UFC on ESPN+ 17, informally known as UFC Norfolk, is a wrap! We saw a fight with UFC flyweight gold on the line, potential number one contender bouts, and multiple interesting debuts with the UFC. Join us as we break down the entire main card, fight-by-fight.
UFC on ESPN+ 17 Main Card Recap
Joseph Benavidez vs Deiveson Figueiredo
The stakes for this title fight rose even higher when Deiveson Figueiredo missed weight by two-and-a-half pounds. Due to this unfortunate situation, Joseph Benavidez was rendered the only competitor who could win a belt at UFC Norfolk. Were he to lose, the belt would remain vacant. This made Benavidez the ideal victor for the UFC. Not only would it resolve the bottleneck at the top of the flyweight division, but it would also put the belt in the hands of somebody who had already beaten Henry Cejudo.
The first round was quite competitive. Figueiredo attempted an armbar on Benavidez early and it appeared to be locked in. However, in what was a wild scramble, Benavidez ultimately got out of the submission. The rest of the round took place on the feet. Both men landed impressive strikes on one another until the round ended. The second round would take place on the feet, but it wouldn’t go the full five minutes. Shortly after a clash of heads that had split Benavidez’s head open, Figueiredo landed a devastating straight right hand that floored Benavidez. Figueiredo followed up with a few shots to the grounded Benavidez and the fight was waved off. Deiveson Figueiredo defeated Joseph Benavidez via KO at 1:54 of the second round.
This was Benavidez’s third shot at a UFC title. Unfortunately for him, it was another unsuccessful attempt. At 35-years-old, this might have been his last chance to win a UFC belt. In losing against somebody who missed weight, it’s hard not to feel bad for Joseph Benavidez.
Felicia Spencer vs Zarah Fairn
Despite the UFC’s probable ambivalence towards the division, female featherweights are still a part of the UFC roster. In fact, Amanda Nunes has expressed interest in defending her featherweight title next. Seeing as women’s featherweight is the only division without any official rankings listed on the UFC website, one big win is all it could take to earn the next title shot.
Felicia Spencer vs Zarah Fairn was one of two featherweight matchups with title implications at UFC Norfolk. Though Spencer lost a lopsided decision against Cris Cyborg about six months ago, she was otherwise undefeated. Spencer also held a victory over one of the other featherweights on this card, Megan Anderson. Though it was difficult to imagine a scenario where Fairn could get the next title fight, a dominant win over Spencer in an otherwise scant division would assuredly make it a possibility.
Once the fight began, Fairn appeared stiff. Her stance was oddly reminiscent of BJ Penn when he fought Frankie Edgar at featherweight. It wasn’t long before Felicia Spencer took the fight to the ground. Once they hit the ground, Spencer almost immediately began dropping bombs on Fairn. Referee Dan Miragliotta had no choice but to wave off the fight. Felicia Spencer defeated Zarah Fairn via TKO at 3:36 of the very first round. This is exactly what Felicia Spencer needed to earn a title fight against Amanda Nunes.
Ion Cutelaba vs Magomed Ankalaev
Coming into this fight, Magomed Ankalaev was riding a three-fight winning streak. At 12-1, his one loss was in his UFC debut against Paul Craig. His opponent would be the highly aggressive combat sambo specialist, Ion Cutelaba. Cutelaba was coming off arguably the biggest win of his career. He had TKO’d a reinvigorated Khalil Rountree early in the first-round back in September. With current champion Jon Jones showing signs of slowing down, light-heavyweights are all jockeying for an opportunity to be the first to defeat the man. These two men would make quite the splash in their fight.
Before the contest even started, Ion Cutelaba stormed across the cage and chest bumped Ankalaev during fighter introductions. The Russian got double underhooks and threw Cutelaba to the side before security broke them up. Once the fight started, both men wasted zero time in engaging. Ankalaev threw four head kicks in a row that wobbled Cutelaba. Despite being visibly compromised, Cutelaba was throwing punches and regaining his composure.
Unfortunately, referee Kevin MacDonald stepped in and waved off the bout. Cutelaba vehemently protested the stoppage and looked like he couldn’t believe his eyes. The crowd began to boo the decision. As Bruce Buffer read out the results, a visibly upset Cutelaba smirked and shook his head as the words ‘knock-out’ reverberated off of the Chartway Arena walls. Ankalaev didn’t have much to say about the situation during his post-fight octagon interview. However, he didn’t care for the boos coming from the UFC Norfolk crowd either. He exchanged middle fingers with fans in attendance until he disappeared backstage.
Megan Anderson vs Norma Dumont
The second of two women’s featherweight bouts with title implications would be Megan Anderson vs Norma Dumont. Unlike Felicia Spencer and Zarah Fairn, both women in this bout were coming off victories. Though Dumont only had one fight in the UFC, she was also undefeated at 4-0.
When the fight started, Dumont had an evident plan to get the contest to the ground. But Megan Anderson was more than prepared to keep the fight standing. Within a few minutes, there appeared to be a stalemate against the cage. Once they broke away from the clinch, Megan Anderson landed a perfect right hand that dropped Dumont. Dumont appeared to be out when she hit the ground. The referee saw it this way as well and stopped the bout. Megan Anderson defeated Norma Dumont via KO at 3:31 in round one.
This victory comes after Anderson submitted Zarah Fairn in front of the largest crowd in UFC history back in October. The result is absolutely huge for Anderson’s title aspirations. Given the state of the featherweight division, it couldn’t have come at a better time. After leaving the octagon, Anderson stopped to drink beer out of a shoe with people in the crowd.
Grant Dawson vs Darrick Minner
Since signing with the UFC, Grant Dawson had gone 2-0 with the promotion. Though his wins reflected on him well, Dawson had a setback when he didn’t make weight for his UFC Norfolk bout. He missed the 146-pound non-title weight limit by three-and-a-half pounds. Darrick Minner, on the other hand, despite taking the fight on ten days’ notice, did make weight; with half a pound to spare. In the lead-up to UFC Norfolk, Dawson said Darrick Minner didn’t belong in the octagon with him. Dawson doubled down when he said that Minner didn’t even belong in the UFC. The pre-fight talk clearly indicated that there was some legitimate bad blood between these two gentlemen.
In the first round, Minner had Dawson in a tight guillotine choke multiple times. But Dawson refused to quit. In the second round, the two men quickly went to the ground. This time, Dawson was able to freeze Minner by tying him up in a body triangle. Shortly thereafter, Dawson applied a rear-naked-choke submission and forced Minner to tap. Grant Dawson defeated Darrick Minner via rear-naked-choke submission at 1:39 of the second round. Though Minner appeared dejected, he shook an outstretched hand from Grant Dawson afterward. The victorious Grant Dawson took off his gloves and handed each one out to people in the crowd as he left the cage. Including his win on The Contender Series, Grant Dawson is now 4-0 in the UFC with three of his wins coming via rear-naked-choke.