Twitter Mailbag: Do fans fully appreciate Robert Whittaker's streak, even without a unified title?

Do fans fully appreciate the awesomeness of the winning streak that “Bobby Knuckles” is on? How about Bob Lawler’s evolving brawlerhood headed into Saturday’s UFC on FOX 26 main event? And what’s on our MMA Christmas wish list?

All that and more in this week’s Twitter Mailbag. To ask a question of your own, tweet to @BenFowlkesMMA.

Good question, and thanks for putting that in the proper perspective. While Michael Bisping was running around with that shiny belt draped over his shoulder, Robert Whittaker has been putting in steady, solid work against the best in the division, and all as a 26-year-old former welterweight.

That’s the good news for the fractured middleweight title picture that Georges St-Pierre left in his wake. We may never get to see a true title unification bout, but you can still throw “Bobby Knuckles” in there with Luke Rockhold and, no matter how it turns out, I won’t find it hard to believe that the winner is the best middleweight on the planet.

• A Conor McGregor title defense, mostly so people will stop writing into this mailbag with questions about when it’s going to happen and why he hasn’t been stripped of the belt yet.

• A solemn vow to let the Stipe Miocic vs. Francis Ngannou UFC heavyweight title bout proceed as planned, with no funny business.

• Book Shane Carwin as the world’s most terrifying alternate in the Bellator heavyweight grand prix.

• Stop making each UFC Fight Night on FS1 feel like a marathon of commercials and commentary and joyless filler. Watching one pro sporting event on TV shouldn’t take more than six hours.

Demetrious Johnson vs. T.J. Dillashaw, either at a catchweight or at 135 pounds. And pay “Mighty Mouse” his asking price for that fight. Not only will it help the fight seem like a bigger deal, but man, you know he’s earned it by now.

Sure, there are a lot of UFC fights coming together that make good, unimpeachable sense from a rankings perspective. But the issue was never that the UFC refused to match up the No. 6 welterweight with the No. 5. That’s the level at which the UFC matchmakers are mostly allowed to do their jobs unimpeded, and they typically do excellent work.

The problem was always more at the top, with the relatively few big draws that the UFC shuffled around selectively in order to maximize profitability. That’s how we ended up with most of the perplexing match-ups from recent years. They were short-term cash grabs.

The problem is, those don’t happen in a vacuum. That No. 5 welterweight? The one who’s been working toward a title shot? He sees what goes on at the top, what the big paydays are really made of these days. Can you blame him if he receives the message loud and clear?

That’s at least a seven, even if I have to admit I’m surprised that, of all the awesome Robbie Lawler moments to highlight in advance of his UFC on FOX 26 main event bout with Rafael dos Anjos, it’s his defensive work that we’re focusing on.

Why, we could just as easily look back to one of my favorite Lawler moments, back when he mostly failed to check kicks against Melvin Manhoef, then limped around the cage after he left Manhoef asleep and drooling blood on the mat anyway.

What really interests me about Saturday’s fight is the question of how these styles will match up. The non-stop motor and high-pressure approach of a fighter like dos Anjos could, in theory, work well against a fighter like Lawler, who’s been known to pace himself for the later rounds.

Then again, does RDA really have the chin to keep running up in Bob Lawler’s face for 25 minutes? I really don’t know, but I can’t wait to find out.

Fining a fighter for an incredibly minor weigh-in shove seems extreme to me. For one thing, weigh-ins are pure promotional theater – especially now that the actual weigh-ins usually happen earlier in the day, without the face-offs and the photo ops. For another, whether we want to admit it or not we like and reward and encourage stuff like that in this sport, and we have for years. Now suddenly it gets you fined? That feels unfair.

As for the finger bite, yes it was a foul. Yes, a pretty unique one. But Jason Knight was punished with a point deduction immediately after it happened, which feels like the right call. I could see a more stringent punishment if Gabriel Benitez had been seriously hurt by it, but he wasn’t. And if we start issuing suspensions and fines after the fact for all the rule-breaking that goes on in a typical MMA fight, where do we even stop?

