Though some don’t fancy the UFC’s flyweight division all too much, we have two flyweight title fights to look forward to this weekend at UFC 255. The main event of which is a bout between UFC Flyweight Champion Deiveson Figueiredo and former TPF Flyweight Champion Alex Perez.
The champion was initially slated against former UFC Bantamweight Champion Cody Garbrandt, and man what a fight that was about to be! However, Garbrandt withdrew from the bout with a torn bicep, and was replaced by Perez, the No. 4 ranked UFC flyweight contender.
Honestly, it’s better this way. Garbrandt, regardless of how good he is and how much more potential he has, hasn’t ever proven himself in the 125 lb division. You might say how TJ Dillashaw went down and challenged then flyweight champion Henry Cejudo for the belt back in January of 2019.
That was far more justified than this would have been. Dillashaw was still the bantamweight champion when he did that, and he was 4-0 in his last four fights, Garbrandt is 1-3 in his last four, all three defeats coming via knockout mind you.
He only got back to the winners circle earlier this year in June, he has some work to do before fighting for any belt again.
Do we really want a chance of someone with the potential of Garbrandt to go 1-4 in his last five after starting his career out at 11-0, having defeated the greatest bantamweight of all time to capture the title? No, it’s not favorable.
No one likes watching prodigies fall, especially that hard. Cutting ten more pounds, and against a hard hitter like Figueiredo, regardless of how good he is on the feet, there’s a good chance of him being finished should he have fought the flyweight champion.
Now, we get a hot surging flyweight talent challenging for the belt, someone who’s only lost once thus far into his UFC career. Perez came to the UFC off of the Contender Series in 2017, where he submitted (anaconda choke) his opponent midway through round one.
He finished off the year by submitting (anaconda choke) submission specialist Carls John de Tomas at 1:54 of round two in his UFC debut. We got to see a little more of him this time around. Though it was a pretty similar performance, we knew we had a wicked grappler that can wrestle incredibly well on our hands.
Next Perez defeated Eric Shelton via unanimous decision, before KO’ing Jose Torres at 3:34 of round one.
His fight with Shelton was very impressive because Shelton’s a former champion himself, and of his seven defeats, four come via split decision, the unanimous decision defeat to Jordan Espinosa could’ve easily went his way, and Perez is really the only opponent he’s had that beat him convincingly.
Torres was, and still is a very highly regarded prospect. He had an incredibly long and extensive, but equally as successful of an amateur career, he’s a multiple-time former champion that’s only vacated his belts, he never lost one in a fight, and Perez remains the only defeat on his record to this day.
Perez then lost his next fight to Joseph Benavidez, perhaps the best fighter ever to had never won a major world title. He was actually finished a couple times in this fight, the referee did not do a very good job that night.
Nonetheless, Perez has rebounded with three-straight victories since, defeating the likes of Mark De La Rosa (unanimous decision), Jordan Espinosa (arm-triangle choke), and Jussier Formiga (TKO) in his last outing.
He’s really been putting it all together lately; his wrestling is great, his grappling is even better, and he has very good striking. The one thing that hinders him in the striking department of this bout is his frame, which we’ll get into at the bottom of this piece.
Deiveson Figueiredo also came to the UFC in 2017, entering the worlds leading promotion with a perfect 11-0 record.
He quickly racked up four-straight victories from June 2017 to August 2018, defeating the likes of Marco Beltran (TKO), Jarred Brooks (split decision), who’s currently ranked the No. 1 men’s 115 lb fighter in the world, Joseph Morales (TKO), and former flyweight title challenger John Moraga (TKO).
Figueiredo then lost his next fight to Jussier Formiga via unanimous decision, who out-wrestled him throughout the fight. The Brazilian talent has learned from that however, or so it seems, because Alexandre Pantoja wasn’t able to do that to him, Figueiredo beat him up for three rounds straight, and Pantoja’s a wicked grappler that can wrestle quite well.
