Finally, we seem to have some stability for the often overlooked and internally considered UFC flyweight division.
We’ve only ever had three titleholders in the promotion’s history; the dominant, for so long unmatched, Demetrious ‘Mighty Mouse’ Johnson, the brash, Henry ‘Triple C’ Cejudo, and currently – Brazilian bruiser, Deiveson ‘Deus Da Garra’ Figueiredo who defends his title for the first time tomorrow night against contender, Alex Perez.
Along with Figueiredo’s assuming of the flyweight throne, came with it, one of the most complete, dominant title-winning performances in the history of the UFC. Rematching multiple-time title contender, Joseph Benavidez in July – Figueiredo announced his arrival to the throne in devastating fashion.
Poised and coiled to fire off his straight right or backhand hook, Figueiredo scored three first-round knockdowns, before taking Benavidez’s back and with one of the most wincing rear-naked chokes in memory, choked the Texan unconscious. Ahead of tomorrow’s meeting with Perez, we can look at this second matchup with Benavidez in some detail when predicting the possible outcome.
Originally scheduled to meet with former bantamweight champion, Cody ‘No Love’ Garbrandt in the Ohio native’s flyweight bow, we now get Team Oyama technician, Alex Perez in the injured Garbrandt’s place – the right and just matchup in my humble opinion.
I’ve never been a massive fan of fighters jumping divisions in search of gold, especially when you’ve got a few deserving contenders waiting in the wings; Perez, UFC 255 feature, Brandon Moreno, and Askar Askarov to name a few.
Perez is certainly deserving of his claim to flyweight title challenger status, scoring his most recent win at UFC 250 in June against Jussier Formiga, who just so happens to the sole competitor to blemish the professional record of soon to be common-opponent, Figueiredo.
Employing a series of debilitating calf kicks in their high-stakes matchup earlier this summer, Perez managed to get Formiga out of there in the opening round, in the highlight performance of the Dana White’s Contender Series alum’s nine-year career.
At flyweight – and I’d hazard a guess at even bantamweight, Figueiredo has the stopping power in his hands to sit down almost all opposition in sight. Entering exchanges from southpaw from his right hand cocked close to his chin, the Brazilian can fire off counters with second to none speed, but also time an opponent expertly to walk them onto a shot of his choosing.
While Figueiredo has the power to put anyone away at 125-pounds, a hugely-technical approach utilised by Perez against common-foe Formiga may turn an opportunity for such a scenario to present itself, null and void.
Beckoned by coaching maestro, Colin Oyama to remember his gameplan and set up his whipping outside calf kick with his strikes, Perez managed to drop a visually compromised Formiga twice before the final minute of the round on his way to a stoppage victory.
It’s worth noting that early on in the round, Perez managed to fire off a couple of low kicks from outside boxing range, which ultimately prevented Formiga from firing back with counters to a would-be off-balance Perez.
In Figueiredo’s rematch with Benavidez, he managed his first knockdown via a close-range leg attack from the latter, landing his counter right hook on cue.
With a combined fourteen submission wins between them, seven apiece – both flyweights present an offensive grappling approach to any possible grappling scenarios. Evident in both his wins over Benavidez, Figueiredo almost scored a first-round armbar win in March, and setup rear-naked chokes more than a few times in July.
Perez, an accomplished wrestler with a keen-eye for an anaconda finish, has himself fallen victim to guillotine and armbar defeats during his twenty-nine fight career. While Figueiredo has paved his way through to the crown largely with his striking escapades, Perez would present the more likely of these two parties to turn this into a grappling matchup.
Ultimately, Perez would be wise to employ that leg heavy attack again against someone of Figueiredo’s stance-switching, rangy frame, however, it’s a risk versus reward approach, as he’ll be faced with a heavier puncher than Formiga presented in June.
Prediction: Deiveson Figueiredo to retain the flyweight throne, although, not in as dominant, one-sided fashion as his assumption to the summit.