Really? You ask me this on a Mike Perry fight week? Feels like a set-up.

But then I have to ask myself, which kind of problematic are we talking about here? Because if we just mean a guy with questionable friendships and bad social media posts who also seems to walk through life like he’s actively trying to embody all that is bro, then sure, the guy with his nickname tattooed on his face works. He’s a whole lot of fun to watch, even if something about him does feel, as my podcast co-host Chad Dundas put it, like a guilty pleasure.

But there are lots of ways to be problematic in this sport. I mean, Jon Jones broke a pregnant woman’s arm in a hit-and-run accident. Anderson Silva can’t seem to pass a drug test. Even McGregor seems to have joined some sort of “Scandal of the Month” club.

Then there are all the other ways for MMA fighters to make us feel gross for supporting them. They get mad and toss off an anti-gay slur, or get on Twitter and post some Sandy Hook truther nonsense, and suddenly it’s a little harder to like them.

Partly it’s a consequence of the times we live in. Imagine if Mickey Mantle had hit the town in the era of smart phones. Just picture the crap Babe Ruth would have posted to Twitter. What kind of Facebook page would Walter Payton have had?

Whether it’s a famous fighter or a high school acquaintance, we know a lot more about each other’s lives and beliefs and fleeting, unvetted thoughts than people used to. That’s not always a good thing.

I’m definitely into the budding, organic rivalry between Perry and Darren Till, but I think you’d have a hard time convincing The Fifth Beatle to take a fight with the loser of Saturday night’s UFC on FOX 26 match-up. If Santiago Ponzinibbio wins that, he becomes the man to beat, at least on paper.

And since Till seems to have some savvy target selection for the purposes of getting himself noticed and moving up the ranks, I think he’s smart enough to realize that he could let the Perry feud simmer and revisit it later, should they find themselves on more equal footing.

I see your point. Fewer pay-per-view events would probably mean better pay-per-view events, plus it would make it easier and more economical to be an MMA fan. But the question is, how many more buys per event would the UFC have to sell to make such a switch worthwhile?

Right now, UFC pay-per-views are either huge or extremely mediocre, at least in terms of sales. Either you have a blockbuster card that edges toward the million-buy (or more) mark, or you’re doing a few hundred thousand (or less) with the usual suspects. That’s a viable strategy for now, but if you cut the number of events in half, suddenly you can’t afford a lackluster event with lackluster results.

There’s also the question of how to make the math work with the size of the current roster. It’s already a struggle for the UFC to find fights for everyone it has under contract. If you decrease the number of events, that goes from difficult to impossible. And if you don’t decrease the total number of events, but just make fewer of them pay-per-views, what do you do with the others?

That might be a question that the next TV deal will address, in one way or another. But something tells me that whoever ends up paying for UFC broadcast rights is going to want more say in what goes where.

I’m sure the UFC wants to keep a guy like Cub Swanson around – but at what price? That’s going to be the issue, especially coming off a loss that will likely stunt his title hopes. This is the type of situation where the UFC typically likes to lowball a fighter, using his recent past against him and forgetting all the work he put in before that.

Try that with Swanson, though, and he might just take his legitimately dope and easily transferable personal brand over to Bellator, where he’d no doubt be very welcome.

Ben Fowlkes is MMAjunkie and USA TODAY’s MMA columnist. Follow him on Twitter at @BenFowlkesMMA. Twitter Mailbag appears every Thursday on MMAjunkie.

Filed under: Featured, News, UFC
Source: MMA Junkie

Jason Knight on finger bite: 'A fish hook is not a takedown defense'

Dann StuppJason Knight’s advice seems to be rather simple: If you don’t want him to bite your fingers, keep them out of his mouth.

A mini-controversy developed over the weekend at UFC Fight Night 123, where featherweight Gabriel Benitez (20-6 MMA, 4-2 UFC) pick up a unanimous-decision victory over Knight (20-4 MMA, 4-3 UFC) at UFC Fight Night 123.

