DEIVESON FIGUEIREDO VS. ALEX PEREZ
Flyweight champ Deiveson Figueiredo defends his title for the first time this weekend as he squares off with streaking challenger Alex Perez in the main event of UFC 255.
Figueiredo’s first attempt to claim the vacant flyweight title in February didn’t go as planned, as the Brazilian missed weight before an accidental clash of heads early in the second round prompted an immediate rematch with Joseph Benavidez. But their second meeting made it abundantly clear that “Deus de Guerra” was the top dog in the flyweight ranks, as Figueiredo battered Benavidez before putting him to sleep with a rear naked choke late in the opening round to capture the UFC men’s flyweight title.
A graduate of the Contender Series, Perez has amassed a 6-1 record inside the Octagon and heads into this weekend’s championship clash on a three-fight winning streak. The Team Oyama representative has been dominant thus far in 2020, registering a first-round submission win over Jordan Espinosa in January before chopping down perennial contender Jussier Formiga in just over four minutes at UFC 250.
RELATED: Rise of Alex Perez
This is one of the most intriguing championship fights of the year, as Figueiredo looked like an unstoppable marauder in his tandem victories over Benavidez, but now steps in against a younger, sharper, more offensively diverse challenger in Perez. The Brazilian champion has taken a more aggressive approach since suffering the lone loss of his career, but Perez has shown vast improvements since his one and only UFC setback, as well, while exhibiting his own impressive finishing abilities.
No matter how this one shakes out, it should be a fast-paced, action-packed way to close out an entertaining night of fights inside the UFC Apex this weekend in Las Vegas.
VALENTINA SHEVCHENKO VS. JENNIFER MAIA
Before the boys do their thing to close out the show, the ladies will battle it out for the flyweight title as well, as reigning champ Valentina Shevchenko puts her belt on the line for the fourth time against Brazilian challenger Jennifer Maia.
Shevchenko has been as dominant as any champion on the roster since venturing down to the 125-pound weight class and claiming the title with a unanimous decision win over Joanna Jedrzejczyk just under two years ago. Back in February, “Bullet” ran over Katlyn Chookagian, securing her third successful title defense with a third-round stoppage win over the talented challenger, and she’ll look to maintain her place atop the division and extend her winning streak to six by doing the same to Maia on Saturday.
The Brazilian capitalized on her unexpected opportunity to face Joanne Calderwood in August, submitting the presumptive No. 1 contender in the first round to usurp her position opposite Shevchenko in this championship pairing. The 32-year-old, who has gone 3-1 over her last four fights, looks to become just the second former Invicta FC titleholder to claim UFC gold, joining fellow Brazilian Cris Cyborg, who won the featherweight title at UFC 214 and defended it twice before dropping the belt to Amanda Nunes 17 months later.
While it’s easy to understand fans and observers forecasting another lopsided victory for Shevchenko, who has amassed an 8-2 record over her first 10 Octagon appearances, Maia is a durable and dangerous opponent with a slick ground game unlike anyone the champion has faced thus far during her reign.
Can the challenger spring the upset or will the champion continue to reign supreme?
MIKE PERRY VS. TIM MEANS
Welterweights that put inflicting damage above everything else collide in the middle of this weekend’s pay-per-view main card as “Platinum” Mike Perry returns to take on “The Dirty Bird,” Tim Means.
Perry steps into the Octagon for the second time this year, looking to build on his June victory over Mickey Gall. The unpredictable brawler has gone 3-5 over his last eight fights after beginning his UFC run with four stoppage wins in his first five bouts, but is allergic to being in a boring fight and truly lives by the anyone, anywhere, anytime creed.
The 36-year-old Means is 12-9 with one no contest verdict over the course of two UFC stints, and like Perry, he’s never been one to shy away from a good scrap. After landing on the wrong side of the results in February against late replacement Daniel Rodriguez, the Albuquerque native responded with a unanimous decision victory over Laureano Staropoli in August.
There is no way this isn’t exciting or wild or memorable in some way or another, and it has to be considered the pre-event Fight of the Night favorite. While neither man is currently in the title mix in the deep and talented welterweight division, a second consecutive victory would elevate the winner to the fringes of the Top 15 and create the opportunity for another marquee assignment in the first quarter of 2021.
KATLYN CHOOKAGIAN VS. CYNTHIA CALVILLO
In addition to flyweight champion Valentina Shevchenko defending her title against Jennifer Maia on Saturday night, recent title challenger Katlyn Chookagian returns to face off with rising contender Cynthia Calvillo in a bout that is guaranteed to have an impact on the title picture in the 125-pound weight class.
Chookagian makes her fourth appearance of the year and third since losing to Shevchenko in February, once again looking to rebound from a stoppage loss after running into divisional newcomer Jessica Andrade last time out. The 31-year-old “Blonde Fighter” has become the veteran presence hopefuls need to vanquish in order to establish themselves as true title threats, and a string of victories over said hopefuls could one day have her back in the championship mix, as well.
