While bantamweight prospect Ryan “Baby Face” Benoit was expecting a win his bout against Joseph Sandoval on Dec. 14 at Legacy FC 16, the way he came about it was completely unexpected.

“I ended up catching him with a straight right hand,” said Benoit. “I wasn’t expecting him to go down on it because, usually when you’re trying to really grind your punches, you can feel them landing and expect a reaction, but that one I just kind of threw it out there and he happened to go down.

“I couldn’t have asked for anything better.”

The win caps off a banner year for Benoit, who went undefeated in his three fights and raised his record to 6-1. Perhaps more importantly for Benoit though was the fact that it was the first time in years he hadn’t missed time due to injury.

“I’ve had to take some big gaps in between fights early in my career; going almost an entire year without a fight because of hand injuries,” he said. “I ended up breaking my hand one time this year, but it wasn’t too bad and I think I was only out for maybe like a month and a half of training.

“I’ve already had four hand surgeries (during my career) and to not have to go through that this year was a huge relief.”

Benoit feels his hand issues came simply because he started as a wrestler and hadn’t yet developed the proper technique for striking.

“In the past before I’d been kind of loose with it,” said Benoit. “What I mean by that is not really tightening my hands and just kind of winging punches in there. I think my skill as a fighter has developed, and that development has made a huge difference.”

Along with becoming more refined in his technique, Benoit told MMAWeekly.com that he’d like to be more comprehensive in his training environment as he continues to move his game forward.

“I think that you have to develop everything and not just the things closest to you, you have to make sacrifices, so I ended up travelling all over Dallas/Fort Worth because I know if I’m going to get better, I have to go where the skills are at,” he said. “So one thing I’d like to have more of is a team structure.”

Career-wise, Benoit feels he’s made the right moves forward to warrant bigger opportunities in the near future. He also hopes that a move down in weight will allow him to better capitalize on those opportunities when they should arise.

“I think I’ve done well and have started to pay my dues a little bit,” he said. “My last four fights have been on AXS TV and I’ve finished all of them; and my last three fights I’ve finished in the first round. I feel comfortable in front of the cameras and everything, so whatever comes I’m ready for it.

“I’d like to start making my drop to 125 pounds. I’ve seen these guys at 135 and they’re just huge and even though I look muscular and stuff, they’re a little bit bigger than me. I think if I can make the weight, I can be a force at 125 for sure.”

(Photo courtesy of Imperial Fight Management)

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