The co-main event, which aired on FS1 from Save Mart Center in Fresno, Calif., included a finger bite.

Here’s a look (via Twitter):

The foul resulted in a first-round point deduction for Knight.

After the event, Benitez brushed off the foul.

“He bit my thumb, my finger,” Benitez told MMAjunkie post-fight. “I tried to grab the chin, and he bit two times. In the fight, this happens. … No (I don’t think he’s dirty), because in this sport everything happens. It was a mistake. It’s just a sport.”

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However, Knight has received a fair share of criticism online since the fight.

He recently addressed it on social media – with an accompanying GIF (via Twitter):

“Yea I accidentally bit the dude this weekend, u put your fingers in my mouth I’ll bite them too , a fish hook is not a takedown defense”

“I gassed halfway through the first round , I could breathe fine but my body was dead , don’t know what happened to me”

Knight, aka “The Kid” (and “Mississippi Mean” and “Hick Diaz”), was on a four-winning winning streak – one that included three UFC fight-night bonuses – before his recent losses to Ricardo Lamas and Benitez. He was a sizable 3-1 favorite heading into UFC Fight Night 123.

For complete coverage of UFC Fight Night 123, check out the UFC Events section of the site.

The Blue Corner is MMAjunkie‘s official blog and is edited by Mike Bohn.

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Source: MMA Junkie

Gabriel Benitez holds no ill will over Jason Knight's finger-bite at UFC-Fresno

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FRESNO, Calif. – Gabriel Benitez brushed off any notions of Jason Knight being a dirty fighter after a biting incident during their bout on Saturday at UFC Fight Night 123.

In the first round of thefeatherweight matchup, which Benitez (20-6 MMA, 4-2 UFC) won by unanimous decision at Save Mart Center in Fresno, Calif., Knight (20-4 MMA, 4-3 UFC) bit the fingers of his opponent during a clinch exchange.

“The Kid” was immediately docked one point for his actions, but afterward, Benitez was reluctant to launch any criticism.

“He bit my thumb, my finger,” Benitez told MMAjunkie post-fight. “I tried to grab the chin, and he bit two times. In the fight, this happens. … No (I don’t think he’s dirty), because in this sport everything happens. It was a mistake. It’s just a sport.”

Benitez has been in the UFC for more than three years, and though he’s scored a couple solid wins, nothing compared to the magnitude of beating Knight, who has had some hype around him as someone to watch at 145 pounds. Benitez was able to shut down his opponent for the most part, and he said that was a product of sticking to his game plan.

Mexico’s “Moggly” was eager to showcase his best at UFC Fight Night 123, mainly because UFC President Dana White was seated cageside. Benitez said he knew White was watching and wanted to display what he can do to the UFC boss, as well as everyone else watching.

“(I wanted to impress) not only Dana White, but everyone,” Benitez said. “Now everyone knows who is Gabriel Benitez.”

At 29 and training out of American Kickboxing Academy, Benitez said his best days as a fighter are still ahead. He wants to build off the momentum of upsetting Knight at UFC Fight Night 123, but he said he’s got some personal obligations first.

“Next for me is a good vacation with my wife,” Benitez said. “That’s going to happen. On the schedule, I don’t have anything right now. But if the UFC gives me the opportunity, I will prove it.”

For complete coverage of UFC Fight Night 123, check out the UFC Events section of the site.

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Twitter had some thoughts (and bad jokes) about Jason Knight's UFC Fight Night 123 bite

Jason Knight decided to go way outside the ruleset at UFC Fight Night 123 on Saturday when he had a point deduction due to biting his opponent.

Knight (20-4 MMA, 4-3 UFC), who suffered a unanimous decision loss to Gabriel Benitez (19-7 MMA, 3-3 UFC) in Saturday’s FS1-televised co-headliner at Save Mart Center in Fresno, Calif., had a point taken away in the first round when he bit his opponent on the hand.

It was perhaps the first point deduction of its kind in the UFC history, and the MMA community had plenty of thoughts about it on social media.

