Last weekend at UFC 295 in New York, other fighters remained a bit in the shadows behind the two title fights. Notably, the main card featured a duel between lightweights Matt Frevola and France’s Benoit Saint-Denis, who came into the fight on a four-fight winning streak.
A spectacular fight was expected, as two record finalists faced off. Four previous fights involving Frevola ended in first-round knockouts; Saint-Denis had never won a decision in his career. And this time everything ended quickly and happily. Halfway through the first round, the Frenchman found Frevola’s head with a high kick and knocked him out. His fifth consecutive victory meant Saint-Denis entered the promotion’s top 15 lightweights.
UFC 295 main events:
UFC 295: Aspinall crushes Pavlovich! Pereira took care of Prochazka
Immediately after the fight, Benoit mentioned to everyone he could remember: “I’ll take the BMF belt first, because I deserve it. Then I will go after Islam Makhachev. He won’t last three rounds with me, no one will last three rounds with me. I’m going to chase everyone in this division, I’m going to catch them all, it won’t be long before the belt is around my waist. And then I will defend both the BMF and lightweight titles. Now I would be happy to fight Dustin Poirier, Mateusz Gamrot and Justin Gaethje. I want to do this as quickly as possible. Gamrot is European, let’s hold a main event in Paris. And I also want to fight Gaethje. “I like him, but I want to start a war with him.”
A very bold statement from Saint Denis, but a man with his past hardly has anything to fear. Benoit is a former special forces soldier, and in his case, this isn’t just a big line on his resume. Immediately after studying, the Frenchman went to the special forces school, where he spent a year and a half, passing the most difficult tests. He then served in the military for five years, including participating in special operations in Africa. And just six years ago, Saint Denis, known by the very loud nickname God of War, began practicing mixed martial arts.
Makhachev is not only the UFC champion, but also the number one in the P4P ranking:
Makhachev is the new king of the UFC! Khabib’s student is officially number one.
Benoit, of course, had some basis. He has been involved in judo since childhood. Later, while in the military, he learned kickboxing and jiu-jitsu and excelled at it. Moving into MMA, he was lucky enough to fall into the hands of famous Muay Thai trainer Daniel Voirin, who at one time worked with stars such as Dan Henderson, Anderson Silva and Lyotu Machida. Saint-Denis quickly went from amateur to professional and began fighting in regional promotions in 2019. However, the French fighter made no secret that he was driven by the desire to enter the UFC: “My goal was to fight and make a living in the UFC. When I left the special forces, I had nothing left. I became unemployed. Then I told myself that it was two years of unemployment. During this time, it is necessary to join a successful organization.”
In the first 11 months, Saint-Denis fought six fights, winning five of them and another was declared invalid. All wins were achieved by submission and the variety was amazing: kneebar, guillotine, rear choke, armbar. Benoit showed all his arsenal, but had to take a break forced by Covid. After an eight-month hiatus, Saint-Denis finally moved to Brave CF, where she became a local star. In France, fans quickly fell in love with the militant fighter. In his new promotion, he achieved his first knockout victory in his first fight, defeating Mario Said in the second round. There everyone was convinced that Saint-Denis was very good with his hitting technique.
Two more Brave fights followed, and Benoit revealed another skill: both times the Frenchman won with a hand triangle. Luan Santiago held on until midway through the second round, and Arkaitz Ramos surrendered three minutes into the fight.
This season, Brave CF streams are available on OKKO.
Such a spectacular series did not go unnoticed in the UFC. Just three months after his last fight in Brave CF, Saint Denis already debuted in the best MMA promotion in the world. It was a tournament in Abu Dhabi and a fight in the welterweight category. The Frenchman had not previously competed in this division and among his opponents was also the dangerous Eliseu Zaleski dos Santos. The fight was memorable because in the second round the Brazilian crushed Saint-Denis, who could no longer continue the fight, but the Russian referee Vyacheslav Kiselev did not interfere and allowed the even beating to continue. As a result, Benoit came to the judge’s decision about his moral and volitional qualities, but, of course, he lost. His debut in the UFC was a disaster, but many remembered the Frenchman’s iron self-control and character.
Saint-Denis restarted and, by the way, chose a non-trivial place for this – going to a training camp in Bulgaria. After that, he returned to lightweight and showed the real version of himself. Four wins: rear naked choke, knockout, neckbreaker and knockout again. And now I’ve added a luxurious Frevola high head kick to the collection.
Saint-Denis belongs to the type of fighters that can safely be called universal. The God of War can do it all in the octagon: good at exchanges, well-placed boxing, excellent tight kicks, skillful and aggressive ground work, and he has already demonstrated a strong jaw. Of course, this is not yet a fighter of the highest level, he gives in to emotions and flies at his opponents, and experienced and well-trained opponents will easily punish him. Furthermore, he is too dependent on the “incumbent,” who at some point will begin to fail at this rate.
So far, Saint Denis looks like an upgraded version of Dustin Poirier with improved wrestling. And this guy will really be a force to be reckoned with if he continues to develop at this rate. Benoit is already ranked 11th in the lightweight rankings, and this is just the beginning.