by Brian Lopez-Benchimol – MMAWeekly.com
Urijah Faber stable mate Joseph Benavidez returns to action Saturday at WEC 45 at The Pearl at the Palms Casino Resort in Las Vegas.
One of the more exciting commodities of the WEC’s bantamweight division, Benavidez has carved a niche as one of the burgeoning contenders due to the high-paced, fast action approach he brings to every fight, win or lose.
Though his rise to the top of the 135-pound ladder was quick after successful performances against Danny Martinez and veteran Jeff Curran, it was his lone loss to the next title challenger in Dominick Cruz that thwarted any immediate plans for championship gold.
“There was always the pressure there that I put on myself,” Benavidez told MMAWeekly Radio recently. “I have expectations to be the best and eventually go for the title. It wasn’t so much the undefeated record; it was number-one contender fights and all this stuff. You’re going to have an off day sometime.”
Now after having digested the loss, Benavidez feels he has been able to tap back into the hunger that made him a hot prospect in his three-years as a professional mixed martial artist.
“I definitely feel re-motivated,” he said. “My mindset just totally changed (after the loss to Cruz).”
“That’s just the biggest thing that I took (away from the fight), was getting that hunger again. I was winning and stuff and a loss is just going to do a ton for me.”
The “Team Alpha Male” product is now on the road back to the top and with no such thing as easy fights in the WEC, he’ll meet former title challenger and jiu-jitsu ace Rani Yahya in one of the night’s featured televised bouts.
A dangerous grappler, Yahya has re-invigorated his career with three-straight wins in the WEC: former champion Eddie Wineland, former title challenger Yoshihiro Maeda, and newcomer John Hosman – all via submission.
Though both their strengths lie in grappling, Benavidez with his wrestling and Yahya with his jiu-jitsu, Benavidez is undeterred to take the fight wherever it needs to go and keeping it on the feet seems to be the path of least resistance.
“As far as a jiu-jitsu guy like Rani Yahya, you definitely want to say ‘alright, welcome to a fight’ and punch him a few times and make him a little uncomfortable since he’s really comfortable on the ground,” said the 24-year-old native of Sacramento, Calif.
“I’m fortunate. I feel that I am well rounded. That’s definitely what I want to do with anybody, just punch them in the face as much as I can.”
With his game plan in mind and a fire reignited, Benavidez is more confident than ever.
“He has to worry about me.”