It seems fair to say that this Fight Island experiment has worked out mostly well in terms of entertaining match-ups, all things considered.
So with a third event within a week, the UFC graces us with another action card. Once again, there’s not much star power on it, but the point remains: these are mostly well-paired fights with not much mobility neither up nor down for winners and losers.
The stakes for UFC Fight Night: Figueiredo vs. Benavidez 2 aren’t that high for a handful of those outside of the co-main and main events, but again — this is perfectly fine.
We need to continue to view this through the lens of an event serving a purpose, and if you’re going to get a card that shows you how the sausage is made, the ingredients, seasoning and results might as well be really damn good. At a glance, this is a very good one, as it gives the UFC a chance to scratch off their contractual obligations with offering fighters bouts.
What are they gonna look like? Glad you asked. Let’s take a look:
Khadis Ibragimov vs Roman Dolidze
Ibragimov (8-2) might be at risk of getting cut here, having gone 0-2 in his UFC run. Dolidze hasn’t fought since December of 2018, but that was a bee-yoo-tee-ful finish against the more experienced Michal Pasternak. Prior to that? He iced Brazil’s Eder de Souza, hard.
I’m not even wearing my tinfoil at, but I smell a setup. Looks like a great way to introduce a hot prospect while boxing someone else out the paint, but them’s the breaks. Ibragimov hasn’t had any traction in the UFC, but it’s not like he can’t crack, plus he has a capable submission game. It’s just not looking good against a better athlete with a good chin.
Grant Dawson vs Nad Narimani
Grant Dawson has 8 submission wins, 7 of them being rear naked chokes. He was too good to be on Contender Series, but that’s how he made it here, winning three straight since he won against Adrian Diaz. Dawson’s a complete grappler, very good takedowns, control, and eventual grinding with multiple submission attempts. To get and stay in those situations where you rack up all those chokes, you’ve got to be good at more than one thing. He’s a thoughtful grappler with efficiency and slick technique.
Nad Narimani is the former Cage Warriors featherweight champ for good reason. He runs a measured pace with good output and has a good submission game with fight-ending power. While he got blitzed by Mike Grundy in his last outing, this is a different sort of challenge as Dawson isn’t quite the power striker that Grundy is. There’s a lot to look forward to here.
Joel Alvarez vs Joe Duffy
Alvarez (16-2) is a very promising prospect out of the somewhat disparate Spanish MMA scene, with a very slick submission approach. Problem is he’s up against Joe Duffy, a man that’s seen a whole lot during this time in the game, despite some recent struggles. Duffy’s had some vicious knockouts from his time in Cage Warriors way back when, and he’s not a slouch on the ground. Under the tutelage of Firas Zahabi, he should be doing well enough to fight off the submission threat from the younger whippersnapper, but Alvarez doesn’t quit or break easily. Expect some fun grappling exchanges here.
Brett Johns vs Montel Jackson
Jackson (9-1) has a case for being the most slept on bantamweight on the roster right now. His Contender Series fight against Rico DiSciullo showed patience, polish, and a lot of fight smarts. He has the makings of a fighter that is primed for a fair amount of success in this sport.
So it’s sad to see this shiny young prospect thrown in somewhat haphazardly against Welshman Brett Johns (16-2), a wiry fireplug that’s also the former Cage Warriors and Titan FC bantamweight champion. Currently 4-2 in the UFC, he got some hard-earned wins including that calf slicer finish against Joe Soto, and his only losses thus far have been to Pedro Munhoz and Aljamain Sterling. When your only UFC losses are against top dogs in the division, those losses actually look pretty good. Jackson can strike and wrestle, and he can defend submissions well, it’s just worrisome to see him take on a challenge this big this early. We’ll eventually see what this does for both participants.
Malcolm Gordon vs Amir Albazi
I’m just tickled that Gordon’s nickname is “X”. Malcolm X? Sounds like a guy that works his way to a win by any means necessary. Why are you booing me? I’m right! Anyway, Gordon’s another gem out there, a Canadian flyweight that has only two decision wins and some wild finishes. A former Havoc FC, WXC and TKO champion, he actually has an earlier career win over Chris Kelades in 2014, along with wins over James Mancini and Yoni Sherbatov. Gordon’s got a good jab, quick movements and a very good control game for his grappling. He’s had his chin cracked before, and that may be a concern if he doesn’t make sure to keep his defenses shored up.
And he’ll have to mind that aspect of this deal, because Albazi (12-1) may rely mostly on his submission grappling, but he might catch him slipping. His Bellator debut showed how good his control is and how easy he makes a few things look. Being under him looks like a nightmare, but best case scenario is we get a submission duel between the two. It’s a bit odd to have two very talented fighters make their UFC debut against each other, but at least it’s got the makings of an intriguing fight.
Davi Ramos vs Arman Tsarukyan
Ramos (10-3) might be coming off a loss, but he very quietly earned himself a four-fight win streak. Three of those wins were rear naked chokes against very capable grapplers. Problem here is that Tsarukyan (14-2) is capable of stuff like this. He’s a strong striker and a better overall dynamic athlete than Ramos, with much more focused striking and a good grappling base. Ramos is slick, but he’s in for a hell of a fight this time.
Sergey Spivak vs Carlos Felipe
Spivak (10-2) is 1-2 in the UFC with losses to Walt Harris (not bad) and Marcin Tybura (worrisome). He had a nice arm triangle win over Tai Tuivasa, and had previously defeated eternal pugilist Tony Lopez and the unstable Ivo Cuk. At 25 years of age, he’s got a lot of time to grow, but it’s hard to get a read on how this recent run will affect him.
Carlos Felipe will be making his UFC debut after toiling around on the Brazilian scene fighting mostly unheralded opposition. I’m going to put this very diplomatically: expect a lot of sweaty hugging.
UFC Fight Night: Figuereido vs Benavidez 2 takes place this Saturday night starting at 5:00pm EST, streaming on ESPN+.