Joseph Benavidez owns victories over a former UFC two-division champion (Henry Cejudo), two former WEC champs (Miguel Torres and Eddie Wineland), a former Bellator titleholder (Zach Makovsky), and three UFC title challengers (Ali Baguatinov, John Moraga, and Tim Elliott).
Remember that next time someone fixates on the fact Benavidez came up short in his title challenges over the course of his career.
While we’re at it, Benavidez’s next victory in the UFC flyweight division will break his tie with the division’s all-time standard-bearer, Demetrious “Mighty Mouse” Johnson, for most in history, which is currently 13. Since he’s not retiring after his loss to Deiveson Figueiredo in Saturday’s UFC on ESPN+ 30 main event which filled the vacant belt, we’re confident in saying the only thing that would stop him from achieving this feat would be a decision to go up to bantamweight.
Remember that, too, when you discuss the career legacy of the soon-to-be-36 year old from Las Cruces, N.M.
Benavidez dropped to 0-4 in UFC title fights on Saturday night, with his second loss to Figueiredo in as many efforts in 2020. Benavidez likewise dropped two fights to Johnson, and before that, two to WEC bantamweight standard-bearer Dominick Cruz (one before Cruz became champion).
Ask the Buffalo Bills of the 1990s how easy it is to fixate on a statistic like 0-4. The team was one of the greatest in NFL history, boasting five future Pro Football Hall of Famers, an HOF head coach, and won four consecutive AFC championships. All that outstanding play gets reduced to not then winning the Super Bowl on each of those four occasions.
Make no mistake: the circumstances which separate the champions from the top contenders can be razor-thin. The Bills lost the Super Bowl to the Giants in 1991 after kicker Scott Norwood barely missed what would have been a game-winning field goal at the end. If that kick is a couple feet to the left, they’re not even in this conversation. Don’t believe that? The Boston Bruins are 1-7 in the Stanley Cup Finals since Bobby Orr’s teams won two in the 1970s, a stretch which includes some of the most horrific meltdowns in the history of sports. But they eked one out in 2011, and get spared from these sort of lists.
Benavidez twice fought to split decisions in title fights: In a WEC 40 in a loss to Cruz, and at UFC 152 in a loss to Johnson in the bout to crown the UFC’s first 125-pound champ. In both contests, one of the cards which went against him was 48-47, meaning he was twice one round on one judges’ card from winning a major title. One round flips on one card in either of those fights and we’re not having this conversation today.
That’s the difference which puts Benavidez alongside someone like Chael Sonnen, who owns seven victories over men who held major belts, instead of Michael Bisping, who seemed destined to go down as the greatest UFC fighter never to win the big one before he capitalized against Luke Rockhold in 2017.
Of course, Sonnen got caught cheating more than once, and his plight led to a sense of schadenfreude among many. That’s far from the case with Benavidez, who has never had so much as a whiff of a scandal around him. He’s universally regarded on the inside as one of the real good guys in a business which doesn’t have nearly enough of them. Wife Megan Olivi does an outstanding job as an interviewer, first with FOX and now ESPN. They’re both considered approachable, a reporter’s dream of an interview, those inside the UFC love working with them, and they treat the fans great.
Which made Saturday’s fight all the more tough to watch. Figueiredo sure looks like the next Great One of the lighter weight classes, and it was obvious from the moment he dropped Benavidez in the opening seconds this was going to be Figgy’s coronation.
That Benavidez fought the inevitable as valiantly as he did — all the way to going out rather than tapping out — was an admirable coda to this story.
“I’ve died freaking 100 times,” Benavidez told MMA Junkie during an emotional post-fight press conference. “What’s another death? It’s different because I know I did everything right in preparation. I didn’t take any shortcuts. I did everything right. … I felt good in there, honestly. I felt focused and present even with the no crowd. Fights go fast but I could see little movements felt focused.”
And that’s how Benavidez, who isn’t through yet, should be remembered: As someone who did everything right. Someone who always dusted himself off when he was knocked down, picked himself back up, vowed to improve his craft, then went out and did so. Someone who would have gotten more credit for his positive attitude and relentless work ethic before the sport was overrun by Twitter trolls and bad-faith actors.
There are plenty of former NBA benchwarmers running around with multiple rings because they had the dumb luck of playing on the same team as Michael Jordon or Kobe Bryant. Meanwhile, Charles Barkley and John Stockton don’t have rings. That’s not bad company to have.
Original article: https://mmajunkie.usatoday.com/2020/07/joseph-benavidezs-career-is-so-much-more-than-0-4-opinion/