When Joseph Benavidez stepped into the cage last night against Miguel Torres, very few people in the arena thought he would walk away the winner. Even less watching on television actually thought he could defeat one of the best pound for pound fighters in the world.
It's a good thing Benavidez didn't listen to any of those doubters before the fight.
Benavidez announced his arrival as a rising star by choking out the former bantamweight champion in the second round of their fight.
The submission is a familiar finish to fights for the 25-year-old. In his 12 career victories, seven have come via tapping out his opponent.
Benavidez felt all along that if he could avoid fighting Torres on his feet, he could use his strength on the ground and offset any jiu-jitsu Torres might try to use on him.
"The ground game is a toss-up," Benavidez said exclusively to Bleacher Report recently, "But I think if I can get inside his reach and get him to the floor, then I can use my strength and wrestling to get an advantage."
His words proved to be prophetic. A submission attempt was being set up from the very first minute of the fight.
He was able to take minimal damage from Torres while the two were standing. In fact, he was able to land several shots ducking in and out of Torres' range.
Benavidez then used his shot to take Torres to the ground in both the first and second rounds. He punished and cut Torres with elbows before locking in a guillotine choke, forcing Torres to tap at 2:57 of the second round.
Now Benavidez must play the waiting game and hope for the first title shot against new champion, Dominick Cruz.
Some believe that shot should go to former champ Brian Bowles, given he lost his title because an injury. Others feel since Benavidez lost a fight to Cruz already, Scott Jorgensen should get the first shot at the champ.
Bowles was being systematically picked apart by Cruz in their fight, and was losing the fight at the time of the injury. Depending on the severity of his injury, he may be out for several months, completely taking him out of the title picture for awhile.
Jorgensen has been impressive lately, especially in his victory over Chad George in only 31 seconds Saturday night. While he's stepped his game up, he still needs a win over a top contender before receiving his title shot.
Benavidez lost a unanimous decision to Cruz when the two fought last August. Their fight was awarded Fight of the Night, but Benavidez feels he has grown enough since then and that he's deserving of a title shot.
"I had a good fight with Dominick, but there were enough holes I saw in my game where I think I can beat him by improving those holes. He's a great fighter, but I feel I'm at the top of my game right now and ready for the challenge."
Some may not be convinced that Benavidez deserved a title shot, but his win over Torres should put those grumblings to rest.
He beat a great fighter who was desperate for a win to help regain his lost title. He didn't edge out a decision over Torres; he was effective on his feet, dominant with his ground game, and finished the fight. That's something all fans want to see.
Fans that doubted him before the fight will likely never make that mistake again. Joseph Benavidez proved he deserved to be mentioned with the best fighters in the world with his performance against Miguel Torres. He's worked his way to the top of the division, and now it's time for him to take the next step with a victory over Dominick Cruz, making the division his own.
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