Fightweets: Joseph Benavidez learned from Dominick Cruz experience

Esther Lin

After Joseph Benavidez lost a split decision to Demetrious Johnson at UFC 152 in the fight to crown the first UFC flyweight champion, the Team Alpha Male Fighter took a cue from his own past.

Twice in the span of a year, Benavidez fought Dominick Cruz, the second of which was for the WEC bantamweight title. While Benavidez came closer to lifting the title from Cruz than anyone has during his current run, losing the second fight on a split decision, the pair of losses in such a short span meant he wouldn't be getting another crack at the 135-pound crown anytime soon.

With that on his mind, Benavidez knew after last September's loss to "Mighty Mouse" that he needed to take a step backward in order to take two forward.

"I made that mistake with Dominick Cruz at 135," Benavidez said. "I lost to him twice in a year. Even thought I was ranked No. 2 in the world and could beat whoever I want, i wasn't going to get another title shot."

This time around, Benavidez decided to methodically work his way back through the ranks, rather than go straight after another title shot in a relatively thin division. While John Dodson and John Moraga took their shots at Johnson, Benavidez scored wins over Ian McCall and Darren Uyenoyama.

Benavidez returns to action on Sept. 4 in Brazil, when he meets Jussier "Formiga" Silva in Brazil in a main-card bout at UFC Fight Night 28. He feels that with a victory, he will finally be ready for another shot at the belt.

"After the ‘Uncle Creepy' fight, I probably could have gotten a title shot," Benavidez said. "But this is what I want to do. I want to prove myself as fighter, I wanted to keep working with my new coach Duane Ludwig and keep improving."

Against the 15-2 Silva, Benavidez (18-3) will take on a fighter who was regarded by many as the world's best flyweight during the period before the UFC instituted a 125-pound weight class. Benavidez says he looks at the opportunity to fight Silva on his home turf as a challenge worth accepting.

"Why would I not want to fight over there?" Benavidez asked. "They have the greatest, most loyal fans, and I think I can build even more fan base over there. They might not like me at first but they're going to see the way I fight and that I fight my heart out, and hopefully that steals there heart also, it's a great fan base to join. Whether they're with me or against me it's going to be a good energy in there. Maybe I can win the fight Rocky IV style. that's what I'm envisioning happening, even though it's nothing like that. I just like Rocky IV."

With that, onto another edition of Fightweets.

What's next for Carlos Condit?

@DrinkYourCraft: Next possible move for Condit? Talk about log jam. Waiting for winner/loser of GSP?

My first instinct after Condit's outstanding victory over Martin Kampmann on Wednesday night, along with that of about half of Twitter, was to want to match up Condit with Matt Brown.

But White put the kibosh on that one later by saying he already has plans for Brown. And on further thought, I'm not sure that's the right match for Condit anyway. By winning, Condit kept himself in the top mix. Hardcore fans long knew the "Natural Born Killer" was one of the best, but it was actually his performances in losing those back-to-back fights to Georges St-Pierre and Johny Hendricks that put him over the top with the masses. Sometimes you can win by losing. People saw the heart with which he fought both guys, and in particular, feel Condit would have beaten Hendricks if the fight was five rounds instead of three. The manner in which he won last night shows that he still has it.

So Condit shouldn't be used to make someone else's name at this point. He said he wants a fight with Hendricks if Hendricks loses to GSP in November. He could make big money in a rematch with Nick Diaz. And of course, Rory McDonald also fights at UFC 167, so if Condit is waiting on GSP-Hendricks anyway, McDonald's also an option.

But that's about where the list should end. Condit should be a Fox headliner or a pay-per-view headliner or co-headliner. If it's not GSP, Hendricks, Diaz or McDonald, it's really not worth his time at this point.

Where does Bendo rank?

@RuckerYeah: So what do you think it is? "Banana peel" Ben Henderson, or guy who dominated division?

I mean, it can be both, right? Henderson absolutely has built up a lightweight resume as impressive as anyone in this sport ever has. If it wasn't for the Showtime kick, he'd likely be 13-0 in UFC/WEC fights, which would tie him with Jose Aldo for best combined mark.

