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UFC 255 predictions: ‘Figueiredo vs Perez’ ESPN 2 late ‘Prelims’ undercard preview

Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) is bringing a bevy of “Prelims” fights to both UFC Fight Pass/ESPN+ and ESPN 2 this weekend (Sat., Nov. 21, 2020) when UFC 255: “Figueiredo vs. Perez” returns to UFC Apex in Las Vegas, Nevada. MMAmania.com’s Patrick Stumberg kicks off the UFC 255 “Prelims” party with the first installment of a two-part undercard preview series below.

UFC 225: Gadelha v Esparza Photo by Josh Hedges/Zuffa LLC/Zuffa LLC via Getty Images

The world’s fiercest Flyweight fighters take center stage this Saturday (Nov. 21, 2020) when Deiveson Figueiredo and Valentina Shevchenko defend their respective UFC titles against Alex Perez and Jennifer Maia. The UFC 255 pay-per-view (PPV) main card also feature a Welterweight banger that pits Mike Perry against Tim Means and a Light Heavyweight rematch between Mauricio “Shogun” Rua and Paul Craig.

Our old friend ESPN 2 hosts the last four UFC 255 “Prelims” undercard bouts (check out the ESPN+ batch here). Let’s have a look ...

125 lbs.: Brandon Moreno vs. Brandon Royval

After leaving UFC on the heels of consecutive losses to Sergio Pettis and Alexandre Pantoja, Brandon Moreno (17-5-1) knocked out Maikel Perez to earn both the LFA Flyweight title and another shot in the Octagon. “The Assassin Baby” is 2-0-1 since his return, drawing with fast-rising Askar Askarov and taking upset decisions over Kai Kara-France and Jussier Formiga.

He’ll have a two-inch reach advantage over Royval despite standing two inches shorter.

Brandon Royval (12-4) needed just 23 seconds to submit Nate Williams for the LFA Flyweight title, securing his eighth professional first-round finish in the process. His Octagon run has seen him claim a pair of “Fight of the Night” bonuses for his wild and successful wars against Tim Elliott and Kai Kara-France.

“Raw Dogg” steps in for Alex Perez — who was bumped up to the main event after Cody Garbrandt’s exit — on short notice.

Royval has vastly exceeded my expectations in the Octagon. I knew his submission game was world-class, but I was certain he’d struggle to implement it against UFC-caliber wrestlers. Instead, he’s made that frantic assault work, and I commend him for it.

Unfortunately, it’s not going to work here. Moreno thrives in that exact sort of chaos, and he’s more than held his own against lethal scramblers like Askarov and Formiga. Between his edge in punching power and ability to neutralize Royval’s submission and transition games, expect Moreno to come out on top in a ludicrous “Fight of the Night” contender.

Prediction: Moreno via unanimous decision

185 lbs.: Joaquin Buckley vs. Jordan Wright

Despite falling to Kevin Holland on an eight-day turnaround in his promotional debut, Joaquin Buckley (11-3) elected to jump right back into the action against Impa Kasanganay last month. The decision proved wise, leveling his unbeaten foe with a “Knockout of the Year”-worthy spinning back kick to the face.

He’s scored eight professional wins by form of knockout and fights for the fourth time in four months.

Jordan Wright’s (11-0) turn on “Contender Series” lasted a mere 40 seconds before Anthony Hernandez turned his lights out, though the latter’s failed drug test ultimately turned the result into a “No Contest.” “The Beverly Hills Ninja” subsequently returned to LFA with a knockout of Gabriel Checco, then stopped Ike Villanueva on cuts just 91 seconds into his late-notice Octagon debut in August.

All of his professional wins have come inside the distance, 10 of them in the first round.

Let it be known ahead of time that I’m not just picking Buckley because he’s the hip new thing. His striking style, while imperfect, looks like just the ticket against Wright, who really doesn’t like getting pressured. Hernandez was able to just march forward and tee off on him, and even the limited Checco got in a few good licks; Wright simply lacks the defensive awareness to excel if he’s not the one dictating the pace and range.

