Figgy Pudding and Brandon Moreno return for a title fight just one month after their previous fights – who said Flyweights weren’t gangster?
UFC 256: Figueiredo vs Moreno Predictions & Results
Well Dana, you did it. After a few weeks of dreadful cards, the Tomato
I would rather not waste time with filler context. This is a banger of a card, and the perfect PPV to close out what has been a very difficult year for many. Spare for any last-minute shock COVID tests, all the fighters made weight on the scales and looked set for Saturday night. In an Apex-sized octagon and with no sloppy Heavyweight fights scheduled, let us crack open a beer and enjoy the rare nights like these.
UFC Flyweight Championship
Deiveson Figueiredo (20-1) vs Brandon Moreno (18-5-1)
Figueiredo is fast becoming the biggest male star in the UFC despite being the smallest in stature. Since his dominant win over Alexandre Pantoja, Figgy Pudding has been on a string of violent finishes against the very best in the Flyweight division. First-round guillotine chokes over top grapplers in Tim Elliot and Alex Perez, as well as the double murder of Joseph Benavidez (TKO and rear naked choke), Figueiredo is a must-watch champion. Despite Dana’s best attempts to kill off the Flyweight division, Figueiredo has firmly put the little guys back on the map. Who knew a freak athlete was all it would take?
Immensely strong, Figueiredo was able to simply blitz his way through the offence of Joseph Benavidez, a scary striker in his own right. The power that Figgy Pudding possesses is unreal, as exhibited in his ease when dropping Benavidez with almost every shot during his rematch with Benavidez. Moreno is a fighter who leads with his head, extended further when he lunges into his newfound jab. The Mexican will have to be far more composed behind his jab if he wishes to keep his head between his shoulders. Figueiredo somehow brings the same violence inherent in his striking into the grappling realm as well. Whether on top or off of his back, Figueiredo is constantly looking to sink in a variety of submissions (although the guillotine is preferred), and the pain of the opponents under the chokes… God Damn. If it isn’t obvious by now, I am firmly on the Figgy Pudding hype train and perhaps may be a little too swayed in my analysis.
Brandon Moreno represents the most well-rounded threat in the Flyweight division. Technically, Moreno beat up and comer Brandon Royval by a first round TKO, but as anyone who watched the fight will know, it was an equal affair until Royval popped his shoulder out during a grappling sequence. Regardless, Moreno looked more than comfortable on the ground against the elite submission threat of Royval and was able to sink in his own threatening chokes. Moreover, on the feet Moreno has tidied up his game immensely since his losses to Sergio Pettis and Alexandre Pantoja a couple years ago. Moreno is an incredibly durable fighter, and while he has been able to absorb a lot of punishment earlier in his UFC career, it would be foolhardy to engage in extended firefights in the pocket against the Brazilian. If Moreno is able to keep himself on the outside, he can attempt to jab his way through the frequent periods of lull and inactivity that are a detriment to Figueiredo’s game. Moreover, if he finds himself on top of Figueirdo on the mat, Moreno needs to focus on controlling and wearing on his opponent rather than pursue a finish.
Predicted Result: Figueiredo Decision
Figgy is a terrifying fighter but he will struggle to simply blast out Brandon Moreno in a round. The Mexican has developed leaps and bounds since losing to Pettis/Pantoja a couple years ago and offers a well-rounded skillset that will push Figueiredo. If this enters the championship rounds, Moreno will be able to apply his wrestling and top game with more effect. This could be a very close fight. Or, you know, Figgy could just blast him out in a round and carry on being the meme he is.
Result: Figueiredo def. Moreno // Draw (majority – 47-47, 47-47, 48-46)
Tony Ferguson (25-4) vs Charles Oliveira (29-8)
If Figgy is the Blood Lord, Tony Ferguson is the Blood God. The five-round arse whopping at the hands of Justin Gaethje was an incredibly depressing watch for almost all of the MMA world who had been eagerly waiting for the cursed Ferguson-Khabib fight. Alas, it was not meant to be. Sometimes styles make fights, and Gaethje’s chin alongside his incredibly striking volume meant that Ferguson’s ability to out-tough opponents was unable to thrive. If Ferguson had drawn upon his wrestling/grappling, he may have been able to avoid the potential career changing punishment received, as Khabib was able to utterly dismantle the American on the ground. Half a year rest and recovery later, Ferguson is throwing himself straight back into the deep end against the most underrated fighter in the Lightweight division. Whether this is the right amount of time needed to fully recover mentally and physically from such a beating will be answered on Saturday night.
