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Even though its undercard fell apart, UFC 256 on Saturday still looks like a strong offering for the Ultimate Fighting Championship’s final pay-per-view of 2020. Deiveson Figueiredo may not have broken through to true stardom yet, but the flyweight champion has established himself as a must-watch fighter, and Brandon Moreno is one of his more exciting potential challengers. Beyond that, Tony Ferguson-Charles Oliveira should provide absolute fireworks in the co-feature, and there are two excellent veteran-versus-prospect matches, as Ronaldo Souza and Junior dos Santos look to defend their respective turfs against Kevin Holland and Ciryl Gane. The UFC initially had grander plans, but it has done well to have such a strong fallback.
Now to the preview for the UFC 256 “Figueiredo vs. Moreno” main card:
UFC Flyweight ChampionshipC | Deiveson Figueiredo (20-1, 9-1 UFC) vs. #1 FLW | Brandon Moreno (18-5-1, 6-2-1 UFC)
ODDS: Figueiredo (-300), Moreno (+250)
With three other title fights falling through for this main-event slot, Figueiredo gets the chance to make some history, as the flyweight champion turns around for his second title defense on just three weeks’ notice. It is an interesting gambit, particularly since an active schedule could make Figueiredo the man to fully entrench the 125-pound weight class on the UFC landscape. “Deus da Guerra” is both a joy and a terror to watch. While the claim that flyweights do not finish fights can be a bit overblown, Figueiredo’s physicality brings a constant sense of danger that most fighters of his size simply lack. Figueiredo’s most notorious moment on the Brazilian scene saw him backhand a man unconscious, and it has been much the same story in the Octagon, where he can bring an end to a fight in sudden and brutal fashion. Figueiredo is an extremely talented counterstriker thanks to his ability to read his opponents, and he may actually be honing those skills even further. Up until a few years ago, Figueiredo could sometimes take a Yoel Romero-esque approach of inactivity before he finally deciphered a rhythm, but his last handful of fights have seen him spring into action early and often. His last win over Alex Perez showed the combination of violence and creativity that Figueiredo can bring, as he swung onto Perez's leg for a kneebar attempt and then caught a fight-ending guillotine choke in the ensuing scramble. He is a must-watch fighter, and Moreno is more than willing as a dance partner when it comes to bringing the action.
It has only been a shade over four years since Moreno made his UFC debut, but it still feels like it has been a long road for the Mexican to get to this point. “The Assassin Baby” did not have high expectations upon entering the Octagon. He showed some talent as a raw prospect as the low seed on his season of “The Ultimate Fighter,” but got a tough first draw as a late replacement opposite surging contender Louis Smolka. That made it a shock when Moreno quickly found a submission victory, which in turn started a winning streak that earned him a headlining assignment. That fight—against Sergio Pettis in Mexico City—could have been a breakthrough moment for Moreno, but instead, it was where everything went south. Pettis exposed Moreno’s lack of technical depth, and he suddenly found himself outside of the UFC after a subsequent loss. That lasted for about a year, as the UFC eventually re-signed Moreno amid its renewed interest in the flyweight division, and he apparently put that time to good use, as he was suddenly a much more effective fighter. After a draw against Askar Askarov in a fight most felt he won, Moreno has charged up the flyweight ranks with three big wins in the last year. The circumstances are not ideal—Moreno is also making a three-week turnaround from his own win over Brandon Royval—but this is a big chance for him to make some history as Mexico’s first UFC champion.
There are a whole lot of intriguing factors to this fight, but the broad outline of the bout greatly favors Figueiredo. While Moreno has built out a much more consistently effective offensive game from years prior, there still is not much in terms of built-in defense. Add in that Moreno himself will never turn down a scrap, and that is a clear recipe for him to immediately throw himself into danger upon the first few exchanges of the fight. The quick turnaround does make this a closer fight, however, as Figueiredo figures to have the much tougher weight cut. Now that he is champion, Figueiredo seems to have invested in making sure he can make 125 pounds, but he is still a physical force; and two big cuts in three weeks could have an effect on his power or his gas tank, the latter of which can be a concern since Moreno sets a relentless pace. The other factor is Moreno’s durability, given that pace. Even if this is a peak Figueiredo, there are still questions about how he can fare in the championship rounds if Moreno manages to stick around and keep laying on damage. While Moreno has never been finished, most other flyweights do not have the finishing ability Figueiredo wields, and the Mexican’s gambit of trading defense for pace probably will not serve him well. The pick is for Figueiredo to land something hard early and clamp down on a submission in the first round.
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