was 135 pounds. Like Demetrious Johnson, Benavidez made it work despite being much smaller than the competition.
He rose to the top of the WEC and challenged Dominick Cruz for the bantamweight title. Ultimately, Benavidez fell short. After moving over the UFC, the promotion announced that they would be adding the flyweight division. This was a natural fit for Benavidez.
Benavidez’s run at flyweight
Benavidez competed in the inaugural flyweight title fight against one of the greatest of all time, Demetrious Johnson. It was a very competitive fight with Johnson just edging Benavidez by split decision to win the UFC flyweight title.
After that loss, Benavidez went on a three-fight win streak to get another shot at Johnson and the flyweight title. This time, Johnson stopped Benavidez in the first round to retain the flyweight title.
After that loss, Benavidez was in a weird spot. To the eyes of many, he was clearly the second best flyweight in the UFC. However, after losing to the champion twice, it was hard for him to get another crack at the belt.
After the second loss to Johnson, Benavidez would go 9-1 in his next ten fights. The lone loss being a split decision to Sergio Pettis who is now the Bellator bantamweight champion. During that stretch, Benavidez defeated former two-division UFC champion Henry Cejudo.
End of the road and his UFC legacy
That stretch brought Benavidez to 2020 and a showdown with Deiveson Figueiredo. Johnson was no longer in the UFC and Benavidez was set to fight Figueiredo for the vacant flyweight title.
Figueiredo stopped Benavidez in the second round of their first fight, but since he didn’t make weight, the UFC called for an immediate rematch. Benavidez was given another shot, but again fell short against Figueiredo.
After that loss, Benavidez suffered a decision loss to Askar Askarov which prompted this retirement and the end to an incredibly underrated career. Make no mistake about it, Joseph Benavidez is one of the best to ever do it in the lighter weight divisions.
Critics will want to point to the fact that he went winless in UFC title fights. However, his resume still speaks for itself. He beat some of the best and really only lost to the best in the world. Hats off to Joseph Benavidez and his incredible career. Truly one of the good guys of the sport.