Abu Dhabi: The UFC’s Fight Island series makes a quick return to its temporary home at the Flash Forum in Abu Dhabi on Saturday with a card tailored to showcase Europe’s MMA talent that have been left waiting in the wings due to the disruption of the promotion’s annual timetable as a result of COVID-19.
The 12-fight card is highlighted by a rematch between Brazil’s Deiveson Figueiredo and Mexican-American Joseph Benavidez in another bid for the vacant Flyweight title formerly held by Henry Cejudo.
The duo faced off earlier this year in Norfolk, Virginia, in a controversial contest that Figueiredo won but could not claim that title as a result of missing weight.
The fight was also marred by an injury Benavidez suffered as a result of an unintentional head-butt but which seriously compromised his performance in the Octagon. It will be interesting to see what adjustments to their game that both fighters will make having already got a feel of each other’s power, craft and mental game.
Both men are capable of landing big punches as they showed when they first met, so fans can expect plenty of fireworks with less clinching or grappling on display.
Benavidez (MMA 28-6-0, UFC 15-4-0) is out to avenge his controversial loss to the Brazilian, saying, ‘you’re always going to want to beat a person that beat you, just to prove you’re better.’
“I could lose to the nicest guy in Demetrious Johnson, and I still want to kill him the next time, because I feel I’m better than him.
“And he’s nice. Figueiredo is a freaking villain. The way he went about things — he bragged in Portuguese about the fight finishing with a head-butt, and his translator didn’t translate it.
“I guess the easiest way to put it is that fighting is fighting, it goes sometimes with hurting people. That’s part of the game. You don’t want to, you just know, I have to hurt this guy, he’s trying to hurt me,” added the 35-year-old Benavidez.
‘‘What I felt after the last fight and the way it went about, not necessarily in the most fair way, it just makes me actually want to hurt him.”
Figueiredo (MMA 18-1-0, UFC 7-1-0) is the 4/9 odds-on betting favourite to win the title with Benavidez not a very well-supported 7/2 chance.
The co-main event is a middleweight clash between title aspirants Jack Hermansson and Kelvin Gastelum, with both fighters looking to make a statement and move up the queue of contenders in the 185-pound ranks.
Norway’s Hermansson (MMA 20-5-0, UFC 7-3-0) saw his four-fight winning streak halted by No 3 ranked Texan Jared Cannonier early in the second round of their September clash in Copenhagen, Denmark.
The 32-year-old has last posted an impressive win over Jacare Souza in April and had finished each of his three opponents ahead of that contest.
Former Ultimate Fighter winner Gastelum (MMA 15-5-0, UFC 10-5-0 , 1 no contest) lost both his bouts in 2019, but a lot can be learnt from the war he waged against the every dangerous Israel Adesanya in a punch-heavy contest that went the full 25 minutes at UFC 236. This was a repeat of his split decision loss to England’s Darren Till earlier.
Sunday’s 12-fight card will also showcase the skills of rising Lightweights in England’s Marc Diakiese and Thailand’s Rafael Fiziev and women’s Flyweights between Polish-Brazilian Ariane Lipski and Brazilian social media sensation Luana Carolina.
UFC Fight Island 2
Flash Forum, YAS Island
Saturday July 18 (Sunday July 19 UAE)
MAIN CARD (from 6am UAE)
Joseph Benavidez vs. Deiveson Figueiredo TITLE FIGHT
Jack Hermansson vs. Kelvin Gastelum
Marc Diakiese vs. Rafael Fiziev
Ariane Lipski vs. Luana Carolina
Alexandre Pantoja vs. Askar Askarov
UNDERCARD (from 2am UAE)
Roman Dolidze vs. Khadis Ibragimov
Grant Dawson vs. Nad Narimani
Joseph Duffy vs. Joel Alvarez
Brett Johns vs. Montel Jackson
Malcolm Gordon vs. Amir Albazi
Davi Ramos vs. Arman Tsarukyan
Carlos Felipe vs. Serghei Spivac