* * * *

For complete coverage of UFC Fight Night 123, check out the UFC Events section of the site.

The Blue Corner is MMAjunkie‘s official blog and is edited by Mike Bohn.

Filed under: Blue Corner, Featured Videos, News, UFC
Source: MMA Junkie

UFC Fight Night 123 results: Gabriel Benitez survives bite – yes, bite! – to dominate Jason Knight

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Gabriel Benitez got his finger bitten and his eye poked by Jason Knight, but he got his revenge in the end.

Benitez (20-6 MMA, 4-2 UFC) battered Knight (20-4 MMA, 4-3 UFC) from start to finish in a one-sided affair that ended in a unanimous decision victory for Benitez, who took the victory with scores of 30-26, 30-26, and 29-27.

The featherweight bout was the co-main event of today’s UFC Fight Night 123 event at Save Mart Center in Fresno, Calif. It aired on FS1 following prelims on FS1 and UFC Fight Pass.

Almost immediately it became clear that while Knight had plenty of aggression, it was Benitez who was the sharper fighter. He picked Knight apart on the feet and fended off the his takedowns, even when that meant getting his finger bitten early in the first – a foul that would cost Knight a point on the scorecards.

That bizarre turn of events didn’t seem to affect Benitez in the least, though Knight quickly grew visibly frustrated as Benitez pulled away.

After being kicked in the ribs and counter-punched at will, even spun around and shoved to the mat at points, Knight eventually resorted to wild, angry haymakers, growing less and less technical even as Benitez seemed to only get sharper.

When the bout finally came to end, the outcome was hardly in doubt. All three judges gave the fight to Benitez, with all but one giving him a clean sweep that reflected his overall dominance in the bout.

The victory gets Benitez back in the win column for the first time since his decision loss to Enrique Barzola in May. Knight has now lost two straight for the first time his career.

Up-to-the-minute UFC Fight Night 123 results include:

For complete coverage of UFC Fight Night 123, check out the UFC Events section of the site.

(MMAjunkie’s John Morgan contributed to this report on site in Fresno.)

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Source: MMA Junkie

Currently a 'no one,' Gabriel Benitez plans to take Jason Knight's ranking at UFC-Fresno

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FRESNO, Calif. – Gabriel Benitez is feeling no pressure or expectations ahead of his co-main event bout with Jason Knight at UFC Fight Night 123 – mainly because he’s unknown to most.

Benitez (19-6 MMA, 3-2 UFC) has five fights of UFC experience to his credit, but Saturday’s matchup with Knight (20-3 MMA, 4-2 UFC), which co-headlines the FS1-televised card at Save Mart Center in Fresno, Calif., following early prelims on UFC Fight Pass, is easily his most high-profile to date.

Some fighters might build up such a situation as a career-defining opportunity. It’s certainly that for Benitez, but considering he’s already a heavy betting underdog, he said at Thursday’s UFC Fight Night 123 open workout at Pacific Martial Arts that there’s no sense in over-analyzing.

“It’s a good opportunity for me because I don’t have a number,” Benitez told MMAjunkie. “I’m no one, not yet. He’s in the top 15 (of the official UFC rankings), and he has a number. I want to go to this place.

“It’s my ticket for the top,” he continued. “This is my ticket. This is a good fight for me. I don’t have the pressure, because I don’t have the number. Jason has the pressure, not me. And that’s a good thing.”

With two losses in his past three fights, including a unanimous-decision defeat to Enrique Barzola in his most recent octagon appearance in May at UFC 211, Benitez is in need of a big win to get some momentum back in his career.

Knight has lost only to veterans Ricardo Lamas and Tatsuya Kawajiri during his UFC career, and although Benitez hasn’t proven to be that caliber of fighter, he thinks he can rise to occasion.

“Jason is a tough fighter,” Benitez said. “He’s really good on the ground, and his stand-up is good, too. I come here to here. I give the people what they want to see, and that is a fight. They don’t want to see on the ground. That’s why I am here.”