Depressing note over, let’s get into what makes Ferguson such a joy to watch and such a menace to defeat. Constantly on the move, Ferguson switches stances with ease and importantly, without his opponent noticing. Throwing a variety of unorthodox strikes, Ferguson utilises some of the most unique combinations across the MMA world with spinning back elbows, leg punches and the famous ‘throwing sand’ feint. The hellacious pressure that Ferguson pushes is what forces many opponents to fold, as they suffocate under the varied strikes from different angles. On the ground, Ferguson possesses a frightening submission game off of his back as well as damaging elbows that frustrate opponents in the supposedly dominant top position.
It is finally Do Bronx time, baby! At thirty-one years old, Oliveira seems to have finally pieced together all aspects of his game into a classy and fluid output. If you are amazed by Ferguson’s ability on the mat, sit yourself down before you watch Oliveira. Oliveira has been susceptible to being counter submitted on the ground, but he poses the exact same threat to opponents – having choked out top grapplers such as Clay Guida, Jim Miller, and Kevin Lee. Moreover, in the Lee fight, Oliveira showcased an incredible new striking game based around elaborate, highlight reel power shots with the intention to finish the fight. While a dangerous tactic for almost any other fighter on the roster, while using the Ryan Hall technique, Oliveira is throwing dangerous strikes until he is taken down on to the mat where he can then exhibit his submission skills.
Predicted Result: Ferguson Decision
Ferguson endured a career-changing beating, whether it will have led to positive or detrimental effects it is impossible to say until he enters the octagon on Saturday. Both men are erratic, unorthodox strikers, both men are exciting grapplers and submission specialists, and most of all, both men are willing to die on their shield. Strap in, this could easily be the fight of the night – nay, fight of the year material.
Result: Oliveira def. Ferguson // Decision (unanimous – 30-26, 30-26, 30-26)
Renato Moicano (14-3-1) vs Rafael Fiziev (8-1)
Renato Moicano was on top of the world before fellow native Brazilian, Jose Aldo, crushed him in two rounds with a thumping display of leg kicks and boxing. Last fighting before the pandemic, Moicano put himself back in the win column with an impressive first-round submission against Damir Hadzovic. On the feet, Moicano is a reactive striker that identifies holes in his opponent’s game and exploits it to devastating effect (e.g. leg kicks against Calvin Kattar’s boxing heavy stance). On the ground, Moicano rolls around the mat with speed and harasses the slower transitions of his counterparts.
Rafael Fiziev put his name on the map after a three-round beatdown of former prospect, Marc Diakiese. While Diakiese showed an inhuman heart, his stomach will have been nuked after the volume of body kicks he received. A lightning-fast counter-striker, Fiziev’s head movement is extremely risky but ducking under kicks and overhand strikes ensures Fiziev has prime position in the pocket to counter from. At range, Fiziev has a dangerous arsenal of kicks that are primarily aimed at the body to drain the gas tank.
Predicted Result: Moicano Submission Round 3
Fiziev is the far superior striker in this affair, but he doesn’t possess the power required to stop Moicano from working his way into an eventual takedown. Fiziev is untested on the ground, but it safe to guess that the Muay Thai-first fighter does not have the grappling chops required to keep Moicano from his back.
Result: Fiziev def. Moicano // KO (punches) Round 1 4:05
Kevin Holland (20-5) vs Jacare Souza (26-8)
Kevin Holland has to have a shout at winning breakout fighter of the year. Aside from the dubious split decision victory over Darren Stewart, Holland has destroyed a host of prospects throughout 2020 during less-than-ideal conditions to prepare. A three-round destruction of UFC’s new golden boy, Joaquin Buckley, and first-round finishes over Anthony Hernandez and Charlie Ontiveros, all highlight the clean knockout power of Holland’s counter-striking game. Holland has a monster reach at 81”, but his clinch game is ridiculous and incorporates damaging knees and elbows. Having said this, Holland is not a ground fighter. Brendan Allen exposed that when he submitted him in the second round back in 2019.
Jacare Souza is no longer the Middleweight dark horse that really should have had his title shot a few years back. Souza was dismantled on the ground against Hermansson, out grappled by his younger counterpart in a fashion that would have seemed ridiculous in the earlier 2010s. Worse still, in his last fight, Souza refused to push the action against Jan Blachowicz and was content to crawl towards a split decision loss. The major issue is probably Souza’s lack of wrestling class when compared to his grappling game, yet when Jacare forces the action to the mat, he is still one of the best in the organisation. There is no doubt that if Jacare can get Holland to the ground, he will find the submission.