Wright’s height and reach could pose issues for Buckley, but the latter’s aggressive advance should serve to get him into the pocket without issue. Ultimately, he mauls Wright in the opening minutes.

Prediction: Buckley via first-round technical knockout

125 lbs.: Antonina Shevchenko vs. Ariane Lipski

Antonina Shevchenko (8-2) — sister of champion Valentina Shevchenko — built up some hype with her beatdown of Jaimee Nievera on “Contender Series” and successful Octagon debut opposite Ji Yeon Kim. She has since gone 1-2, dropping decisions to Roxanne Modafferi and Katlyn Chookagian that sandwich a “Fight of the Night” finish of Lucie Pudilova.

She stands two inches taller than Ariane Lipski (13-5) at 5’8.”

“The Violence Queen” likewise entered the Octagon with great expectations, only to start her run 0-2 with losses to Joanne Calderwood. The last year has seen her get back on track with a decision over Isabela de Pádua and gruesome kneebar finish of Luana Carolina last July.

She has knocked out six professional foes and submitted three others.

I love the logic here ... faced with the conundrum of having two highly entertaining strikers with terrible takedown defense, UFC made the decision to pit them against each other. Life gave them lemons and they made lemonade.

I’ll admit that some of my former hype for Lipski may be bleeding into the (very small) logic centers of my brain, but I like the Brazilian here. Along with being the harder puncher, she actually boasts a bit of offensive wrestling with which to shake things up, and Pudilova’s success walking down Shevchenko suggest that “Pantera” will be unable to keep her at bay with kicks. In the end, Heavier strikes and the occasional takedown should seal the deal for Lipski.

Prediction: Lipski via unanimous decision

170 lbs.: Daniel Rodriguez vs. Nicolas Dalby

Though Daniel Rodriguez’s (13-1) efforts on “Contender Series” weren’t sufficient to earn him an immediate contract, he’s found considerable success in the Octagon itself, going undefeated (3-0) in 2020. The run includes an upset, bonus-winning submission of Tim Means in his February debut and a first-round knockout of Dwight Grant in August.

He was slated to face Bryan Barberena last weekend, but now steps in for Orion Cosce on just over a week’s notice.

Three years after a two-fight skid bounced Nicolas Dalby (18-4-1) from the Octagon, “Lokomotivo” returned with an impressive upset of Alex Oliveira to extend his unbeaten streak to five. The upset pendulum swung the other way in his sophomore effort, which saw him rocked and tapped by heavy underdog Jesse Ronson in July.

He stands three inches shorter than “D-Rod,” though he’ll have a slight reach advantage.

I can’t even imagine how frustrated some of Dalby’s struggles made him. While the man clearly has Octagon-worthy skills and grit, he’s got the same problem as teammate Martin Kampmann: he’s extremely vulnerable to getting dropped early. He’s managed to storm back and either win or make it close against the likes of Darren Till, Carlo Pedersoli and Oliveira, but Rodriguez isn’t likely to fade the way those three did. If Dalby finds himself in an early hole, he’ll struggle to dig himself out of it.

Dalby hypothetically has the technical kickboxing edge and looks durable enough to avoid a knockout loss, so he definitely has a better shot at the upset than the odds would suggest. Still, Rodriguez has the power and volume to clip him in the first and never let him regain momentum.

Prediction: Rodriguez via unanimous decision

Figueiredo is must-watch television, as are several fighters throughout UFC 255’s card. You don’t want to miss this — see you Saturday, Maniacs!

Remember that MMAmania.com will deliver LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the entire UFC 255 fight card right here, starting with the early ESPN+ “Prelims” matches online, which are scheduled to begin at 6:30 p.m. ET, then the remaining undercard balance on ESPN 2/ESPN+ at 8 p.m. ET, before the PPV main card start time at 10 p.m. ET on ESPN+ PPV.

To check out the latest and greatest UFC 255: “Figueiredo vs. Perez” news and notes be sure to hit up our comprehensive event archive right here.

Current UFC “Prelims” Prediction Record for 2020: 128-73-4