Calvillo debuted in the 125-pound weight class in June with a unanimous decision win over Jessica Eye, extending her unbeaten streak to four. She was slated to face Lauren Murphy a few weeks back at UFC 254, but was forced to withdraw, and instead finds herself sharing the Octagon with Chookagian here, where a second consecutive win over a former title challenger would put her in great position to potentially fight for the flyweight strap herself in 2021.
This is the type of matchup each woman needs at this point in their respective careers, as Chookagian gets the chance to rebound quickly by turning back a talented foe, thereby securing her place as a Top 5 fixture, while Calvillo can cement her standing as a bona fide contender by upending a second straight elite talent.
However this one shakes out, it should have major ramifications on the rankings and how things get lined up in the first quarter of next year in the flyweight division.
MAURICIO RUA VS. PAUL CRAIG
Just over a year after they battled to a draw in Sao Paulo, Mauricio “Shogun” Rua and Paul Craig are set to run it back this weekend at UFC 255.
The former champion Rua has been one of the quieter fun stories over the last several years, as he enters Saturday’s contest with a 5-1-1 record over his last seven fights. And despite closing in on the big 4-0, the Brazilian legend is still more than happy to wade into the fray and engage, as he showed last time out against fellow icon Antonio Rogerio Nogueira.
Scotland’s Craig is beginning to settle into a rhythm as well, entering this weekend’s rematch with Rua unbeaten in his last three. A submission expert whose striking is still a work in progress, Craig’s first fight with “Shogun” remains the lone time he’s gone to the scorecards, and you can be sure he’ll be looking for ways to get this to the ground and secure the finish from the outset.
The light heavyweight division is currently resetting itself in the wake of Jon Jones’ departure and Jan Blachowicz’ ascent to the throne, and while Rua and Craig are currently on the outside of the title picture looking in, a quality effort here for either man would certainly help close that gap.
BRANDON MORENO VS. BRANDON ROYVAL
Before Figueiredo and Perez do battle for the flyweight title, Brandon Moreno and Brandon Royval face off in a bout that could very well determine who will be the next opponent for the winner of this weekend’s championship main event.
The 26-year-old Moreno has won back-to-back contests and is 2-0-1 in three fights since returning to the promotion, showing the same toughness and tenacity that made him an instant fan favorite coming out of The Ultimate Fighter, but with a little more polish. Initially scheduled to face Perez in a sure title eliminator, “The Assassin Baby” now has to face the surging Royval to cement his standing as the top contender in the flyweight division heading into 2021.
After starting the year hoping to crack the UFC roster, Royval could end the year by going 3-for-3 in the Octagon and establishing himself as the next title challenger in the 125-pound weight class; not bad for six months’ work. The Factory X Muay Thai product has earned back-to-back second-round submission wins since matriculating to the UFC and four straight submission victories overall, sending him into the biggest fight of his career in the best form possible.
This is an early Fight of the Night favorite and should be an all-action affair from the outset. Both men are crafty in scrambles and down to crack, so no matter where it plays out or who leads the dance, it should be non-stop entertainment from start to finish.
JOAQUIN BUCKLEY VS. JORDAN WRIGHT
Fresh off his viral Knockout of the Year performance, Joaquin Buckley makes a quick return in hopes of picking up a second straight victory when he takes on fellow finisher Jordan Wright.
After landing on the wrong side of the results in his short-notice debut against the streaking Kevin Holland, Buckley showed his true form in his sophomore appearance on Fight Island last month when he knocked out Kasanganay with a move straight out of Tekken. The finish went worldwide and now the focus is on “New Mansa” as he returns to the cage, looking to add another victory to his resume and take another step forward in the always competitive middleweight ranks.
RELATED: UFC 255 Fighters On The Rise
Wright appeared on Season 2 of Dana White’s Contender Series and got bum-rushed by Anthony Hernandez, but the result was overturned after “Fluffy” tested positive for marijuana metabolites following the bout, preserving Wright’s unbeaten record. He added a win over Gabriel Checco on the regional circuit and looked outstanding in his promotional debut in August, earning a 91-second stoppage win over Ike Villanueva in a light heavyweight engagement.
In my head, this plays out like a classic martial arts flick, with both men having their moments while attacking with cool moves. Bloodsport fantasies aside, this is a quality matchup between two upstarts looking to build off recent impressive performances and separate themselves from the expanding pack of hopefuls looking to work their way up the 185-pound ranks heading into next year.
ANTONINA SHEVCHENKO VS. ARIANE LIPSKI
Before her sister defends her flyweight title, Antonina Shevchenko will look to earn the family’s first victory of the night as she squares off with surging upstart Ariane Lipski.
The elder Shevchenko has alternated wins and losses since joining the UFC roster following a victory on Season Two of the Contender Series, with her setbacks coming against divisional stalwart Roxanne Modafferi and recent title challenger Katlyn Chookagian. Less experienced in MMA than her younger sister, Shevchenko is more of a grinder who relies on excellent conditioning and technique to carry her to victory.