Pantoja also has great striking, and he even submitted Brandon Moreno a few years back, and he’s still to this day the only man to finish that Mexican assassin.
Tim Elliott was able to take Figueiredo down, but Figueiredo let it happen so he could lock up a guillotine choke, which he finished the fight with at 3:08 of round one. This was followed up by back-to-back finishes of Joseph Benavidez, and that brings us up to date on these flyweight talents.
These Benavidez fights were both devastating finishes for the champion, absolutely soul-crushing performances by the Brazilian.
Their first encounter was relatively close, before the headbutt. Figueiredo landed a hard right cross seconds after it and secured the knockout victory at 1:54 of round two.
Their second fight may just be the No. 1 beatdown in all of mixed martial arts history, it’s up there to say the least. Figueiredo dropped Benavidez three different times, the third time of which he circled to Benavidez’ back and sunk in a rear naked choke, securing the finish at 4:48 of round one.
Benavidez had five losses coming into his first fight with Figueiredo. He’d lost to Dominick Cruz twice, Demetrious Johnson twice, and Sergio Pettis.
He lost a five-round split decisions to both Cruz and Johnson when he was given title shots, he lost a unanimous decision to Cruz in their first encounter, and he lost a split decision to Pettis after being out nearly two years.
He’d been finished a single time, in his Johnson rematch. For Figueiredo to finish him back-to-back, it was incredibly impressive, and kind of surprising.
Deiveson Figueiredo (19-1) vs. Alex Perez (24-5)
These two have a few similarities. For one, they both have second-round finishes at 1:54 of the round, just an interesting fact. For two, they’ve both missed the flyweight limit at weigh ins, and this is of course a title fight.
That means they can’t even weigh in at 126 lbs, they can’t weigh in at 125.5 lbs, it has to be 125 lbs or under. Any other fight, they’re given a one pound allowance. Figueiredo has missed weight a single time, his first fight with Benavidez, thus the reason there was an immediate rematch.
We need a flyweight champion, and he weighed in at 127.5 lbs, so really, he would’ve missed weight even if it wasn’t a title fight. Perez on the other hand has missed the flyweight limit a handful of times, even before his UFC tenure started.
He fought his first three fights as a bantamweight, before moving down to flyweight.
Perez’ first time missing weight was in his seventh fight when he was 4-2, he weighed in at 130.2 lbs for a flyweight bout. He then fought in a 139 lb catchweight bout when he was 6-2, before missing the bantamweight limit in his next fight, weighing in at 138.8 lbs when he was 7-2.
He made weight for his next three fights, all of which were contested at flyweight, before taking a bantamweight fight. Perez also made weight for that bantamweight fight, and he made weight in his next fight for the TPF flyweight title.
However, his first title defense was officially booked as a non-title bout considering he missed weight yet again, this time weighing in at 127.2 lbs. He came into this fight with a record of 12-2, and the fight was changed to three rounds considering.
He lost the title in his next fight, and also lost the 130 lb catchweight fight he had following his title-losing bout.
Perez then made weight for his next fight, which was at flyweight, before missing weight for a 130 lb catchweight bout when he was 14-4, weighing in at 131.4 lbs.
Perez then fought his next two fights at bantamweight, and his next at flyweight on the Contender Series, making weight for all three bouts. His UFC debut was contested at bantamweight, before he moved back down to flyweight for his second promotional fight when he was 19-4.
Perez also missed weight for this fight, his UFC flyweight debut, by weighing in at 126.5 lbs. Just another half-a-pound and he would’ve made it. However, Perez has fought five times since then, one at bantamweight, and four at flyweight, and he made weight for all five fights.
Let’s hope those issues are behind him, because weight problems have very evidently hindered him and his career. He missed weight four times before even making his first walk in the UFC, and fought half of his career in a weight class he doesn’t belong in.
It’s almost like Ray Borg, he was recently cut for all the times he missed weight and pulled out of fights for undisclosed reasons, and many times when the reason was disclosed, it was because he couldn’t continue cutting weight or medical issues.
