Joseph Benavidez inched closer to a potential flyweight title shot while the future of the division remains very much in question.
The veteran 125-pound contender had a battle on his hands Saturday night in a rematch against Dustin Ortiz, but ultimately he got the job done with a unanimous decision after three rounds.
It had been more than four years since their first meeting and it was rather evident that Ortiz had learned a lot from his first experience in the cage with Benavidez in 2015.
Ortiz looked much more comfortable in his exchanges with Benavidez but he still struggled to stifle the grappling and striking attacks from the multi-time title contender in both the UFC and WEC.
Benavidez put the pressure on Ortiz early with a guillotine choke attempt before landing a huge right hand that put his opponent down on the canvas. Benavidez quickly followed up with a flurry on the mat while attempting to get the finish but Ortiz did a good job maintaining his composure and surviving the round.
The second stanza saw a stronger attack from Ortiz as he looked looser on his feet and really started to work his combinations while Benavidez was content to look for counters.
The fight eventually hit the floor after a huge takedown from Ortiz, who then started to look for the rear naked choke but Benavidez defended well to stave off the submission attempt.
The third and final round saw Benavidez regain control with a wrestling heavy attack as he began to out grapple Ortiz on the ground. Benavidez continued to press the action while Ortiz quickly scrambled out of bad positions but he was stuck playing defense and didn’t get much of an opportunity to mount his offence in return.
When the final horn sounded, Benavidez was confident he did enough to get the win, albeit in a serious war with Ortiz in the rematch. The judges agreed with all three scoring the fight 29-28 in favor of Benavidez, who earned his second straight win in a row.
“I think any 15 minutes is hard with this guy,” Benavidez said about his rematch with Ortiz. “I knew I had improved but he improved, too. He’s on his way and it was a great win for me to pick up in the rematch.”
Following his latest win, Benavidez wasted no time calling for the winner of the flyweight title fight headlining the UFC card in Brooklyn on Saturday night.
“I want the winner of that title fight between [Henry] Cejudo and TJ [Dillashaw],” Benavidez said.
UFC president Dana White hasn’t committed to the future of the flyweight division with speculation running wild that the promotion may be getting rid of the 125-pound division after Saturday night’s event is finished.
For now, the flyweight division is still going and Benavidez isn’t going to give up hope on facing the winner of the main event as he looks to finally become a UFC champion.