Lipski arrived in the UFC with a ton of hype, but stumbled out of the gate, losing each of her first two fights by decision. Since then, however, the 26-year-old has responded with consecutive victories, including a vicious kneebar submission win over Luana Carolina last time out.
Only one UFC champion has fought on the same card as their sibling before — former lightweight champ Anthony Pettis, who mirrored his younger brother Sergio’s results at UFC 181 and UFC 185, successfully defending his title initially before relinquishing his belt the second time around. It will be interesting to see how the elder Shevchenko’s performance impacts the younger’s — if at all — on Saturday night.
DANIEL RODRIGUEZ VS. NICOLAS DALBY
One of the surprising breakout talents of 2020, Daniel Rodrigiuez looks to secure his fourth win of the year as he steps up to face Danish veteran Nicolas Dalby here.
Initially scheduled to face Bryan Barberena last week prior to “Bam Bam” being shelved due to emergency surgery, the 33-year-old Rodriguez slides into this pairing a week later looking to build on an impressive start to his UFC career. After debuting with a win over Tim Means in February and grinding out a victory over Gabriel Green in May, “D-Rod” knocked out Dwight Grant a little over two minutes into the opening round of their August encounter, giving him three wins in as many starts this year and a nine-fight winning streak overall.
The 35-year-old Dalby returned to the UFC last September in his native Denmark, securing a unanimous decision victory over Alex Oliveira to snap a three-fight run without a victory inside the Octagon. He returned in July and got submitted by late substitute Jesse Ronson, and will look to rely on his considerable experience advantage in this one as he aims to get back into the win column and halt Rodriguez’ winning ways.
This is one of those matchups that is going to tell us a great deal about where each competitor stands at the moment, as Dalby represents a step up in competition for the streaking Rodriguez, while the “Newcomer of the Year” nominee has been on fire and will be a stern test for the talented former Cage Warriors champ.
ALAN JOUBAN VS. JARED GOODEN
Veteran welterweight Alan Jouban returns for the first time in 18 months and makes his 13th trip into the Octagon against UFC newcomer Jared Gooden.
The soon-to-be 38-year-old Jouban has just one victory in four starts since the beginning of 2017, as injuries have relegated him to the sidelines for extended stretches. An action fighter with previous victories over Belal Muhammad and Mike Perry, “Brahma” is the type of dynamic talent who could return without any signs of rust this weekend and immediately re-establish himself as an entertaining factor in the middle of the welterweight ranks.
Gooden was slated to make his promotional debut in August against Dwight Grant but was forced from the contest with an undisclosed injury. Now, three months later, the 26-year-old “NiteTrain” looks to extend his winning streak to four and launch himself into the thick of the divisional chase by knocking off a veteran like Jouban in his debut.
Jouban has never been shy about mixing it up and Gooden has only been the distance twice in his last 10 bouts, so don’t be surprised if this turns into a fast-paced, back-and-forth that sets the Fight of the Night bar reasonably high early in the evening.
KYLE DAUKAUS VS. DUSTIN STOLTZFUS
Middleweight prospects with bright futures clash here as Kyle Daukaus makes his second UFC start against recent Contender Series grad Dustin Stoltzfus.
Philadelphia’s Daukaus didn’t get a contract following his victory over Stephen Regman on Season 3 of the UFC talent search show, but landed in the Octagon two fights later nonetheless, pushing promising middleweight Brendan Allen while landing on the wrong side of the results. Now the 27-year-old looks to rebound from the first loss of his career and get back to his finishing ways as he welcomes Stoltzfus to the Octagon for the first time.
Fighting out of the Palatinate region of Germany, Stoltzfus carries a 13-1 record and a 10-fight winning streak into his UFC debut against Daukaus. He earned his place on the roster with a TKO victory over Joe Pyfer earlier this summer on the Contender Series and profiles as an intriguing finisher with plenty of upside heading into his first appearance inside the Octagon.
Both Daukaus and Stoltzfus should be divisional fixtures for the next several years and this one will simply determine which one takes a major step forward first. They are both proven finishers with a penchant for submissions, so there is very strong possibility that we get a quality “attack and counter” battle on the canvas in this one.
LOUIS COSCE VS. SASHA PALATNIKOV
Welterweight newcomers hook ‘em up in this week’s opener as Louis Cosce squares off with Sasha Palatnikov.
The undefeated Cosce literally punched his ticket to the UFC roster with a 72-second stoppage win over regional standout Victor Reyna earlier this summer on the Contender Series. Now 7-0 as a pro with nary a single trip beyond the first round, he will look to maintain that streak here as he makes the walk to the Octagon for the first time.
The 31-year-old Palatnikov has taken a long, winding road to the UFC, having played collegiate football in Canada and embarked on a professional rugby career prior to transitioning into mixed martial arts. Fighting out of Syndicate MMA in Las Vegas, Palatnikov is 5-1 over his last six fights, with his lone setback coming against Mounir Lazzez, who impressed in his UFC debut earlier this summer on Fight Island.
This should be a firefight to start the show as Cosce doesn’t like to waste time and Palatnikov is coming in off an 83-second stoppage win of his own at the end of September.