The Land of the Fly(weights): Champs Retain at UFC 255's Showcase of Flyweight Divisions
Las Vegas, The Fight Capital of the World, was the backdrop for battle as pivotal UFC flyweight bouts were on display as a part of Saturday night’s PPV at the UFC Apex. The main event carried a typical fast-paced fashion of the UFC Flyweight Division as newly cemented 125-pound King Deiveson Figueiredo made quick work of Alex Perez, getting the #4 contender to tap to a guillotine in under two minutes of the first round for his first defense. For Figueiredo, it is now his third win in 2020 after finishing division legend Joseph Benevidez twice in respective bouts. Although it is already November it appears as it is not the last time he will make the walk to the UFC cage. After rumors were confirmed that Bantamweight champ Petr Yan will no longer be fighting Aljamain Sterling on December 12th, it was agreed upon that Figueiredo will be fighting #1 contender Brandon Moreno, who was also victorious on Saturday, to fill into the main event slot for next month’s pay-per-view.
While Figueiredo closed out the main card with a first-round finish, Mexico’s Brandon Moreno concluded the ESPN2 preliminary card against Brandon Royval after Royval got TKO’d after suffering a shoulder injury. When original challenger Cody Garbrandt fell off the card weeks ago, many assumed it would be Moreno was next for the shot since he was ranked higher than Perez. On the flipside, with Perez getting the shot he became the first-ever Dana White Contender’s Series Alumni to ever contend for UFC gold. Although Perez some interesting looks on the feet in the fight’s opening moments, it was Figueiredo who used a slick leg sweep to get his way to the eventual choke finish.
Now with the future of the flyweight division secure for the time being, and the belt to be defended again in three weeks’ time, it is the first time in a long time we have multiple interesting matchups to look forward to going forward. Moreno possesses a long frame for 125-pounds and could use his length to try and circle away from the power of the champion. While former Bantamweight champ Cody Garbrandt we assume is next for the winner of that fight, you also never know the possibility of other former champs such as T.J Dillishaw and Henry Cejudo might try to make the cut down to 125 to get another chance at gold. With Deiveson Figueiredo looking to go 4-0 in 2020 next month, he also looks to cement himself as the Men’s UFC Fighter of the Year. The new flyweight flame holder is bringing excitement back to the division that was at one time at risk of being shut down, by finishing his last four fights in the first round and getting two done by both knockout and submission. The champ’s diverse array of attacks will make him the favorite in most of his future matchups going forward and is on a legend trajectory if he can keep finishing opponents en route to a long and prosperous title run.
Saturday night was a big night for flyweights named Shevchenko, as Valentina and Antonina were the first set of sisters to win on the same UFC fight card. Big sister #15 ranked Antonina got the night started by finishing former KSW champion Ariane Lipski by strikes in the second, and hours later younger sister and current champ Valentina defeated Jennifer Maia to retain her belt. The Shevchenko sisters weren’t the only ones getting in on the winning action as Katyln Chookagian, the only fighter to fight both sisters was also in action as she defeated Cynthia Calvillo to remain amongst the top of the 125 table. With Chookagian being victorious in Sin City on Saturday, she eliminated Calvillo out of a title shot as Chookagian combined both her jab and her takedown defense to fight Cynthia Calvillo at a striking distance for the entire 15 minutes. The problem with the female’s flyweight division as compared to the male's is that there is no clear-cut contender like the men have in Brandon Moreno. In the post-fight presser, UFC headman Dana White suggests former strawweight champ Jessica Andrade might be next for Valentina after stopping Chookagian back in October, but Andrade has only fought one bout at the division and is 1-2 in her last three bouts dating back to the loss of her title back in August of 2019. Another possible option the promotion could go in is with #5 ranked Lauren Murphy, who won on Fight Island last month in a fight which was originally scheduled against Cynthia Calvillo, as Lillya Shakirova stepped in to fight Murphy and lost on a week’s notice after Calvillo tested positive at the time for COVID-19. Despite Murphy beating Shakirova and extending her current win streak to four fights, only one of those wins come against a top ten talent. With Valentina either fighting likely Murphy or Andrade next, what comes after that is definitely uncertain, and with Shevchenko already four defenses in, she is starting to run out of contenders. With that being said the promotion is always in search of ways to maximize pay-per-view rates, and one way that can be made a reality is with a possible trilogy fight against Amanda Nunes, or current strawweight champion Weili Zhang comes up to challenge Valentina at 125-pounds. Despite Nunes taking the first two fights from Valentina, they were very close contests, and when you have two dominant champions like we have today why not see a guaranteed good fight possible for the third time? At the same time, current strawweight belt holder Weili Zhang can also present some challenges for Valentina in the standup, and with her strong frame for 115 one can assume her power will translate up a weight class as well.
With the next page written in UFC flyweight history and yet another page to be written in December for the men, one thing for certain is that there is something special brewing in the division. With numerous rising contenders joining the ranks and dominant champs atop both flyweight divisions as we close the book on 2020 we have some even better matchups to look forward to as we expect our world to inch closer to becoming normal again.
(Cover Photo: Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC)