Rivalries: Alex Perez

Alex Perez believes he still has enough get up and go to make life difficult for those who occupy the upper reaches of the Ultimate Fighting Championship flyweight division. Now, he must prove he can guard the gate when called upon to do so.

The 32-year-old Californian will toe the line against unbeaten Japanese prospect Tatsuro Taira in the UFC on ESPN 58 main event this Saturday at the UFC Apex in Las Vegas. Perez owns a 7-4 record across his 11 appearances inside the Octagon. He last fought on April 27, when he closed the book on a career-worst three-fight losing streak with a second-round knockout of Matheus Nicolau at UFC on ESPN 55. It was Perez’s first victory in 1,421 days and re-established him as a genuine threat at 125 pounds.

Ahead of Perez’s looming battle with Taira, a look at some of the rivalries that have helped chart his course to this point:

Anthony Figueroa

Perez laid claim to the vacant Tachi Palace Fights flyweight title when he outpointed Anthony Figueroa to a five-round unanimous decision in their TPF 22 co-headliner on Feb. 5, 2015 at the Tachi Palace Hotel and Casino in Lemoore, California. It was a seesaw affair that showcased the skills of both men. Leg kicks, multi-punch bursts and a steady jab fed the flames for Perez. Figueroa answered on occasion but too often resorted to single-strike attacks. Perez executed multiple takedowns, stayed active on top and bled valuable time off the clock with positional control, frustrating the American Kickboxing Academy product with his stick-to-itiveness. The performance brought the Californian some regional hardware and marked him as a prospect to watch moving forward. Further seasoning—including appearances in King of the Cage, the Resurrection Fighting Alliance and Cage Fury Fighting Championships—led Perez to an opportunity on Dana White’s Contender Series in 2017 and a call to the UFC shortly thereafter.

Joseph Benavidez

The perennial contender took care of the surging Perez with first-round punches as part of “The Ultimate Fighter 28” Finale undercard on Nov. 30, 2018 at the Palms Casino Resort in Las Vegas. The end came 4:19 into Round 1. Benavidez darted in with his quick hands and floored the Californian before unleashing a series of punches and hammerfists. Referee Yves Lavigne stepped in to stop it, then rethought his decision and allowed the bout to continue. A puzzled Benavidez maintained his composure in the face of questionable officiating, bottled up his clearly compromised counterpart on the canvas and cut loose with more punches until Lavigne jumped in to secure the scene and shield a prone Perez from further punishment. The loss—Perez’s first in more than two years—snapped an eight-fight winning streak for the Team Oyama representative.

Jussier Formiga

Perez announced his arrival as a Top 5 flyweight when he put away the former Shooto Brazil champion with a series of kicks to the lower leg in the first round of their UFC 250 prelim on June 6, 2020 at the UFC Apex in Las Vegas. Formiga bowed out 4:06 into Round 1, his base having been chipped out from under him. Perez pushed a merciless pace, relied on effective counters in standup exchanges and continued to chip away at the Brazilian’s lower extremities. Formiga collapsed twice to the canvas after being struck on the calf. Referee Keith Peterson afforded him the opportunity to recover the first time but not the second. With that, Perez emerged as the No. 1 contender for the UFC flyweight championship.

Deiveson Figueiredo

“Deus da Guerra” retained the undisputed Ultimate Fighting Championship flyweight title when he dismissed Perez with a guillotine choke in the first round of their UFC 255 headliner on Nov. 21, 2020 at the UFC Apex in Las Vegas. The Colin Oyama protégé conceded defeat 1:57 into Round 1, his bid to capture the 125-pound throne denied with resounding authority. After eating a pair of powerful body kicks from Figueiredo, the challenger swooped in for a potential takedown. The champion initiated a scramble with an attempted leg lock, then caught the guillotine when the Californian made his move toward top position. A replacement for the injured Cody Garbrandt, Perez struggled vigorously to free himself but could not break out of the Brazilian’s clutches. It was his first submission loss in more than four years.

Muhammad Mokaev

The ballyhooed KHK MMA Team prospect remained unbeaten with a grimy and clinch-heavy unanimous decision over Perez in a three-round UFC Fight Night 238 showcase on March 2, 2024 at the UFC Apex in Las Vegas. Operating in the shadows of the Jairzinho Rozenstruik-Shamil Gaziev main event, Mokaev swept the scorecards with matching 29-28 marks from the cageside judiciary. Perez made the undefeated Russian earn every inch of ground he gained. The Team Oyama mainstay managed to deny the majority of Mokaev’s takedowns with an effective sprawl, but in doing so, he failed to generate much offense of his own. It resulted in repeated back-and-forth grappling exchanges between the two men. Mokaev connected with most of the consequential strikes on the feet and closed out his night’s work with a nice belly-to-back suplex in the third round.

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