UFC 256 Winners and Losers
For a division that was once on the brink of extinction, boy did the flyweights deliver. The final UFC pay-per-view of 2020 was headlined by the second flyweight title fight in two months. It had a storybook ending to what has been arguably the best year yet for the promotion, as Deiveson Figueiredo retained his title by fighting Brandon Moreno to a majority draw Saturday night at Las Vegas’ UFC Apex. The two 125-ers went to war over 25 minutes, giving us one of the best fights of the calendar year, and proving to the world that the flyweights are for real. The title fight won a 50,000 dollar fight of the night bonus, and praise from Dana White and wanting an immediate rematch. Along with both headliners receiving bonuses for their five-round battle, middleweight Kevin Holland and lightweight Rafael Fiziev won 50 thousand dollars as well for their performance of the night bonuses for their respective knockouts. While the world was on pause, the fight capital of the world has been busy throughout the pandemic giving us a ton of fun fights over the recent months, but this fight card might shine the brightest. Here are some winners and losers after Saturday’s night of action:
Winner: The Flyweight Division
Not only did Figueiredo and Moreno deliver one of the best fights of the year, but they also delivered arguably the best fight in UFC men’s flyweight history. The duo delivered the patented fast-paced action typical of flyweight flights, with both fighters having their moments throughout. The challenger Moreno had success using Figueiredo’s aggression against him, landing four takedowns on the champ, while Figueiredo got most of his damage done via the standup. A pivotal moment in the fight came in the third round, where a Figueiredo low blow cost him a point which ended up leading to the eventual majority draw. The only judge who picked a winner, Derek Cleary had Figueiredo winning 48-46.
With a performance being put on like we saw last night, we now have a classic fight to attach to this weight class. Yes, there were some great moments like the DJ flying armbar against Ray Borg, or Cejudo eventually dethroning Johnson years later, but there was never that great war like we saw last night. It was admiring to see Moreno take such damage from the champion, and even had moments where he saw the heavy-handed champion rocked. The performance from the nearly 3-1 underdog was nothing short of remarkable, and the draw adds another chapter to be written to an already active division in 2020. With a defending champion like Figueiredo hungry to make a legacy and both fighters putting on two master class performances in a three-week span between fights, it is clear that the division has some room to grow, and the lightning-quick action is a great change of pace for fight fans to get interested in.
Loser: Cody Garbrandt
Arguably the biggest loser of the night was former bantamweight champ Cody Garbrandt, who was set to face Deivison Figueiredo before suffering a torn bicep and having caught COVID-19. The former 135-pound king was planning on dropping down in weight to get another chance at UFC gold, but with Dana White saying he’s looking to book the immediate rematch, Garbrandt looks like he’s going to have to play the waiting game for his flyweight debut. As a result of White’s comments, Garbrandt himself has changed his focus as he called out another Bantamweight champ as he called out Henry Cejudo over Twitter early Sunday morning. With Cejudo only wanting to end his retirement for the money fights, and Garbrandt looking to get back to his championship form, this fight could generate a great amount of hype for both fighters. However, the detour on the path of UFC gold for Garbrandt is a reason why he took a step back as a result of Saturday.
Winner: Kevin Holland
Loud mouthed middleweight Kevin Holland has put a target on his back ever since he was denied a contract on Dana White’s Contender Series for talking more than fighting back in his lone appearance on the show. However, he quickly earned the respect of the UFC President when he made his promotional debut on short notice against then future title challenger Thiago Santos. Since then, the Trailblazer has made the walk nine times since 2018, with a record-tying 5-0 record in 2020 including his highlight-reel knockout of former Strikeforce middleweight champion Ronaldo ‘Jacaré’ Souza from his back on Saturday. Along with his powerful striking, Holland also showed off his jiu-jitsu skills when he had the legendary grappler in some compromising situations on the ground. Kevin Holland’s 2020 resumé now has him in contention for the male fighter of the year honor, and with the Trailblazer propelling him into stardom in 2020, expect him to continue his meteoric rise up the rankings in 2021 amongst the middleweight elite.
Winner: Charles Oliveira
With former UFC interim lightweight champ Tony Ferguson losing his second straight fight by the hands of Charles Oliveira on Saturday, ‘Do Bronx’ has cemented himself as a top five lightweight by winning in impressive fashion on way to a unanimous decision (30-26 x3). Oliveira never let the former interim champ get going, out striking Ferguson 86-26, a perfect 3/3 on takedowns, and one nasty armbar attempt at the end of round one which anyone not named Tony Ferguson would’ve probably tapped to. Oliveira is just as dangerous on the feet as he is on the ground, and his versatility is something that can help him defeat anyone he gets next. With Khabib’s retirement still up in the air, although a long shot, there is a chance he could give Nurmagomedov a run for his money if the matchup were to ever happen.
Loser: Aging Stars Struggling
With Tony Ferguson, Jacaré Souza, and Junior dos Santos all losing on Saturday we saw three former champions all extend their respective losing streaks. Plus, with Dana White’s recent comments stating a lot of roster cuts are on the horizon, these three fighters now have themselves another further away from the title picture, and with father time being undefeated these fighters better start worrying. It is very unlikely that all three go with these cuts, but it is very likely at least one of the three gets the axe. We saw as recently as last week as former three-time title challenger Yoel Romero got released after just fighting Israel Adesanya for the middleweight belt back in March. There will be a ton of notable names getting let go in upcoming weeks, and there could be some bitter goodbyes from Dana White and company proving that in combat sports very few get to go out on top.
Winner: Prelim Featherweight Fireworks
Each of the ten fights on Saturday’s fight card had its great moments, but one division that popped off the page was the performances by featherweights Cub Swanson, Gavin Tucker, and Chase Hooper. The prelim card got started by 21-year-old Chase Hooper surviving a beating on the feet to win via third-round submission. When Hooper’s legs got compromised due to a barrage of calf kicks, the decorated grappler was finally able to get the fight to the canvas after an iminari roll en route to an eventual heel hook finish. Canadian Gavin Tucker was able to land seven total takedowns to snap the three-fight winning streak of striker Billy Quarantillo. Lastly, the preliminary card featured the return of fan-favorite Cub Swanson, as he made his return from ACL surgery in his first fight in over 14 months when he was able to finish Daniel Pineda via second-round TKO. Swanson let his hands fly freely as 46 of his 51 total strikes landed were significant, with his surgically repaired knee remaining looking healthy in route for victory. The 145-pound division has been on fire this past year, and with Calvin Kattar and Max Holloway set to do battle in January 2021, the featherweights will be in the center of attention to kick off the new year.
(Cover Photo: Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC via Getty Images)