Predicted Result: Holland Decision
Holland has shown an incredible improvement to his all-round game in 2020, but Souza represents the biggest fight of his career. Holland’s striking on the outside is enough to keep Souza at a respectful distance and prevent himself from finding himself on his back, but there are still questions over Holland’s commitment to a gameplan. Souza could very easily bait Holland into a clinch and drag Holland into a whole world of trouble on the mat. At forty-one, though, Souza will need a huge performance to save his career.
Result: Holland def. Souza // KO (punches) Round 1 1:45
Junior Dos Santos (21-8) vs Ciryl Gane (6-0)
Man, I really wish JDS would hang up his gloves. What was once the slickest boxer in the Heavyweight division, the former champion has fallen onto rough times. The gameplan on how to beat JDS has been out for a long time now. Forward pressure and backing JDS against the octagon, the Brazilian is unable to find the space needed to let off his big overhand strikes and is left vulnerable to incoming damage. Three knockout losses on the trot, JDS will surely have to call it a day if he is to lose to a prospect in Ciryl Gane. Dos Santos’ had moments of success in his last three, but he was far too often wild in his offence where his chin can no longer save him while overextending on shots. The state of the Heavyweight division means Dos Santos could just remain in the UFC for the next ten years, but I hope the former champion would want more than to accept a gatekeeper role.
Ciryl Gane has had an awful year for matchmaking. Four cancelled matches, Gane has had to endure a long spell on the side-lines and it is a shock that he has managed to squeeze in a fight before the close of the decade. Furthermore, Gane is jumping up massively in opposition quality. Beating Tanner Boser, Don’Tale Mayes and Raphael Pessoa are impressive, but they offer little in the way of necessary experience to face-off against the one-punch power of JDS. A former Glory kickboxer, Gane is comfortable on the feet and has exhibited a fine ground game that is rare amongst the big boys.
Predicted Result: Gane Decision
It is a mammoth ask for such a green prospect, but Gane’s raw grappling chops will be the difference in this affair. A fine ex-kickboxer, Gane should have the skills needed to push JDS against the cage and pour on an incredible striking display. Moreover, when JDS lunges into a power strike, Gane has the option to panic wrestle and grapple the Brazilian who has shown little in the way of BJJ (despite the rumours of his skill on the mat).
Result: Gane def. dos Santos // TKO (elbow) Round 2 2:34
Cub Swanson (26-11) vs Daniel Pineda (27-13)
Cub Swanson is a personal favourite of mine. It was difficult to watch Swanson fight with incredible heart yet fall to a string of quality operators over 2017-2019. Before the Kron Gracie fight, I was certain that Swanson was about to be submitted into retirement. Then, out of nowhere, Swanson turned back the clocks and executed a striking clinic that somehow was unable to sleep the prospect. Swanson’s striking game fluidly combines his kicks with his boxing combinations, and his skills on the ground are unquestionable despite several submission losses.
Daniel Pineda came out of nowhere and beat the hell out of top grappler, Herbert Burns, on the ground from a rarely seen crucifix position. While his first stint in the UFC 2012-2014 was a sad 3-4 record, Pineda fought with an exciting style upon his return. Willing to throw the dice and risk it all by seeking a submission, you start to understand Pineda’s win one lose one career. Despite the litany of submission losses on Swanson’s record, Pineda will still struggle to out-fox the black belt on the mat.
Predict Result: Swanson Decision
Pineda has the grappling chops to cause Swanson a couple scary moments on the mat, but the UFC veteran has held his own for extended periods against elite submission artists before. The striking quality of Swanson will win the rounds, even if Pineda can wrestle his way to a fistful of control time.
Result: Swanson def. Pineda // KO (punches) Round 2 1:52
Women’s Strawweight (115)
Mackenzie Dern (9-1) vs Virna Jandiroba (16-1)
I am still not fully sold on Mackenzie Dern just yet. Since a dreadful decision loss to Amanda Ribas, Dern has bounced back with back-to-back first-round submission victories against Hannah Cifers and Randa Markos. Unfortunately, the two fights showed little in the way of developments to her striking which has been her biggest handicap to date. Dern possesses real power in her hands, but she is too slow and spends too long planning her next strikes within striking range of her opponent. In regard to takedowns and grappling, Dern is technically superb as well as having a considerable size advantage against most opponents. At only twenty-seven years old, Dern has a lot of time to iron out the clear holes in her game.
