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Las Vegan Joseph Benavidez fights for elusive UFC belt

Las Vegan Joseph Benavidez has been ranked in the top three at flyweight since the division was created in 2012.

He will get his first title shot in more than six years when he faces Deiveson Figueiredo for the vacant belt in the main event of UFC Fight Night 169 on Feb. 29 in Norfolk, Virginia.

“It would mean a lot, but it’s weird, because what’s the title?” Benavidez said on the RJ Ringside podcast. “It’s an extra line on your Wikipedia page and a medal that says you won on that particular night. It obviously symbolizes more than that, but those are the things people think about. When I look at it, I still just have to win a fight, which I want to do whether it’s a main event or an undercard bout.

“I’m going to be world champion and have a belt, and people will correctly be able to say I was the best instead of I was very good.”

There’s no doubt Benavidez has been among the best fighters of his generation. He was caught in a logjam for several years because he had two losses to longtime champion Demetrious Johnson. Henry Cejudo finally dethroned Johnson, but Cejudo also won the bantamweight belt and didn’t want to give Benavidez a rematch of a fight Benavidez won by split decision when both were top contenders.

Cejudo vacated the flyweight belt to focus on defending his bantamweight title, clearing the way for the Benavidez-Figueiredo fight.

This will be the third title fight for Benavidez, 35. He’s 9-1 since his last championship fight.

VanZant’s return delayed again

Paige VanZant suffered another setback in her recovery from a broken arm and won’t make her UFC return on a March 14 card.

Randa Markos will step in for VanZant to fight Amanda Ribas in Brasilia, Brazil.

VanZant missed a year after suffering the injury in a loss to Jessica-Rose Clark in January 2018. She returned with a submission win over Rachael Ostovich in January 2019, but has continued to have issues with the arm.

“Yes, I fractured my arm again,” VanZant wrote on social media. “No, this isn’t the end of my story. This is a very small fracture and will only take six to eight weeks to heal. This is the second time I broke through a screw hole where my plate in my arm is, third break in a third spot. I know I need to adjust my training now that I have a permanent plate and screws in there. I will make those adjustments and return successfully just as I have before.”

VanZant said she hopes to fight in May.

Cerrone gets medical suspension

Donald “Cowboy” Cerrone received a six-month medical suspension after suffering a fractured nose and orbital in his 40-second knockout loss to Conor McGregor at UFC 246 last Saturday at T-Mobile Arena.

Cerrone was one of several fighters who were issued medical suspensions by the Nevada Athletic Commission. He’s suspended until at least Feb. 18, with a no-contact order issued until Feb. 9. After that, he would need clearance from a doctor to return to action before the six-month suspension ends.

Anthony Pettis was issued a similar suspension as a result of injuries to his foot and right elbow.

Maycee Barber is expected to miss at least six months after suffering a torn ACL during her loss to Roxanne Modafferi.

Two cards Saturday

Former heavyweight champion Junior dos Santos will meet contender Curtis Blaydes in the main event of UFC Fight Night 166 on Saturday in Raleigh, North Carolina.

The main card, which also features a fight between welterweight contenders Rafael dos Anjos and Michael Chiesa, streams on ESPN Plus at 5 p.m., with the preliminary card at 2.

Also on Saturday, former UFC women’s strawweight champion Cris “Cyborg” Justino will make her Bellator MMA debut against Julia Budd in the main event of a card in Inglewood, California.

The event will stream on DAZN at 7 p.m.

Contact Adam Hill at ahill@reviewjournal.com. Follow @AdamHillLVRJ on Twitter.

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