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UFC 256 predictions: ‘Figueiredo vs Moreno’ ESPN+ late ‘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 continues the UFC 256 “Prelims” party with the second (and final) installment of a two-part undercard preview series below.

UFC Fight Night: Dern v Markos Photo by Chris Unger/Zuffa LLC

Deiveson Figueiredo will attempt to make the fastest title fight turnaround in Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) history this Saturday (Dec. 12, 2020) when he takes on lethal submission specialist Brandon Moreno in UFC 256’s pay-per-view (PPV) main event. Also in store are a pivotal Lightweight clash between Tony Ferguson and Charles Oliveira and Kevin Holland’s latest last-minute shenanigans against “Jacare” Ronaldo Souza.

Four Three more UFC 256 “Prelims” undercard bouts remain to be dissected (check out the first batch here) after COVID-19 struck down Tecia Torres vs. Angela Hill earlier this week (details). Let’s have a go ...

145 lbs.: Cub Swanson vs. Daniel Pineda

A 10-2 run — marred only by losses to Frankie Edgar and Max Holloway — brought Cub Swanson (26-11) to the verge of a title shot, only for the World Extreme Cagefighting (WEC) veteran to drop four straight. He proved he still had something left in the tank last year by upsetting unbeaten Kron Gracie in a “Fight of the Night”-winning effort.

This will be his first fight in 14 months.

Daniel Pineda (27-13) — who saw two dominant Professional Fight League (PFL) finishes erased by a failed drug test — returned to the Octagon last August after more than six years away. “The Pit” made the most of the opportunity by demolishing the surging Herbert Burns to win “Performance of the Night” at UFC 252.

All 27 of his wins have come inside the distance, 18 of them via submission.

As with undercard castmate Tecia Torres, it’s worth remembering that Swanson hasn’t lost to a single bad fighter in ages. Hell, the worst of those four he recently lost to was Shane Burgos, and he gave “Hurricane” everything he could handle. He’s definitely declined, but his struggles are in large part due to his murderous strength of schedule.

That said, Pineda’s dealt with some tough customers himself, notably the very capable Movlid Khaybulaev and the aforementioned Burns. Those wins have asterisks, of course, but he showed the stopping power, toughness, and ground skills to give Swanson all sorts of issues, especially since the WEC vet lacks the overpowering wrestling that’s historically troubled Pineda. In the end, “The Pit” catches Swanson in a submission midway through a terrific slugfest.

Prediction: Pineda via second-round submission

115 lbs.: Mackenzie Dern vs. Virna Jandiroba

A perfect (2-0) UFC start for Mackenzie Dern (9-1) gave way to a one-sided loss to Amanda Ribas, who controlled the former Brazilian jiu-jitsu world champion on both the feet and the mat. The loss appears to have done her some good, as she’s scored consecutive “Performance of the Night”-winning submissions over Hannah Cifers and Randa Markos.

She is the taller of the two by one inch, but gives up as much reach.

Virna Jandiroba (16-1) claimed the Invicta FC Strawweight title with a decision over Mizuki Inoue, then successfully defended it by tapping Janaisa Morandin six months later. While she fell to Carla Esparza in her Octagon debut, she got back on track with submission wins over Mallory Martin and Felice Herrig.

She has tapped 13 professional opponents, seven of them via rear-naked choke.

If Dern’s loss to Amanda Ribas wasn’t an outlier, she’s in for a rough night. While Jandiroba may not have quite the same level of grappling accolades, she’s by far the better wrestler of the two, and we’ve seen plenty of ostensibly superior submission artists struggle to get much going off of their backs. “Carcara” is an elite jiu-jitsu player in her own right, which should be sufficient to keep her out of submission danger.

Dern may want to lean on her stand up; underdeveloped as it is, she packs some real power in that right hand, and Jandiroba’s own striking lags well behind her grappling. I don’t see Jandiroba obliging her in a kickboxing battle, though, so expect the Brazilian to grind her out for a decision.

Prediction: Jandiroba via unanimous decision

145 lbs.: Billy Quarantillo vs. Gavin Tucker

Billy Quarantillo (15-2) — four years removed from a 1-1 stint on The Ultimate Fighter (TUF) 22 — beat down Kamuela Kirk to secure a UFC contract on “Contender Series.” “Billy Q” has proven similarly effective in the Octagon, racking up a trio of entertaining victories.

He’ll enjoy three inches of height and four inches of reach on “Guv’nor.”

Nearly two years after a disastrous loss to Rick Glenn, Gavin Tucker (12-1) announced his return to the Featherweight scene by choking out Seung Woo Choi in his native Canada. Another year-long layoff followed, after which he survived an early knockdown to choke out Justin Jaynes and earn a post-fight bonus in the process.

His 10 professional finishes are split 6/4 between knockouts and submissions.

This match up could provoke some unpleasant memories in Tucker; Quarantillo isn’t too terribly similar to Glenn in terms of style, but he’s every bit as utterly relentless. That said, Tucker does have some things going for him that he didn’t before, namely the experience of going through that mess and an opponent who’s easier to take down. Overpowering Quarantillo on the mat is more feasible than overpowering Glenn, especially considering that he seems to have fixed the cardio issues that cost him so dearly against the latter.

As Quarantillo’s fights with Kirk and Spike Carlyle showed, however, he’s exhausting to try and keep down, and his sheer output on the feet allows him to offset any time he spends on his back. Tucker should find some success, but between the reach and volume differences, Quarantillo narrowly outworks him in an early “Fight of the Night” candidate.

Prediction: Quarantillo via unanimous decision

UFC 256’s top two fights are must-watch action, and there’s plenty of fireworks in store throughout the pay-per-view (PPV) card. See you Saturday, 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.

Current UFC “Prelims” Prediction Record for 2020: 136-83-4