Virna Jandiroba is not the fighter to make the most of Dern’s lack of striking quality. Jandiroba seeks to take you down from the first bell and fast-track her way to a submission finish. On the feet, Jandiroba is so wooden it looks as though she is actively trying to fight like a robot. Jandiroba makes Wladimir Klitschko during his Heavyweight reign look like the next reincarnation of Muhammad Ali. Slowly jabbing square-on in front of opponents, Jandiroba impressively lifts her chin back and in the air at the same time. On the mat, Jandiroba is no slouch and can definitely cause Dern a few problems.
Predicted Result: Dern Decision
Dern’s size and superior striking (lol) will be enough to see her through to a victory. Jandiroba’s dreadful striking may not be showcased for long if Dern wildly falls into her shots and allows a takedown, but the battle on the ground should be an enjoyable back and forth affair. Dern’s ability to threaten from any position favours her on the mat.
Result: Dern def. Jandiroba // Decision (unanimous – 29-28, 29-28, 29-28)
Billy Quarantillo (15-2) vs Gavin Tucker (12-1)
Billy Quarantillo is a prospect that demands attention. Heavy handed, Quarantillo can bang it out in a firefight and topple over the man in front of him (i.e. Kyle Nelson). On the mat, however, is where Quarantillo shines. Wonderfully frantic scrambles, positional awareness to hold an opponent down and a varied submission game – Quarantillo is a stud, more-so if he tightens up his somewhat leaky striking defence.
Gavin Tucker produced a career performance against Justin Jaynes when he recovered from an early blitz to dominate Jaynes on the mat. Despite almost losing his pants in the process, Tucker effectively submitted Jaynes twice on route to victory. Moreover, Tucker has rounded his game and his leading corkscrew uppercut is a beautiful shot used to enter the pocket.
Predicted Result: Quarantillo Submission Round 2
Tucker is a live dog, and will understand that he is getting on, especially with his history of injuries. Despite that, Tucker doesn’t have the power on the feet to duke it out with Quarantillo on the feet and if he consistently forces a takedown, he will find himself on the wrong end of one of Billy’s submissions.
Result: Tucker def. Quarantillo // Decision (unanimous – 30-27, 30-27, 30-27)
Women’s Strawweight (115)
Tecia Torres (11-5) vs Sam Hughes (5-1)
Tecia Torres is a disgustingly slept on fighter within Women’s Strawweight. Outrageously, Torres entered her last fight against prospect, Brianna Van Buren, as an underdog. After a three-round domination, Torres more than proved she should still be considered a top fighter in the roster. Respectable decision losses to the likes of Weili Zhang, JJ, and Jessica Andrade should not take away from the skillset and athletic ability of Torres.
Sam Hughes has consistently found finishes at the regional level, but her UFC debut is a massive ask against such an experienced operator. Hughes is a sniping striker that forces opponents to make mistakes and walk themselves on to her shots. On the mat, she is woefully unprepared for the dominance of Torres.
Predicted Result: Torres Decision
For Hughes to win, it would be one of the biggest upset wins of the decade. Torres is a very, very solid top-ten fighter in the UFC and is technically and athletically superior on the feet and mat.
Result: Torres def. Hughes // TKO (doctor stoppage) Round 1 5:00
Chase Hooper (9-1-1) vs Peter Barrett (11-4)
Chase Hooper was pushed too far too soon. While he didn’t absorb career changing damage, Hooper looked like a complete novice at the hands of Alex Caceres. Sure, Caceres is a tricky, rangey striker, but he is also one of the weaker all-round fighters you will find in the UFC roster. Returning after half a year, Hooper will hopefully have tightened up his striking as it is as important vehicle to pursue a takedown. On the ground, Hooper’s long skeletal frame contorts itself freakishly into a variety of dominant positions.
Peter Barrett is a very tough fighter, but his limited skillset was exposed by Youssef Zalal. Somehow surviving a ridiculous kick in the first round, Barrett managed to recover and attempted to rough up Zalal in the clinch, but for the majority of the fight was on the end of Zalal’s jab. With a real susceptibility to submissions, and a limited striking game far below Caceres, Barrett has been thrown in for a Hooper win.
Predicted Result: Hooper Submission Round 1
Barrett will have to bank on his age, size and durability allowing him to out-muscle Hooper and prevent him from hitting the mat. Unfortunately for Barrett, Hooper seems far too talented not to simply weasel his way into an early submission victory.
Result: Hooper def. Barrett // Submission (heel hook) Round 3 3:02
2020 MMA Season
Takeaway comments: No longer gonna sleep on Tucker anymore, that’s for sure.
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