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MMA: Former Bulldawg Benavidez falls

“Perennial contender,” as Joseph Benavidez was characterized on UFC radio commercials last week, is not how the former Las Cruces Bulldawg longs to be remembered.

Saturday night in Abu Dhabi United Arab Emirates, however, Benavidez’s fourth and almost certainly last shot at the UFC flyweight title ended in a devastating defeat.

Brazil’s Deiveson Figueiredo, dominant from the opening seconds, defeated Benavidez by first-round rear naked choke on the UFC’s “Fight Island.”

The result officially was a technical submission because Benavidez, stubbornly, did not tap out — going to sleep instead.

Now 35, Benavidez is 28-7 for his career. Figueiredo is 19-1.

Afterward, Benavidez choked back tears while calling himself a lucky man.

“To be able to do this is a blessing in itself,” he said.

The fight was contested early in the morning Abu Dhabi time for the benefit of U.S. viewers.

“It’s crazy,” Benavidez said. “… Now it’s six in the morning and I just got the (expletive) beat out of me.”

The fight was a rematch of a Feb. 29 meeting in Norfolk, Virginia, won by Figueiredo via second-round TKO. But because Figueiredo failed to make the 125-pound limit, the flyweight title vacated by Henry Cejudo was available only to Benavidez that night.

The result further was tainted by a head butt delivered by Figueiredo that stunned Benavidez shortly before the finish.

Saturday in Abu Dhabi, Figueiredo dropped Benavidez with a right hand 20 seconds into the fight. Benavidez spent the next few minutes desperately fending off choke attempts.

Benavidez finally got to his feet, but twice was dropped again. After the second knockdown, Figueiredo again secured a rear naked choke.

This time, Benavidez could not escape.

Benavidez twice fought and lost to Demetrious Johnson in flyweight title fights. Now he has lost twice to Figueiredo with the title on the line.

He was a two-time state wrestling champion at Las Cruces.

Benavidez lives in Sacramento, California and trains there at Team Alpha Male. But before Saturday’s fight he was introduced as hailing from Las Cruces, New Mexico.

He’s married to Megan Olivi, a news and events reporter for the UFC.

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