For more on UFC Fight Night 123, check out the UFC Rumors section of the site.

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Jason Knight upbeat about UFC-Fresno rebound after making '$30,000 to get TKO'd' in last fight

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FRESNO, Calif. – Jason Knight has no shame in his loss to Ricardo Lamas over the summer and is ready to rebound and prove where he stands in the featherweight division at UFC Fight Night 123.

After winning four straight, Knight (20-3 MMA, 4-2 UFC) was positioned in a showdown with former title-challenger Lamas at UFC 214 in July. He suffered a one-sided first-round TKO loss, but now Knight is ready to bounce back against Gabriel Benitez (19-6 MMA, 3-2 UFC) in Saturday’s UFC Fight Night 123 co-headliner, which takes place at Save Mart Center in Fresno, Calif., and airs on FS1 following early prelims on UFC Fight Pass.

Knight never had suffered a blowout loss like Lamas (18-5 MMA, 9-3 UFC) gave him at UFC 214. Such an outcome could rattle the confidence of some fighters, but Knight, who spoke to the media at Thursday’s UFC Fight Night 123 open workouts at Pacific Martial Arts, said it was nothing more than a positive learning experience.

“I don’t get what you’re talking about, man. Things went exactly as they were supposed to,” Knight jokingly told MMAjunkie. “Every time I get in that cage I pray to God: Let the best man win. If it’s not me, it’s no big deal. Just let me go out there and fight to the best of my ability. I made a critical mistake in that fight. I got open with my hands down, but it’s a big learning experience.

“At that level, top 15, those guys, they’re animals. They’re a whole different breed than the rest of the cliques. You’ve got to be flawless. You can’t make any mistakes. I learned more from that fight than I have any of my wins – that’s the good thing about it.”

Knight explained that he’s not the type of fighter who gets hung up on wins and losses. He’s not oblivious to the reality that winning leads to bigger opportunities, but Knight only wants to reach those spots if it’s done his way.

“Mississippi Mean” is a classic brawler who already has drawn comparisons to Nick and Nate Diaz for his fighting style and in-cage trash talking. Knight said he walked out of the octagon a better fighter after the clash with Lamas, and he plans on applying everything he learned to Benitez.

“Some fighters, they’re so hell-bent on, they can’t lose. They’ve got to win everything,’” Knight said. “I don’t give a (expletive). I’m out here ready to fight. I’m out to here to have fun and get paid doing it. That’s just the way that it goes. I made $30,000 to get TKO’d. Who the hell gets to do that? It didn’t really bother me.

“They know just as well as I do: (Lamas) is a top-three guy, that’s some big shoes to fill, and I asked for that fight,” he continued. “It wasn’t a short-notice fight, but I didn’t have a complete training camp for it. That was something I wanted to try to do. I wanted to test myself at that level. I had the skills to beat him. I have the tools to beat him. He was flawless; I wasn’t.”

Despite the loss, Knight still feels the UFC holds him in high regard. He said he wouldn’t have gotten a co-main event spot at UFC Fight Night 123 if that weren’t the case, and against an opponent where he’s the heavy betting favorite.

Knight said he fully expects a tough fight from Benitez and doesn’t foresee himself leaving the octagon unscathed. However, when judging the matchup, Knight said the UFC is doing its best to help him get back on track.

“They know I’m at the level I need to be, and they’re just giving me this fight as kind of a warm-up,” Knight said. “Of course, Gabriel Benitez is a tough fighter. He’s going to be a hard fight for me, but I think they’re trying to give me him, so that if I beat him, then they’re going to give me that next step up. They just wanted to assess where my skills are at, where my brain’s at after taking that tough loss. I’m not like the rest of these guys. I don’t get butt-hurt after a loss. It doesn’t bother me. I’m right back to the same guy 30 minutes later. I think I might have been upset for 30 seconds and then it was right back to happy-go-lucky Jason.”

