UFC Fight Island 2 saw five losses on the main card but none more heartbreaking than Joseph Benavidez.
Joseph Benavidez’s loss at UFC Fight Island 2 will resonate with fans for a while. The soon to be 36-year-old may have had his last shot at championship gold, having already had five title shots in his career across two companies. All five times he’s fallen short, none hurt quite like this one, however. Having survived nearly everything thrown at him in the first five minutes, with just 12 seconds left before the end of the round, Benavidez got caught by Deiveson Figueiredo in a rare-naked choke. His will was there, but his body wasn’t. Despite not tapping, Benavidez passed out just before time expired.
A fifth opportunity at UFC featherweight gold, at least while Figueiredo is champion, is unlikely at this point. He’s not going to fall out of the top-five, so obviously he could always get another shot. Especially since the flyweight division is lacking star-caliber names, as it’s really just him and Figueiredo at this point. It just doesn’t make sense to book a third fight when the first two were so obvious.
Kelvin Gastelum found himself in a rather heartbreaking moment as well, getting tapped relatively quickly in the first round. Benavidez and Gastelum will need to rebound and join the likes of Marc Diakiese, Luana Carolina, and Alexandre Pantoja who ended up on the wrong side of the referee at UFC Fight Island 2. All five need to find a way to bounce back and these are the names they can possibly do that against.
Potential next opponents for the UFC Fight Island 2 main card losers
Next opponent: Alexandre Pantoja
Benavidez wants gold. Fans want him to get gold. Heck, there doesn’t seem to be many people against Benavidez these days. He’s an elite level fighter but keeps running up against the very top guys like Figueiredo and Demetrious Johnson. A win over top 5 ranked Pantoja, himself leaving UFC Fight Island 2 with a loss as well, would help keep Benavidez within striking distance for a title shot. For Pantoja, if he can beat arguably the second-best flyweight still in the company, then he might be able to earn another shot at Figueiredo, having lost to him in July of 2019. Whoever loses this fight would probably fall out of the top 5.
Next opponent: Edmen Shahbazyan
Kelvin Gastelum is either on a really rough patch for his UFC career or he’s on the verge of proving an inability to compete against the best of the UFC. If he can show up against a top-ranked Edmen Shabazyan and win, then maybe it’s just a skid and Gastelum can in fact regain form. If he can’t? Then it’s clear his UFC career as a viable title contender is over.
Next opponent: Luis Pena
Both men are showing flashes of streaky fighting but are both still young enough to correct it. Both are 27-years-old, and both are having a hard time staying consistent in the win column. Diakiese was on a three-fight losing streak but rebounded to win two fights back to back. Another win would make him 3-1 in his last four, but another loss would have him at 2-5 in his last seven. Streaks matter in fighting, and he needs to find someone to get right against. Louis Pena is the perfect guy, who’s shown some talent and wouldn’t be seen as a cakewalk if Diakiese were to win.
Next opponent: Molly McCann
Luana Carolina was 6-1 before Ariane Lipski forgot she didn’t get a souvenir for her favorite relative while in Abu Dhabi and decided to try and take Carolina’s leg home as a gift. Carolina is talented though. One awful loss shouldn’t end her run, and early reports say that Carolina didn’t suffer any major injuries, so she should be able to bounce back. A great bounce-back opponent is Molly McCann, herself coming off of a recent loss. Carolina is talented, (as is McCann) if Carolina can show up against McCann, then maybe people can remember Carolina for more than just a nasty submission loss.