Neither Borg nor Perez are too big for 125 lbs. We don’t know what the issue is.
Whether it’s a discipline issue, medical problems, they don’t have a nutritionist, we can’t tell. Luckily, well, not luckily because Perez put in the work, he’s only missed weight once in the UFC, and he barely missed it.
However, Perez has to cut more that he has in some time, it’s been a while since he weighed in at 125 lbs on the dot. Figueiredo fought his whole career, all 20 fights at flyweight and only missed it that lone time.
As long as these two both make weight and the title is up for grabs, this fight will have a good outcome regardless of the result. If Perez misses weight and wins, the title will either be vacant again, it’ll remain with Figueiredo, or there will be an immediate rematch scheduled.
If Figueiredo misses weight, he’ll have the title stripped from him right then and there at the weigh ins, it’ll be a vacant title and Perez will be the only one eligible to walk away the champion, should he be the one to make weight.
It sucks making most of the bottom half of this about weight, but it should be addressed, history repeats itself.
As far as their skill sets, we couldn’t really ask for a better fight. We have two of the very best fighters in the world fighting for this title on Saturday. Perez may have been a replacement for a former champion, but really, he does deserve a title shot.
Perez hasn’t missed weight since his second UFC fight, he’s 6-1 in the UFC with four finishes, and he’s about as well rounded as they come. He’s kind of like a mix of Urijah Faber and Tony Ferguson, for his ground game anyway.
He has not great, but very good wrestling, like both of them, and he has wicked submission attacks, primarily front chokes, like both of them. He also has some very underrated striking, though it shouldn’t be underrated.
He’s proven to us a few times he can strike very well, and even end fights on the feet. It’s the striking of the champion that makes people think Perez’ striking isn’t at a high level.
Figueiredo is one of the most dangerous talents in the entire sport. He has a black belt in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, which he’s used quite a few times in his career, and he hits harder than any flyweight in the sports history. Maybe John Lineker can compete with the power of Figueiredo, when he was a flyweight, but that’s about it.
As mentioned above, we told you Perez’ frame would potentially hinder him, and that’s because he stands 5’6” with a 65” reach, while the champion stands 5’5” with a 68” reach.
It’s easier to get in on a shot for a takedown when you’re the shorter man, and as you see, he’s not the shorter man. Not to mention, as dangerous of a striker as Figueiredo is, to have a three inch reach advantage can be absolutely huge.
That may be the deciding factor in this fight, we’ll have to wait and see. The other deciding factor is of course their skill sets, as well as their durability and conditioning.
Perez has gone the five-round distance once in his career, when he won his title, and the champion has yet to taste rounds four and five. Figueiredo is a fast-twitch muscle fibered athlete. If you don’t know what that means, here.
We’ve also seen Figueiredo slow down a tad as the fight goes on in the times we’ve seen him go the distance in his three-round affairs. Perez, though he’s had issues consistently missing weight, he won’t get tired.
Joseph Benavidez did finish Perez with strikes, so Figueiredo definitely can do the same without question, but if he doesn’t end up finishing him, it may be a long night.
Perez can put the pressure on like only the true elites of the sport, and if Figueiredo is tired and still hasn’t finished him, Perez will make an example of it.
Perez needs to try and open with his strikes in order to secure a takedown, or simply hold on until round three or so to start fighting, while Figueiredo needs to use his elite level striking, pick his shots, stuff Perez’ takedowns, and finish the fight.
If Figueiredo can’t finish Perez by round three, chances are he’ll lose his belt. We have to wait to find out of course, that’s just a prediction, but an accurate, educated one. These are two of the most well rounded talents this sport has to offer; they can both wrestle, grapple, throw heavy punches, kicks, they can do it all, and well.
This is going to be an absolutely stellar match up regardless of the outcome, these two bring it every single time!
Who walks away from UFC 255 as UFC Flyweight Champion?