Benoit Saint-Denis’ first UFC fight did not go well. His second fight with the promotion went much better. Saint-Denis, who hails from France and goes by the nickname “God of War,” is the fighter to watch on the September 3, UFC Paris fight card.
Saint-Denis was a 25-year-old scrapper with an 8-0 (one no contest) record (eight finishes) when the UFC tapped him to face Elizeu Zaleski dos Santos at UFC 267. Saint-Denis had 21 fewer fights than his opponent that night. Dos Santos, who made his UFC debut in 2015, also had many more years of experience than Saint-Denis, who didn’t turn pro until 2019.
To say the fight went poorly for Saint-Denis would be an understatement. He had some success in the first stanza, but once Dos Santos found his groove, the more experienced Brazilian took over.
After the first round, UFC commentator Din Thomas noted that Saint-Denis’ striking defense was a “liability.” It was. The fight could have been stopped — and should have been stopped — before the bout hit the midpoint of the second stanza.
Before the start of the third round. UFC commentator Daniel Cormier, with a note of disappointment in his voice, said, “I hate that they are letting him go back out there. I hate that the ref didn’t stop it. I hate that the corner didn’t stop it. You don’t have to prove how tough you are.”
Not only did the ref and Saint-Denis’ corner allow the bout to start the third round, they permitted it to go the full 15 minutes. Saint-Denis lost, but he proved his toughness, tenacity and heart over the course of the battle. Should Saint-Denis have been allowed to show the amount of hardiness he displayed? No. And because of that, the ref, Vyacheslav Kiselev, was lambasted on social media and pulled from working any additional fights on the card.
Saint-Denis bounced back from that shellacking with a submission win in June over Niklas Stolze. In that bout, Saint-Denis ate a big knee that opened a gash on his face in the opening moments of the clash. He then used his power, patience, pressure, strength and dominating top game to earn the submission win.
The stoppage win was an admirable bounce back performance and demonstrated the will and determination of the young lightweight competitor.
Before becoming a mixed martial artist, Saint-Denis spent five years as a Special Forces soldier. During that time, he served three years in Africa on anti-terrorist missions.
Saint-Denis enters his matchup against Gabriel Miranda, who is 16-5 and making his UFC debut, as a newly married man.
After his win over Stolze, Saint-Denis asked the UFC to book him on the July 23 card in London. That did not happen. Saint-Denis’ wedding took place on Saturday, August 22.
Saint-Denis and Miranda tangle on the UFC Paris prelims.