UFC 172 marked the return of Joseph Benavidez, who fought for the first time since his failed title bid back in December. Benavidez took on Tim Elliott, a guy that wasn't that close in the rankings.
The Team Alpha Male product took less than a round in beating Elliott, using a late guillotine choke to force a tap and jump back into the win column.
The win for Benavidez really puts him in a tough situation. He has already fought Demetrious Johnson twice for the belt without taking it from him. Their most recent scrap saw Johnson down Benavidez with a vicious first-round knockout that likely dashed Benavidez's title hope for a long time.
Basically, Benavidez is caught between a rock and a hard place.
He has beaten almost all of the top guys in the 125-pound division. His only career losses, though, come to Dominick Cruz twice and Johnson twice. Johnson is the champion of his current division, and Cruz was the champion of the 135-pound division.
He already owns wins over Jussier da Silva, Ian McCall and Yasuhiro Urushitani, all of whom were top 10 when he beat them. Outside of guys like John Dodson and current challenger Ali Bagautinov, there aren't many challenges other than a title fight for the Team Alpha Male product.
Basically, Benavidez has become like his friend and training partner Urijah Faber, where he wins every fight but the fight for the belt. Plus, the fact that he has recently fought Johnson and took a nasty finish means Benavidez is out of the title picture for an extended period of time.
It's going to take a major winning streak against quality opponents for Benavidez to earn another nod from the UFC brass. He will have to fight a murderer's row of flyweights to even be in consideration for a championship fight.
For now, he is a novelty act. He will win fights and win fights, but not advance his stock much.
Looking forward, there are plenty of options that don't include Johnson in terms of fights he can take. Perhaps the winner of John Dodson-John Moraga or Zach Makovsky could be a good fight for Benavidez next.
Another title shot is not impossible or out of the question. However, for now, Benavidez will continue to fight just to fight until he can put together an impressive enough streak to gain relevance at 125.
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