Last night (Sat., Dec. 12, 2020), UFC remained in the UFC APEX in Las Vegas, Nevada, for UFC 256. Genuinely, I lost track of how many fights were cancelled or rearranged in the immediate lead up to this event. Fortunately, the main card was left largely untouched (at least in the last week), and there was still a title on the line. Plus, the co-main event of Tony Ferguson vs. Charles Oliveira guaranteed violence as a must-see action fight.
Let’s take a closer look at the slickest techniques and best performances:
A Good Ol’ Fashion Championship Brawl
Both Deiveson Figueiredo and Brandon Moreno deserve a ton of acclaim for their incredible main event battle.
Figueiredo is so tricky. For a man who clearly hits hard enough to break bricks and wills alike, he is no simpleton. “Daico” varies his range, his timing, his strike selection, his targets so often, yet every single variation of his shots are deadly. Is that shift in weight a lead left hook to the body or head? Is it an elbow? Perhaps an uppercut. Best of luck guessing which three rounds deep into a bloody fight, and the wrong slip could easily end any opponent’s night.
Sure, Figueiredo grew sloppy at times. He threw himself out of position, taking counter punches and takedowns as a result. Yet, it’s all the more endearing. Flyweight had a “perfect” champion in Demetrious Johnson, and no one cared. Perhaps more than any strap-hanger I can easily recall, Figueiredo is willing to throw himself into the fire in pursuit of violence.
Meanwhile, Moreno came so bloody close! I hate to start making stereotypical Mexican boxer references, but the way “Assassin Baby” stood his ground, slipped shots, fired body head combinations, ate punches whenever necessary ... there’s no other way to describe it! Heading into the fifth round, Moreno was in a real good position to steal the strap, but Figueiredo’s left kick did enough damage to stall him out and reverse the momentum.
For the likely case of an eventual rematch: calf kicks could have changed this fight for Moreno, made it a clear win. So often, Figueiredo was standing still with his lead leg exposed, baiting Moreno to punch. Had Moreno kicked the calf rather than reached for the head with his jab — and thus exposed himself to that overhand counter — more often, everything would have clicked sooner for the underdog.
Perhaps next time.
Charles Oliveira made good on a decade-long journey, and in doing so, he beat Tony Ferguson to a pulp. It was not competitive at any point — it was a master class. Check out my full recap of the bout HERE!
Ronaldo Souza is one of the best grapplers of all time. He’s also now been knocked out twice by opponents on their back. What madness is this? Kevin Holland did a sit up and punched “Jacare” in his face from his butt!
“Trail Blazer” is an opportunist. On the night “El Cucuy” died, perhaps he’s the closest replacement, a gangly and dangerous weirdo who pulls off the improbable.
A Blueprint Exploited
Ciryl Gane picked apart Junior dos Santos to score the biggest win of his career, but he didn’t need to reinvent the wheel to do so.
It’s no secret that “JDS” likes to operate on straight lines. Gane refused to play that game, staying evasive and avoiding the boxing match the Brazilian desired. Instead, he landed several hard kicks, and he was always looking for his counter shots as dos Santos pursued.
Unfortunately, it has to be mentioned that the former champion appears a bit shot. The jab that so badly stunned him would not have rendered dos Santos defensive even a couple years ago. Credit to Gane for following up with a brutal elbow to seal the deal, but an equally big takeaway is dos Santos’ decline.
Return Of Killer Cub
Daniel Pineda is not a man who fights with the judges in mind.
“The Pit” fires hard from the first bell. He leads with fully committed power shots, and when his opponent throws anything at all in return, he answers with crisp and deadly punches. The speed with which he gains his opponent’s timing often catches foes off-guard, allowing him to connect on those fastballs.
Unfortunately for him, Swanson has been in more than enough slugfests to see it all coming. Despite a layoff, it didn’t take “Killer Cub” all that long to adjust to Pineda’s offense. By the end of the first, Swanson cracked his foe with a cross to counter the low kick, dropping Pineda.
As mentioned, Pineda doesn’t think about the judges. Even while rattled, he chased the finish, but Swanson stay composed and timed him with accurate counter punches to seal the deal in the second.
An Overabundance Of Lightweight Killers
Rafael Fiziev is a scary man.
A striking coach to men like Petr Yan, Fiziev entered the UFC with a fair amount of hype among hardcore fans. A quick knockout loss dampened that excitement, but he’s now fully returned to form with three consecutive victories.
Last night’s stoppage over Renato Moicano was both the first knockout win of his UFC career and the best overall victory of his pro career. Against a former top-ranked athlete, Fiziev showed off his Muay Thai pedigree, ripping hard kicks to the legs and body often and countering his opponent’s kicks with combos or dumps.
The finishing combination in particular was a thing of beauty. Fiziev followed up a hard liver hook with a clean right hand, but he didn’t stop there. One last left hook caught Moicano leaning back, and that was all it took for the Brazilian to hit the mat hard.
Just like that, Fiziev is ready for top 15 competition.
- Tecia Torres defeats Sam Hughes via first-round TKO (doctor stoppage): Tecia Torres has always been technical. Despite a usual size disadvantage, she’s also always been pretty damn strong. This was the first bout where she really attacked, however, clearly putting a focus on doing damage. It paid off, as she managed to blind her opponent in one eye following a dominant opening frame, forcing the stoppage.
- Chase Hooper defeats Peter Barrett via third-round heel hook: Should Hooper be in the UFC? Probably not. It’s fun to talk about just how young “The Dream” is, but fighting such difficult competition may be limiting his development. For the second time in two fights, Hooper was picked apart and saw all of his takedowns defended. This time, however, Hooper was able to pull a rabbit out of his hat in the form of a successful Imanari roll! It helped that Barrett didn’t defend correctly, but Hooper scored a memorable comeback win to return to the UFC win column and extend his stay on the roster ... for better or worse.
For complete UFC 256: “Figueiredo Vs. Moreno” results and play-by-play, click HERE!