For many fans leading up to December 12th, the main event of UFC 256 was almost an afterthought — the token title fight the UFC absolutely insists upon to cap their promotional pay-per-views. Flyweight champ Deiveson Figueiredo would surely crush Brandon Moreno, the same as he crushed Alex Perez 21 days ago or Joseph Benavidez back in July. There was a feeling of inevitability surrounding Figueiredo’s defense which (past the guarantee of violence) made it less exciting.
Well, now that UFC 256 is in the books I am happy to report that all those feelings were illusory. As good as “Deus da Guerra” is, he’s not invincible. The top flyweights will not be lambs to the slaughter and it’s now clear that Figueiredo will face a Herculean task holding onto the 125 pound belt for half as long as Demetrious “Mighty Mouse” Johnson, whose own reign was so dominant it left the division feeling stagnant and unexciting.
Now before we continue, let me just remind everyone that the majority draw we witnessed between Figueiredo and Moreno was only possible because of a low blow point deduction and objectively bad scoring on the part of judge Junichiro Kamijo, who somehow gave Moreno the fifth round. I had “Figgy” winning every round except round four, with two being the next closest. But obviously everyone sees these things differently. Based on the commentary booth, you’d think Brandon Moreno was ahead on the scorecards the majority of the bout.
That may not have actually been the case, but the fight Moreno put up and the toughness he displayed under the constant assault of the flyweight champion was impressive. The two went back and forth and Moreno never gave an inch or fought like a fighter losing the bout. The moment Figueiredo started getting sloppy and dropping his hands, Moreno made him pay and hurt him badly in the fourth.
The greatest flyweight fight in the history of the division? Let’s let recency bias fade a little and argue about that in six months, once the heady glow of a UFC pay-per-view that exceeded all expectations wears off. But it was a great fight for sure, a fight that’s worth celebrating as one of the best of the year. Hopefully it’s another big step forward towards the 125 pound men’s division getting the respect it deserves. Hopefully UFC president Dana White gives the rematch a proper promotional push and the flyweights stop being a two-title event afterthought or a convenient replacement.
With Deiveson Figueiredo and challengers like Brandon Moreno, it certainly could become the latest hot division, taking after featherweight and bantamweight. Deiveson looks right and fights right, is all blood and guts and violence. And he’s now mortal enough that I doubt people are going to take every title defense for granted like we did with “Mighty Mouse.”
Again, I want to underscore here: he still whupped Moreno pretty soundly. It took questionable judging and an accidental groin shot (and apparently a stomach virus to boot) for Moreno to even pull up to a draw on two scorecards. But looking beyond the ten point must system, that was a dangerous fight and Moreno was right there ready to take a victory with every exchange.
There’s no more ignoring it: the flyweight division is hella exciting. If the UFC actually gets behind their 125 pound warriors, we could finally see them get their due.