And there's also a difference between fighters who play it safe and go to boring decisions, and guys like Henderson. Maybe you don't think Henderson won either his rematch with Frankie Edgar or his fight with Gilbert Melendez, but could you call either fight boring? It's not like we've been watching the lightweight equivalent of Tim Sylvia humping Jeff Monson for 25 minutes.

Still, though, the rematch with Edgar was almost universally considered a robbery. And while the Melendez fight was a lot closer, a majority felt Melendez won that fight, as well. He's tied B.J. Penn's record for most lightweight title defenses. Jon Jones, who defends against Alexander Gustafsson next month, has tied Tito Ortiz's light heavyweight record. If both guys win, will Henderson seem like he's on the same plain at 155 that Jones is at 205? I think we know the answer to that one.

What to make of Ben Askren?

@Elcujorino: where does Askren fit in the world of MMA? He doesn't have a lot of fans, isn't super exciting, yet he is dominant in Bellator

Did you see Ben Askren's Twitter beef with Josh Barnett Wednesday? It was pretty entertaining, but my first takeaway was that Askren wasn't doing himself any favors. Here's a guy who has already had his current company tell him they weren't going to make him an offer, and now he's publicly criticizing the decisions of the only other place he can make real money in the industry. Someone needs to take a Social Media 101 class.

But now I'm starting to see it another way. When I was, oh, about seven or eight years old, I started watching pro wrestling, and the World Wrestling Federation champ was a very awkward man named Bob Backlund. Backlund was pretty much a pro wrestling version of Askren (minus the hair), in terms of personality and wrestling style. Eventually the crowd grew sick of him and were more than ready for someone with Hulk Hogan's charisma when he came along.

About a decade later, they finally decided to let Backlund's natural obnoxiousness shine through and he transformed the evil Mr. Backlund, a very entertaining character who went around lecturing everyone about their lack of morals.

Maybe Askren should do the same. He already makes no apologies about his fighting style and he clearly has no problem making high-and-mighty declarations, so why not run with it? If he keeps winning, he can become a draw simply by being the person everyone wants to see get his face smashed in.

The next Penn?

@Elcujorino: for classes <170 we haven't had a fighter as revered as BJ who do you see filling that role in the future Pettis, Barao, Aldo?

You're on fire this week, Cujorino. Hey, there's only one B.J. Penn. The way the sport has evolved, chances are slim there will ever be another. Penn is beloved in large part because of his willingness to fight anyone, anywhere, any time, any weight class. He even offered to fight heavyweight champ Tim Sylvia when he returned to the company in 2006. Even if there are fighters on the current roster with Penn's reckless abandon in terms of potential opponents, they wouldn't have the opportunity to take advantage the way Penn did in his day, when he fought guys like Lyoto Machida.

That said, let's not shortchange some of the fighters at the lower weight classes by comparing them straight up to Penn. If you've even see Urijah Faber make his way out to the cage for a fight in California, you've seen someone get greeted like a rock star. Hell, they did in Boston a couple weeks ago, and that's a city I never thought I'd see go nuts over "California Love." And Frankie Edgar is plenty loved for his approach to the sport. Apples and oranges, you know?

Where are the Diaz boys?

@just16: when is nick and nate fighting next?

Since you've been asking me this one awhile: Nothing yet. But anything with the name Diaz attached to it means big page views, so as soon as something breaks you'll know. And I'm not buying for a millisecond that Nick is retired.

Half-points

@That_Bru_Allen: I'd like to see a half-point scoring system implemented for judging. I've seen a lot of 10/9.5 rounds in my day.

I see both sides of this one. I agree with you in principle. A score of 10-9 covers a pretty wide swath. 10-9.5 or 10-8.5 allows more wiggle room. But on the other hand, I also see the other side. Allow me to paraphrase Dana White here: These guys have enough trouble with whole numbers, do we really want to trust them with fractions?

Want to be included in a future edition of Fightweets? Drop me a line on Twitter.

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