Knight said he’s excited to show off the improved version of himself that was birthed out of the loss to Lamas. He said his approach against Lamas is ultimately what cost him the fight, and against Benitez, Knight said he plans on showing significantly less flaws and performing like the top-15 featherweight he knows he can be.

“I belong with everybody that’s inside that top 15,” Knight said. “I think I’m above some of their levels for sure. I just got to get to that flawless stage where I made no mistakes, I made no errors. Once I get to that fight IQ where I think consciously about keeping my hands up, think consciously about moving the right direction and stuff like that, I think after that the skill is already there. It’s just the little, tiny little nitpicking things that could cost you the fight.”

For more on UFC Fight Night 123, check out the UFC Rumors section of the site.

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UFC Fight Night 123 co-main event breakdown: Will Jason Knight vs. Gabriel Benitez turn into fireworks?

MMAjunkie Radio cohost and MMAjunkie contributor Dan Tom provides an in-depth breakdown of all of UFC Fight Night 123’s main-card bouts. Today, we look at the co-main event.

UFC Fight Night 123 takes place Saturday at Save Mart Center in Fresno, Calif., and it airs on FS1 following early prelims on UFC Fight Pass.

* * * *

Jason Knight (20-3 MMA, 4-2 UFC)

Staple info:

  • Height: 5’10” Age: 25 Weight: 145 lbs. Reach: 71″
  • Last fight: TKO loss to Ricardo Lamas (July 29, 2017)
  • Camp: Alan Belcher MMA Club (Mississippi)
  • Stance/striking style: Switch-stance / muay Thai
  • Risk management: Fair

Supplemental info:
+ Regional MMA title
+ Amateur MMA accolades
+ 3 KO victories
+ 13 submission wins
+ 8 first-round finishes
+ Relentless pace and pressure
+ Improved feints and footwork
+ Solid muay Thai arsenal
^ Hard hooks, elbows and knees
+ Counters kicks well
+ Serviceable takedown game
+ Excellent scrambling ability
^ Superb back taker
+ Active and aggressive guard
^ 1-0 against UFC southpaws

Gabriel Benitez (19-6 MMA, 3-2 UFC)

Staple info:

  • Height: 5’8″ Age: 29 Weight: 145 lbs. Reach: 71″
  • Last fight: Decision loss to Enrique Barzola (May 13, 2017)
  • Camp: American Kickboxing Academy (California)
  • Stance/striking style: Southpaw / kickboxing
  • Risk management: Good

Supplemental info:
+ “TUF LATAM” alum
+ Regional MMA titles
+ 6 KO victories
+ 10 submission wins
+ 9 first-round finishes
+ Consistent pace and pressure
+ Good feints and footwork
+ Accurate left cross
^ Coming forward or off the counter
+ Hard left Thai kick
^ Variates level of attack
+ Improved wrestling ability
+ Urgent getup game
^ Uses the cage well
+ Active attacks off of back
+ Dangerous guillotine choke

Summary:

The co-main event in Fresno features a potential barnburner between Jason Knight and Gabriel Benitez.

Knight, who to me feels like the honey badger of the featherweight division, is not one to shy away from a fight. Coming off of a loss to top-ranked Ricardo Lamas in July, Knight will attempt to bounce back into the win column with a good showing here.

Seeking to spoil those plans is Benitez, a product of the “TUF: Latin America” series who is trying to cement his status as a contender. Losing a competitive decision to Enrique Barzola earlier this year, Benitez will be looking to leave no doubts about the outcome this time around.

Starting off on the feet, we have a battle between a relentless pressure-fighter and a precise southpaw who packs power.

Benitez, the southpaw, has tightened up his striking since moving shop to the American Kickboxing Academy in San Jose, Calif. Similar to his stablemate Luke Rockhold, Benitez builds much of his game around his left power kick.

Almost galloping in the way in which he circles, Benitez resets position so that he can create angles to attack. Mixing in a healthy dose of feints to go with his footwork, Benitez keeps his left cross on a hair-trigger, ready to come forward or counter at the drop of a dime.

