The quick turnaround for this weekend’s UFC 256 main event warrants massive plaudits to both champion, Deiveson ‘Deus Da Garra’ Figueiredo and challenger, Brandon ‘The Assassin Baby’ Moreno.
Just twenty-one days ago, Figueiredo secured the first successful defence of his flyweight title at UFC 255, as he shared that pay-per-view event with the above mentioned, Moreno, who in turn earned his crack at Octagon gold with a buzzer-beating barrage against Brandon Royval after the latter suffered a dislocated shoulder.
Closing the curtain on a splendid card, Figueiredo met with Team Oyama mainstay and Dana White’s Contender Series alum, Alex Perez in a reworked main event, and within less than two-minutes, had forced a tap from the Lemoore native with what’s becoming an almost patented guillotine from guard.
Figueiredo added the guillotine stoppage to a consecutive submission of two-time foe, Joseph Benavidez, and an earlier finish of one-time title challenger, Tim Elliott. The Para native can certainly hang with Moreno’s scrambling ability on the ground that’s for sure, and past experience and viewing teaches us that poor head-position is something the Brazilian will exploit on cue. Moreno’s scrambling ability is immense as well it must be said, evident in his November stoppage of Royval.
Moreno’s been on my radar for quite some time now. A two stint veteran of the UFC, I hazarded a prediction that the Tijuana native would eventually work his way to number-one contender status in the flyweight ranks back when Demetrious ‘Mighty Mouse’ Johnson laid claim to the 125-pound throne.
A couple of slips ups to both Sergio Pettis and then Alexandre Pantoja was enough for Moreno to be handed his UFC walking papers back in May of 2018. The following summer, the 27-year-old didn’t hesitate with his return to the spotlight via a knockout victory over Maikel Perez to win the undisputed LFA flyweight crown.
As gritty a flyweight as you’re likely to find, Moreno returned to the UFC with a majority draw against fellow top talent, Askar Askarov, before finding three straight wins against Kai Kara-France, perennial contender, Jussier Formiga, and last month’s win over Royval. Talk about earning your stripes.
For one reason or another, the flyweight division has been overlooked in quite ridiculous fashion since the aforenoted, Johnson’s trade to ONE Championship. With Figueiredo in charge and possibly on the cusp of Fighter of the Year accolades with a win over Moreno, it’s difficult to make an argument against the fact that the flyweight ranks are the most stacked and exciting the globe over.
Despite missing weight ahead of his first crack at vacant gold against Benavidez at UFC Fight Night Norfolk, Figueiredo hasn’t lost any shine this year it has to be said. And one of the main reasons for that has to come down to his violent fighting style.
Almost wrapping up an armbar win over Benavidez in February, Figueiredo eventually got the Texan out of there in the second frame via a massive overhand right — walking Benavidez onto the shot for what appeared an age.
Even in their UFC Fight Island 2 rematch in July, Figueiredo was at his sparkling best. Flanked to the Octagon by the Mission Impossible theme, the Brazilian made even shorter work of Benavidez this time around, dropping him with three massive shots before scoring one of the most gruesome rear-naked chokes in recent memory.
Violence. That seems to be what separates Figueiredo from the pack and it’s only early days into his reign, but consistent performances like we’ve seen this year can catapult him to the sport’s forefront.
Getting past Perez, a hugely technical fighter on his day seemed an interesting proposition for Figueiredo last month, and apart from an early scare in a couple of exchanges on the feet, the defending champion barely broke a sweat.
Against Moreno, Figueiredo, as noted earlier can certainly hang with the Mexican on the ground, however, the former presents a deadlier grappler in my opinion than Perez. Yet to be finished either, Moreno — as is largely the case for champions, represents the most difficult challenge to Figueiredo yet, even without taking the short-notice nature of this clash into consideration.
Prediction: Deiveson Figueiredo remains king of the flies with a second-round finish of Brandon Moreno. Expect some interesting scrambles this time.