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UFC 256 predictions: ‘Figueiredo vs Moreno’ ESPN+ early ‘Prelims’ undercard preview

Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) is bringing a bevy of “Prelims” fights to both UFC Fight Pass/ESPN+ and ESPN2 this weekend (Sat., Dec. 12, 2020) when UFC 256: “Figueiredo vs. Moreno” returns to UFC Apex in Las Vegas, Nevada. MMAmania.com’s Patrick Stumberg kicks off the UFC 256 “Prelims” party with the first installment of a two-part undercard preview series below.

UFC Fight Night: Malecki v Santana Photo by Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC/Zuffa LLC via Getty Images

Just three weeks after a rapid finish in his inaugural title defense, UFC Flyweight champion, Deiveson Figueiredo, will put his belt on the line against Brandon Moreno in the new main event of UFC 256 this Saturday (Dec. 12, 200) from inside UFC Apex in Las Vegas, Nevada. The electric co-main sees Tony Ferguson look to bounce back from his first-ever stoppage loss against the streaking Charles Oliveira, while striking sensation Rafael Fiziev attempts to jump the queue at Renato Moicano’s expense.

UFC 256 features eight seven “Prelims” undercard bouts this time around; therefore, let’s prepare the first batch for your consumption below ...

265 lbs.: Serghei Spivac vs. Jared Vanderaa

Serghei Spivac (11-2) rebounded from a knockout loss in his Octagon debut with an upset submission of Tai Tuivasa, but couldn’t do the same to Marcin Tybura his next time out. Five months later, he successfully returned to action with a decision over then-unbeaten Carlos Felipe on “Fight Island.”

He’s ended 10 professional fights inside the distance, six of them by submission.

Jared Vanderaa (11-4) knocked out UFC veteran Ruan Potts to claim an EFC Heavyweight title, which he defended with a knockout of Ricky Misholas. After splitting his next two bouts, “The Mountain” joined “Contender Series,” where he pounded out late replacement Harry Hunsucker to claim a contract.

He stands one inch taller than Spivac and will have a two-inch reach advantage.

Don’t come in expecting fireworks from Vanderaa — he’s as lumbering as that nickname would suggest and isn’t much of a factor on the feet, making Spivac the clear winner in a kickboxing match. Where he shines is with his ground-and-pound, and as the considerably larger man, he’ll really only need one takedown to get Spivac out of there.

The question, then, is whether he can get it. I’ll say “probably.” That’s because Spivac was out-wrestled by Marcin Tybura and generally isn’t afraid to initiate the grappling. In the end, Vanderaa trips him down sometime in the first round and rains down punches for the finish.

Prediction: Vanderaa via first-round technical knockout

170 lbs.: Dwight Grant vs. Li Jingliang - Canceled (Details)

The 2-1 Octagon start for Dwight Grant (10-3) saw a knockout of Carlo Pedersoli sandwiched between controversial decisions against Zak Ottow and Alan Jouban, the latter of which went his way. There was no controversy in his last bout, however, as he fell to Daniel Rodriguez in an insane slugfest this past August.

All seven of his professional finishes have come by form of knockout.

The recent 7-1 run for Li Jingliang (17-6) saw him pick up five separate post-fight bonuses, including Fights of the Night against Frank Camacho and Jake Matthews. His most recent effort saw a three-fight win streak end at the hands of Neil Magny at UFC 248.

He has knocked out seven professional opponents and submitted five others.

Aside from that one-punch finish of Pedersoli, which capped off a fairly uneventful round, the bulk of Grant’s UFC efforts have been slow-paced sparring sessions. The reason for his reluctance became clear against Rodriguez, as he punched himself out in only a few minutes. His only modes of attack are waiting for a perfect opportunity or just going balls-out, neither of which will work against a heavy-handed, ultra-durable veteran like Li.

Li’s too tough, too sharp, and too seasoned in brawls for Grant to win a slugfest, and he’s too good a kickboxer for Grant to try and counter. In short, Grant’s wide swings hit air as Li overwhelms him with power shots in the first.

Prediction: Li via first-round technical knockout

145 lbs.: Chase Hooper vs. Peter Barrett

Chase Hooper’s (9-1-1) comeback decision over Canaan Kawaihae on “Contender Series” earned him a developmental contract, which he followed with a 2-0-1 run on the regional scene. Though he managed to pound out Daniel Teymur in his Octagon debut, Alex Caceres proved a step too far, resulting in “The Dream’s” first professional defeat.

He has ended seven professional fights inside the distance, four by form of choke.

Peter Barrett (11-4) didn’t manage to finish Sang Hoon Yoo on “Contender Series,” but outlasting him proved sufficient to earn him a spot in the Octagon. The coronavirus delayed his debut until August, when he fell short against late replacement Youssef Zalal.

“Slippery Pete” gives up three inches of height and almost as much reach.

What we have here is a clash between an underdeveloped fighter and one whose development ended well short of “UFC-caliber.” Hooper’s ceiling eclipses Barrett’s by a frankly unreasonable margin; the question is whether he’s even remotely close enough to that ceiling to get the win.

Even though I got burned by picking Hooper to beat Caceres, I think he is.

Barrett’s not a particularly difficult man to take down and is nowhere near as elusive as Caceres, which should give Hooper the clinch opportunities he needs to drag it to the mat and get his genuinely solid top game going. “Slippery Pete” has enough pop to potentially exploit Hooper’s terrible striking, but expect his takedown defense and submission defense to once again fail him as Hooper wraps up his neck early.

Prediction: Hooper via first-round submission

Four more UFC 256 “Prelims” undercard bouts remain to preview and predict, including a pair of terrific Featherweight scraps in Cub Swanson vs. Daniel Pineda and Billy Quarantillo vs. Gavin Tucker. Same time tomorrow, Maniacs!

Remember that MMAmania.com will deliver LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the entire UFC 256 fight card right here, starting with the early ESPN+ “Prelims” matches online, which are scheduled to begin at 7 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 256: “Figueiredo vs. Moreno” news and notes be sure to hit up our comprehensive event archive right here.