Attaching an unrelenting Thai kick to his advances when appropriate, Benitez will not discriminate between the body, legs or head of his opposition. Even when blocked correctly, the force that he throws his kicks makes for an unpleasant experience.

Nevertheless, Benitez will still need to respect what is coming back at him.

A pressure-fighter with a never-say-die attitude, Knight embodies his moniker of “Mississippi Mean.” Whether he is prodding with jabs and teep kicks or winging hard hooks and crosses, there are ill intentions behind every Knight offering.

In recent years, Knight has improved his footwork and overall striking feel, displaying the ability to fight from both southpaw and orthodox with ease. And considering the unforgiving kicks of his opposition, being able to switch stances may come in handy for Knight.

The native of Mississippi also does well when it comes to countering, as Knight has a knack for catching kicks and parlaying them into slick trips or favorable scrambles. Should Knight end up getting this fight to the ground on his terms, then Benitez could be in trouble.

Benitez has improved his takedown defense and wrestling since training at AKA, but still has been susceptible to being taken down. When fighting from his back, Benitez does have a serviceable submission game in which he demonstrates the wherewithal to chain together attacks or create scrambles.

The problem, however, is the way in which Benitez gets back to his feet.

After creating space to scramble up, the Mexican fighter will typically elect to turtle when looking to return to his base and stand. Although I am a fan of this getup maneuver, turtling or tripoding can be very dangerous when facing a good back taker like Knight.

Benitez’s best bet will obviously be by staying off of the floor, but I am not sure that he will be able to guarantee that. Not only does Knight have a well-versed takedown game that he can lean on (from trips to tosses), but he scores a majority of his takedowns from the body lock.

Given the potent guillotine threat of Benitez, approaching takedowns from a body lock position is one of the safer routes in regards to navigating around the choke. The body lock also allows Knight his hoisting leverage to initiate the momentum needed to create scramble and back-take opportunities.

Once able to get one hook in, you can almost always count on Knight to immediately find his second, as the leg dexterity from his guard game translates seamlessly to his back taking abilities. Even if Knight fails to sink in a choke, he does well with racking up control time and damage here.

The oddsmakers and public seem to be confident in favoring the American on the betting lines – with Knight -310 and Benitez +255 as of this writing.

Given Knight’s propensity to take damage due to his aggression, imagining an upset scenario is not necessarily hard when looking at the arsenal of Benitez. That said, as offensively impressive as Benitez is, he seems almost too respectful of his opponent’s offensive offerings when looking at how easy it can be to persuade him to step backward.

And considering that stepping backward against Knight means playing into his striking and grappling efforts, this could end up being a bad night for Benitez if he doesn’t find a fight-changing shot. Ultimately, I see Benitez struggling to defend takedowns, inevitably opening up his back in the scramble for Knight to score a submission come the second round.

Official pick: Knight inside the distance

For more on UFC Fight Night 123, check out the UFC Rumors section of the site.

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MMAjunkie reader predictions: Make your picks for UFC Fight Night 123 in Fresno

We want your predictions for Saturday’s UFC Fight Night 123 event in Fresno.

Our staff picks feature includes the consensus picks from MMAjunkie readers. Simply cast your vote for each bout below, and we’ll use the official tallies that are registered by Thursday at noon ET (9 a.m. PT).

Those MMAjunkie MMA reader consensus picks will be part of the UFC Fight Night 123 staff picks we release Friday ahead of the event. UFC Fight Night 123 takes place at Save Mart Center in Fresno, Calif., and it airs on FS1 following early prelims on UFC Fight Pass.

