Future Contenders: Flyweight

The 27-year-old Joseph Benavidez tops the list

Originally Published: May 2, 2012
By Adam Hill | ESPN Insider
Joseph BenavidezJosh Hedges/Zuffa LLC/Getty ImagesJoseph Benavidez will get the shot to become the first-ever UFC flyweight champion later this year.

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Since before such a division existed in the Ultimate Fighting Championship, Joseph Benavidez has been looked at as the heir apparent to the organization's 125-pound title.

Now that the weight class has been established in the UFC, there is no good reason to alter that thinking.

The 27-year-old Team Alpha Male fighter will get the shot to become the first-ever UFC champion in the division at some point later this year, though it's still unclear whom he will fight for that title.

Ian McCall and Demetrious Johnson (spoiler alert: their names will appear on this list very shortly) battled to a draw in March, and will meet again in June to determine Benavidez's championship opponent.

While Benavidez will have to wait for his chance to win the title, he has earned the top spot in our list of future title contenders in the flyweight division.

The former New Mexico state champion wrestler has suffered just two losses in his professional MMA career, both at the hands of current UFC bantamweight champion Dominick Cruz.

Benavidez has looked very good against everyone else, including a second-round knockout of Yasuhiro Urushitani in the semifinals of the de-facto flyweight tournament in March.

It was the fourth knockout victory of Benavidez's career, adding another dimension to an attack that has centered largely on using wrestling ability to control the action and set up submissions.

He possesses the kind of all-around game that made him a legitimate threat in the bantamweight division, but a potential force at 125 pounds.

Benavidez tops the ESPN Insider list of "Future Contenders" in the flyweight division. The "Future Contenders" series focuses on fighters in every weight class who have the best chance to work their way into a UFC title shot down the road. Eligible fighters are those who:

1. Have not held a UFC belt in the weight class
2. Have not previously fought for a UFC title in the weight class

Fighters need not currently be in the UFC to qualify, but they must be active. Also, holding a title or having fought for a title in another fight league does not disqualify a fighter.

Here are other prospects for the flyweight division: