Jussier Formiga wasn't going to let this one get away. The ice wasn't going to break itself. So even if it meant a case of highlight deficiency, Formiga had to get the W.
And get it he did, holding off a late charge from Chris Cariaso to grind out a decision at UFC on FX 5 and earn his first victory in the Octagon.
Once the top-ranked flyweight in the world, Formiga was just trying to touch bottom against Cariaso. A TKO loss to a faster, stronger John Dodson in his UFC debut put Formiga in a precarious hole. The win over Cariaso evened his record 1-1.
In a division as young and thin as flyweight (only 16 guys in the entire division, compared with 50 at featherweight and 77 at welterweight), name recognition and a decent win are good enough to get you a date with a top contender like Joseph Benavidez. Formiga will have that shot in September.
But Formiga took it to a different plane recently when he opined, per Guilherme Cruz of MMA Fighting, that a win over Benavidez should get him a shot at Demetrious Johnson and the championship belt.
"I believe so," he said when asked if he will earn a title shot with a win next month. "But I try not to think too much about that." ... "Demetrious is a fast and well-rounded fighter, but he doesn’t change too much. I believe my ground game is good (compared to other fighters from) this division, but I have to surprise them on the feet too. I will find a way to win."
I can see him getting the shot at Benavidez. But a title shot? Not so fast, Formiga.
I understand he has to answer the question that way. It's kind of a no-win situation. Of course, you want the title; every fighter does. Of course, you think you're ready for the title shot; if you say you're not, you don't believe in yourself.
Formiga certainly has the chops. He's 15-2 overall, he's still only 28, he trains at Nova Uniao, and he might have the best jiu-jitsu of any flyweight anywhere. And there's no question a win over Benavidez would be a colossal step forward for the Brazilian. (And for the record, a Benavidez win probably earns "Joe B-Wan" a rematch with "Mighty Mouse" for the gold.)
But the fact is, he was still knocked out by Dodson, who himself was beaten by Johnson. Since Formiga can't reverse the hands of time, he's stuck with that. The fact that he had to get on his conservative grind to win his first UFC fight (and still almost lost late to Cariaso) doesn't do a great deal for his case, especially in the adrenaline-junkie UFC.
So as it is, Formiga's probably more than one win removed from a chance at the gold. Nevertheless, I like his moxie and confidence. Hopefully, for his sake, he replicates that when he gets in the cage this September.
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