Saturday's fight between Joseph Benavidez and Tim Elliott has all the makings of a duel worth watching before the Jon Jones-Glover Teixeira showdown.
In one corner you have Benavidez, who's ranked the No. 2 contender in his weight class and eager to rebound after a disappointing first round knockout against current titleholder Demetrious Johnson.
In the other corner will be the No. 8 contender, Elliott, whose self described “awkward” style and strong chin make him an intriguing challenger.
But Benavidez and Elliott compete in the 125-pound flyweight division, the UFC’s lightest and newest weight class, which has seen somewhat of a lag in popularity since its inception in 2011. While UFC president Dana White insists that the division is still merely “in the building phase” in terms of popularity, the quicker, more technical flyweights have had a hard time garnering attention.
Benavidez and Elliott chalk up the lack of popularity to the newness of the class rather than the talent of the lighter fighters.
“It’s hard for people to get behind something new,” Benavidez said. “The skill level is no different [when compared with other weight classes]. Look at how long the division has been around and you can see we’re growing in respect and notoriety.”
Elliott sees a cultural dimension as well.
“American fight fans tend to think that bigger is better," he said. "They would rather watch two heavyweights beat away at each other then guys landing punches and takedowns and throwing up submissions.”
Perhaps Saturday night's fight -- which will be part of the preliminary card on Fox Sports 1 -- will continue to show UFC fans why flyweights deserve a look.
“Right when I first saw him, I thought ‘I like this kid,’ ” Benavidez said about Elliott. “He has a style that is really fun. I love that he’s always going forward and putting on an exciting fight.”
Elliott looks forward to the challenge that the veteran Benavidez will pose.
“I’m happy to fight good guys and I’m proud to fight guys like Joseph Benavidez,” Elliott said. “He’s going to be faster than I am; he’s probably going to be more explosive and athletic. But I bring something different to the table that a lot of guys can’t prepare for, and that’s awkward movements. It should be a great fight.”Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun