Matches to Make After UFC 256

By Brian Knapp Dec 13, 2020

Deiveson Figueiredo and Brandon Moreno were separated by a grand total of five significant strikes after 25 minutes of intense hand-to-hand combat. Perhaps it was fitting that their unforgettable encounter ended in a stalemate.

Undercut by a third-round point deduction for an inadvertent low blow, Figueiredo retained his Ultimate Fighting Championship flyweight title but settled for a majority draw against Moreno in the UFC 256 headliner on Saturday at the UFC Apex in Las Vegas. Judge Derek Cleary turned in a 48-46 scorecard for the defending champion, while Sal D’Amato and Junichiro Kamijo arrived at a 47-47 verdict.

Four of the five rounds were statistically tight in what was a clear contender for “Fight of the Year.” While Figueiredo appeared to land the more powerful and consequential blows, his game challenger counteracted those efforts with unbreakable resolve, momentum-shifting takedowns and a willingness to return fire with no regard for his own well-being. However, Moreno’s output waned noticeably in Round 5, where he seemed to be hampered by an arm injury he suffered while blocking several of the Brazilian’s thunderous kicks.

The majority draw sets up an inevitable rematch between the two flyweights, likely during the first half of 2021. In the aftermath of UFC 256 “Figueiredo vs. Moreno,” here are four other matches that ought to be made:

Charles Oliveira vs. Khabib Nurmagomedov: The MMA world has witnessed a true metamorphosis with Oliveira. Viewed by many as a failed prospect after he lost four times in six appearances between Aug. 23, 2015 and Dec. 2, 2017, the Brazilian instead rebounded with eight consecutive victories and surfaced as an unlikely but legitimate title contender at 155 pounds. “Do Bronx” authored the latest and most compelling chapter of his comeback story at UFC 256, where he thoroughly outclassed Tony Ferguson to a unanimous decision in the co-main event. All three judges scored it 30-26 for Oliveira, who outlanded Ferguson by an 86-26 margin, converted all three of his takedowns and attempted three submissions, including a first-round armbar that resulted in a near-finish. If Nurmagomedov forgoes retirement in favor of another title defense, Oliveira has all the characteristics of a fascinating potential foil.

Kevin Holland vs. Chris Weidman-Uriah Hall winner: It seems like a lifetime ago—in reality, it was 2018—that Holland appeared on Dana White’s Contender Series and drew more attention for his trash-talk exploits than his skills inside the cage. A little more than two years later, he has emerged as a fully formed contender at 185 pounds. Holland improved to 8-2 in the UFC and extended his current winning streak to five fights at UFC 256, as he punched out former Strikeforce champion Ronaldo Souza in the first round of their middleweight showcase. “Jacare” succumbed to blows 1:45 into Round 1. Where Holland goes from here remains to be seen, but the Travis Lutter protégé certainly has his nose pointed in the right direction. Weidman and Hall will face one another in a UFC 258 rematch on Feb. 13.

Ciryl Gane vs. Alistair Overeem-Alexander Volkov winner: Gane detractors who pointed to his lack of a track record in mixed martial arts have far less ammunition at their disposal after the undefeated Frenchman laid waste to former champion Junior dos Santos with an elbow strike and follow-up punches in the second round of their UFC 256 pairing. Dos Santos bowed out 2:34 into Round 2, giving rise to new threat in the heavyweight division. The 6-foot-5, 250-pound Gane has finished six of his first seven opponents, five of them inside two rounds, and at just 30 years of age, he figures to move quickly in a weight class starved for young talent. Overeem and Volkov will collide at UFC Fight Night 187 on Feb. 6.

Mackenzie Dern vs. Tecia Torres: While Dern may never fulfill the lofty expectations that greeted her transition to MMA, she has begun to round out the skills she needs to contend in the women’s strawweight division. The 2015 Abu Dhabi Combat Club Submission World Championships gold medalist fought through what appeared to be a broken nose, gritted her teeth through some gnarly standup exchanges and took a unanimous decision from Virna Jandiroba in a grueling three-round battle at 155 pounds. Dern swept the scorecards with 29-28 marks from all three judges and continued to distance herself from an October 2019 defeat to Amanda Ribas. The 27-year-old Checkmat RVCA rep will carry a three-fight winning streak into her next assignment. Torres, meanwhile, posted her second victory in as many outings and made the best of a difficult situation on the undercard, as she prompted a corner stoppage from late replacement Sam Hughes in between the first and second rounds.
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