The UFC flyweight division was on the verge of collapse eleven months ago. Now it could just have spawned the best MMA fight of 2020.
In one of the best fights of the year, Deiveson Figueiredo and Brandon Moreno battled for a tie (48-46, 47-47, 47-47) in a UFC flyweight title bout on Saturday night at the main UFC 256 event in Las Vegas. Figueiredo, the defending champion flyweight, kept the title because of the draw. It was only the fourth draw in the history of the UFC championship.
“We need a rematch,” said Moreno, the first Mexico-born fighter to fight for a UFC title, in his post-fight interview. “We need this rematch. I think so. For me, for Figueiredo, for the fans, for everyone. For the sport of course.”
UFC President Dana White called Figueiredo-Moreno the best fight in UFC flyweight history and said he wanted a rematch “absolutely positively”.
“This is another fun fight that we can all look forward to in 2021,” he said.
The fight was full of wild, tough conversations. Both men marked each other with tough combinations and head butts. If one looked like it was swinging, the other would roar back with hard blows.
“If you want to put him in front of me in the next fight, I’ll be open to it,” said Figueiredo.
Figueiredo said in his post-fight interview that he had a stomach infection Friday night and was in the hospital until 2 a.m. on Saturday morning.
In February, Figueiredo missed the weight ahead of a bout with Joseph Benavidez for the vacant flyweight title. In the end, he beat Benavidez with TKO in the second round and released the belt because he was not eligible for champion due to lack of weight.
At this point, the division’s future was uncertain. The UFC spent late 2017 and 2018 trimming the division on whispers that it would be scrapped. Fast forward to today and the flyweight division has now headlined the UFC pay-per-view cards in a row to end the year.
White credited UFC co-matchmaker Mick Maynard with rebuilding the flyweight division, which he called “one of the most exciting divisions in the UFC.”
“And tonight we have a potential fight of the year and potentially the biggest fight in the history of the division,” said White.
This was the fastest turnaround for a champion or challenger in UFC history. Figueiredo and Moreno both competed at UFC 255 on November 21 – just three weeks ago. At UFC 255, Figueiredo finished Alex Perez via guillotine choke – the fastest submission in UFC flyweight history (1 minute, 57 seconds) – and Moreno defeated Brandon Royval via TKO in the first round.
When the UFC lost their scheduled UFC 256 main event – a bantamweight title bout between champion Petr Yan and Aljamain Sterling – Figueiredo and Moreno were inducted into the promotion. And that with an epic encounter.
Known for his first-round barrages, Figueiredo pursued Moreno early, moving forward, and landing hard shots. But unlike many of Figueiredo’s opponents, Moreno would not go away. In fact, Moreno had strong moments in the second moment, including a big overhand right and a big combination at the end of the round.
In the third it got a little weird. Figueiredo landed a straight left kick under the belt that sent Moreno to his knees. Referee Jason Herzog deducted a point from Figueiredo for the illegal, harmful blow.
“The referee did his job,” said Figueiredo.
Moreno came back with a big fourth round that was filled with long combinations – body and head punches and head butts. However, Figueiredo was able to achieve a strong result in the fifth despite being tired. In the last few seconds he threw Moreno on the head with a judo throw and then hit with ground-and-pound.
The judges Sal D’Amato and Junichiro Kamijo both scored a draw. D’Amato let Figueiredo win the first and fifth round and the third 9-9 because of the point deduction. Kamijo had it 9-9 in the third, with Figueiredo winning the first and second rounds. Judge Derek Cleary had it 9-9 in the third, with Figueiredo winning the first, second and fifth rounds.
ESPN had Figueiredo ranked 7th in the world on its MMA pound-for-pound list. Figueiredo and Moreno are second and third in the ESPN flyweight division, behind former UFC flyweight champion Demetrious Johnson, one of them all-time best fighters.
The show took place at the UFC Apex, a venue across from the promotion’s Vegas corporate campus. It was the final 2020 pay-per-view for the UFC, which was the first major sports organization after a coronavirus-related hiatus.
Figueiredo (20-1-1) is undefeated in six straight and ten out of eleven in the UFC overall. Figueiredo, nicknamed “God of War” stopped Benavidez in the first round via TKO in July to win the vacant flyweight title. This was his second title defense. Figueiredo, 32, is linked to Johnson, who has the most placements in UFC flyweight history (seven).
“My fans are used to seeing a knockout in the first round, but I’ve fought all five rounds and thought I put in a great performance,” said Figueiredo.
Moreno (18-5-2) is unbeaten in six consecutive games with a 7-2-2 UFC record. “The Assassin Baby” was cut by the UFC in 2018 after falling two in a row. At the time, the promotion was considering dropping the division. Moreno, 26, won the Legacy Fighting Alliance title outside of promotion in 2019 and was brought back to the UFC just three months later. He’s 3-0-2 since his release.
“Lead this week [Moreno] I told everyone that his hero was Julio Cesar Chavez, “said White, referring to the legendary Mexican boxer.” When people remember him and his career, he wants to be remembered like a Julio Cesar Chavez. If you look at typical Mexican fighters, he’s the prototype. … He looked damn good tonight. “