Deiveson Figueiredo finally claimed the UFC flyweight title with his second win over Joseph Benavidez in less than five months.
Figueiredo left no doubts and no controversy at UFC on ESPN+ 30 on Saturday on Fight Island in Abu Dhabi, choking Benavidez out cold in the first round.
Figueiredo and Benavidez first met to determine a new UFC flyweight champion on Feb. 29. Nothing went as planned. Figueiredo missed weight, but defeated Benavidez. Having missed weight, he was ineligible to win the belt.
The rematch was set for UFC Fight Island in Abu Dhabi, but the rematch was nearly derailed.
Figueiredo tested positive for COVID-19 ahead of his departure from Sao Paulo to Paris. He and his management insisted upon a second test, explaining that Figueiredo had already had and recovered from the disease caused by the novel coronavirus two months prior.
He was retested, which came back negative, and thus flew to Abu Dhabi, where he was tested at least three more times before finally stepping in the cage on Saturday. With all the controversy that swirled around the first match-up and the near miss with the initial COVID-19 positive test, Figueiredo looked to leave no questions about his status after the rematch.
He dropped Benavidez early in the first round. Figueiredo immediately pounced, landing two hard elbows before slipping to the back and sinking a rear-naked choke. The choke was deep, but Benavidez somehow escaped.
Two more times Figueiredo would sink the choke. Two more times Benavidez would escape before the fight finally returned to the feet.
That wasn’t any better for Benavidez, however, as Figueiredo dropped him again, but he popped right back up, but was wide-eyed and looked dazed.
As the opening round wore down, Figueiredo dropped Benavidez again. This time he dropped to his knees and unloaded a flurry of heavy elbows. Figueiredo then moved to full mount, continuing to drop bombs on Benavidez, who had little defense.
Figueiredo again moved to Benavidez’s back and sunk the rear-naked choke. This one was even deeper than his earlier attempts and he had Benavidez stretched out, maximizing the impact of the choke. He put Benavidez to sleep.
Benavidez still had his eyes open, so it took referee Marc Goddard a moment to stop the fight, but that’s exactly what he did as soon as he realized that Benavidez’s consciousness had left the building with 12 seconds left in the first round.
“I knew my time would come and this was my time. I’m going to defend my belt and be an active champion,” Figueiredo said after the fight.
“I’ve been saying all week I was going to finish this fight in the first round and I also wanted to put that first submission loss on his record. I finished him in the first round and that’s exactly what happened.
“It was a really long week. I was locked up in Sao Paulo in a room for six days to prove that I was COVID negative. I came to Abu Dhabi. Was in a room for another two days. So I was able to overcome all that. I was able to come in here and I’m the champion now,” he continued.
“I’m going to be a very hard time for anyone that comes after me.”