Since the real emergence of Deiveson Figueiredo over the course of the last year, the UFC’s flyweight division is really starting to rival its bantamweight counterpart as one of the most exciting division’s the promotion has to offer. Amongst contenders at 125lbs, action has always been packed, however, with the scaling of Figueiredo to the division’s summit, we’ve seen a real catalyst for a change of opinion within the sport in regards to how flyweights are viewed.
Undefeated in his last six Octagon walks, Figueiredo turned in a massive 2020, taking three victories and battling the #1 ranked, Brandon Moreno to a Fight of the Year contender at UFC 256 in December, on route to a majority draw against the Baja California fan favourite.
Figueiredo’s assumption to the throne and subsequent successful defence and retention brought with it some yet to be viewed violence at the top of the flyweight pile.
Sure, Demetrious Johnson was as dominant a champion you’re likely to find during his pomp atop the 125lbs pile, however, toward the end of his reign, it was almost a foregone conclusion on occasion in regards to the outcome of his fights. And that’s no knock on the Kentucky native — he’s just that good. But there was something missing from Johnson which drew in the masses more often than not.
After Johnson came Henry Cejudo who blitzed his way through the sport before a swift exit, bookended by a trio of meaningful stoppages of first T.J. Dillashaw to score his sole flyweight title defence, and then a pair of bantamweight wins against Marlon Moraes and then former two-time division best, Dominick Cruz.
Cejudo’s persona fitted in well during that period of time in the UFC, and for as corny and cringeworthy as it was — to which he’ll openly admit himself, his performances for his championship runs were hugely entertaining.
But there seems to be something else with Figueiredo. Earning his shot at gold vacated by Cejudo, the Brazilian made light work of Tim Elliott via a quickfire guillotine in Tampa, Florida — before tipping the scales opposite Joseph Benavidez prior to a stunning second round knockout win.
Renewing his rivalry in July last following their February foray, Figueiredo managed as one-sided a title-winning performance I’ve witnessed over the last couple of years, anyway. Scoring two heavy knockdowns against the Texan, Figueiredo eventually moved to Benavidez’s back and choked him out with a wincing, taut rear-naked choke inside just four minutes and change.
He’s got a mean streak to put it simply. When pitted against Alex Perez on short notice, many, myself hypothesized how Figueiredo would deal with the technical gameplan that the Lemoore native would bring, given the fact he’s been drilled so precisely by lead coach, Colin Oyama in California. Within two minutes, however, he had notched his first successful title defence in the form of a quickfire guillotine from guard.
Against Moreno in December, he, as well as his flyweight counterpart emptied the gas tank on occasion — due to the frenetic pace as well as the timely 21-day turnaround both men came from given the fact they had competed just the month prior at UFC 255.
Nevertheless, with all that taken into account, as well as the fact that Figueiredo had reportedly dealt with severe stomach issues the night before the headliner, kudos to both men on turning in such an outstanding performance.
Tasked with outlasting Moreno over the course of five, often tumultuous, topsy-turvy rounds, Figueiredo was forced to the judges’ scorecards for the first time in five fights, and since July the year prior where he bested compatriot, Alexandre Pantoja.
Moreno took the majority of Figueiredo’s toughest and most telling shots that night at the UFC Apex facility in December, which will only bode well for his confidence ahead of this rematch. However, the fact that Figueiredo lasted all five rounds when some had questioned his ability to do so, can only help his mindset ahead of the re-run.
Arguably, including Israel Adesanya vs. Marvin Vettori deuce, this is the most interesting stylistic clash of the night in the Copper State, and with the extra incentive that neither has each other’s number following their December clash, I’m not entirely sure who I’d give the mental edge to in this one.
Do you favour Moreno given the fact he was able to weather the significant downpour from Figueiredo? Or do you factor in how frequently Figueiredo was able to bring with him that storm over the course of their first fight?
Both have an almost unmatched grit and determination to continue, as proven last December, and on Saturday, whilst not predicting a carbon-copy of their original showdown — I’m still expecting a prolonged battle between both, with Figuereido landing with significant power and impact over the course of five once more on route to a successful title knockback. Whether Moreno can weather this time or not is also quite interesting — especially when considering Figueiredo will have to be the first man to finish the Mexican throughout his career.
Prediction: Deiveson Figueiredo (C) def. Brandon Moreno via decision
Senior writer for FightBook MMA. An aspiring mixed martial arts reporter based in Ireland. Producer of news articles, interviews, opinion features, and exclusive features such as, ‘The Fallout’, ‘The Breakdown, and, ‘This Week In MMA’.