* * * *

Cub Swanson vs. Brian Ortega

Records: Cub Swanson (25-7 MMA, 10-3 UFC), Brian Ortega (12-0 MMA, 4-0 UFC)
Past five: Swanson 4-1, Ortega 4-0 (one no-contest)
Division: Featherweight
Rankings: Swanson No. 6, Ortega No. 7
Odds (as of 12/4/17): Swanson -115, Ortega -105

Take Our Poll
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Gabriel Benitez vs. Jason Knight

Records: Gabriel Benitez (19-6 MMA, 3-2 UFC), Jason Knight (20-3 MMA, 4-2 UFC)
Past five: Benitez 3-2, Knight 4-1
Division: Featherweight
Rankings: None
Odds (as of 12/4/17): Knight -300, Benitez +250

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Marlon Moraes vs. Aljamain Sterling

Records: Marlon Moraes (19-5-1 MMA, 1-1 UFC), Aljamain Sterling (14-2 MMA, 6-2 UFC)
Past five: Moraes 4-1, Sterling 3-2
Division: Bantamweight
Rankings: Moraes No. 6, Sterling No. 12
Odds (as of 12/4/17): Moraes -175, Sterling +155

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Scott Holtzman vs. Darrell Horcher

Records: Scott Holtzman (10-2 MMA, 3-2 UFC), Darrell Horcher (13-2 MMA, 1-1 UFC)
Past five: Holtzman 3-2, Horcher 4-1
Division: Lightweight
Rankings: None
Odds (as of 12/4/17): Holtzman -115, Horcher -105

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Eryk Anders vs. Markus Perez

Records: Eryk Anders (9-0 MMA, 1-0 UFC), Markus Perez (9-0 MMA, 0-0 UFC)
Past five: Anders 5-0, Perez 5-0
Division: Middleweight
Rankings: None
Odds (as of 12/4/17): Anders -280, Perez +240

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Benito Lopez vs. Albert Morales

Records: Benito Lopez (8-0 MMA, 1-0 UFC), Albert Morales (7-2-1 MMA, 1-2-1 UFC)
Past five: Lopez 5-0, Morales 2-2-1,
Division: Bantamweight
Rankings: None
Odds (as of 12/4/17): Lopez -115, Morales -105

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For more on UFC Fight Night 123, check out the UFC Rumors section of the site.

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Source: MMA Junkie

Jason Knight says he's fighting Gabriel Benitez at UFC Fight Night 123 in Fresno

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Fan favorite “Mississippi Mean” is headed to California.

Jason Knight (20-3 MMA, 4-2 UFC) today announced he’s slated to fight fellow featherweight Gabriel Benitez (19-6 MMA, 3-2 UFC) at UFC Fight Night 123 (via Instagram):

Instagram Photo

UFC officials haven’t made a formal announcement.

UFC Fight Night 123 takes place Dec. 9 at Save Mart Center in Fresno, Calif. It airs on FS1 following early prelims on UFC Fight Pass, though the full fight card and bout order haven’t been finalized.

Knight, also known as “Hick Diaz,” was recently riding a four-fight winning streak – one that earned him three fight-night bonuses and stoppage wins over Alex Caceres and Chas Skelly. However, in his most recent bout, the 25-year-old Mississippi native got a step up in competition and suffered a TKO loss to former title challenger Ricardo Lamas, who’s No. 5 in the USA TODAY Sports/MMAjunkie MMA featherweight rankings.

He now meets Benitez, a semifinalist on “The Ultimate Fighter: Latin America.” The 29-year-old Mexican fighter, who has 16 stoppages in 19 career wins, was on a 4-1 run before a recent decision loss to Enrique Barzola in a back-and-forth bout at UFC 211 in May.

With the addition to the card, UFC Fight Night 123 now includes:

  • Cub Swanson vs. Brian Ortega
  • Liz Carmouche vs. Alexis Davis
  • Scott Holtzman vs. Darrell Horcher
  • Eryk Anders vs. John Phillips
  • Trevin Giles vs. Antonio Braga Neto
  • Carls John de Tomas vs. Alex Perez
  • Chris Gruetzemacher vs. Davi Ramos
  • Bryan Caraway vs. Luke Sanders
  • Benito Lopez vs. Albert Morales
  • Gabriel Benitez vs. Jason Knight

For more on UFC Fight Night 123, check out the UFC Rumors section of the site.

Filed under: News, UFC
Source: MMA Junkie