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Fight Coverage

UFC 256 Fight By Fight Preview

We Run Down The Final Pay Per View Card Of 2020, Top To Bottom

DEIVESON FIGUEIREDO VS. BRANDON MORENO

Just three weeks after they each picked up first-round finishes at UFC 255, Deiveson Figueiredo and Brandon Moreno return to do battle inside the Octagon with the UFC flyweight title hanging in the balance.

In his first title defense, Figueiredo looked the part of a potential long-reigning champion, making quick work of Alex Perez, submitting the challenger in less than two minutes. Through his first 10 trips into the Octagon, Figueiredo has amassed a 9-1 record with seven finishes, including four straight. He fights with an aggression and ferocity that has never previously been seen in the flyweight division, and if he adds another successful title defense to his resume on Saturday, “Deus da Guerra” will seemingly have the Fighter of the Year award sewn up.

But Moreno is more than capable of dashing those plans and making his own case for year-end hardware, as he enters this weekend’s championship headliner on a five-fight unbeaten streak, including tandem wins in 2020. Last month, the former Ultimate Fighter contestant scored a first-round stoppage victory over Brandon Royval, extending his record to 6-2-1 in nine trips into the Octagon.

If there is anyone capable of matching the champion’s aggression inside the cage, it’s Moreno, as the Mexican challenger has always been willing to wade into the fire and has shown a willingness and ability to push a torrid pace while maintaining a heavy output.

This was the only fight to make following UFC 255 and the fact that it came together this quickly is a welcome treat for fans as the year wraps up. No matter how this one shakes out, 2020 has been a tremendous year in the flyweight division and the new year will commence with an exciting champion sitting upon the throne in the 125-pound ranks.

TONY FERGUSON VS. CHARLES OLIVEIRA

With the lightweight title picture unclear, Tony Ferguson and Charles Oliveira do battle in this sure-fire barnburner in order to solidify their spots in the championship chase heading into 2021.

Saturday will be the first time Ferguson has entered the Octagon coming off a loss since May 2012, as “El Cucuy” looks to rebound from his UFC 249 defeat at the hands of Justin Gaethje. It was the 36-year-old’s first fight in nearly a year, and after amassing a dozen consecutive victories between his only two UFC setbacks, it shouldn’t surprise anyone if Ferguson has an impressive return to form this weekend at the Apex.

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The 31-year-old Oliveira, who made his UFC debut nearly a year before Ferguson, has been lights out over the last three years, registering seven consecutive stoppage victories while setting a new record for the most submission wins in UFC history. After closing out his featherweight tenure with a 1-3 run, “Do Bronx” has gotten back to his attacking ways, amassing an 8-1 mark since returning to lightweight while showing signs of reaching the championship heights that were forecasted for him when he first stepped into the Octagon more than a decade ago.

Well-rounded finishers that thrive in scrambles and have a penchant for collecting bonuses, Ferguson and Oliveira are a good bet to garner Fight of the Night honors this weekend, whether it ends in the first round or at the final horn.

RENATO MOICANO VS. RAFAEL FIZIEV

Initially slated to compete two weeks ago, Renato Moicano and Rafael Fiziev will finally share the Octagon together this weekend in an intriguing lightweight matchup.

Following a number of years as a Top 10 fixture in the featherweight division, Moicano made the move up to the 155-pound weight class in March, earning a 44-second submission win over Damir Hadzovic in his hometown of Brasilia. The American Top Team representative faced an elite collection of opponents during his featherweight days, including posting victories over Cub Swanson and Calvin Kattar, and has the makings of a dark horse contender in the loaded lightweight ranks next year.

A hyped arrival last Spring, Fiziev has bounced back from a loss in his promotional debut with consecutive decision victories. Last time out, the 27-year-old from Kyrgyzstan turned in a strong effort against Marc Diakiese, improving his record to 8-1 and rekindling the excitement about his inclusion in the lightweight ranks.

Will the veteran Moicano collect a second straight lightweight win and keep climbing the divisional ladder or can Fiziev topple the Brazilian to register another victory to take another major step forward in his career and the division?

The Rise Of Brandon Moreno
The Rise Of Brandon Moreno
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KEVIN HOLLAND VS. JACARE SOUZA

Illness necessitated the shuffling of matchups at middleweight over the last couple of weeks, resulting in Kevin Holland and Ronaldo “Jacare” Souza facing off here.

Already one of the standouts since the restart, Holland enters the Octagon in search of his fifth victory of 2020 after posting wins over Anthony Hernandez, Joaquin Buckley, Darren Stewart, and Charlie Ontiveros. The talented “Trailblazer” has always flashed Top 10 potential, but after battling inconsistency earlier in his UFC tenure, he appears to be putting it all together now.

One of the longest tenured members of the middleweight class, Souza fights for the first time since last November when he ventured up to light heavyweight and landed on the wrong side of a split decision verdict against current champ Jan Blachowicz. The Brazilian, who turns 41 on December 7, has fought the elite in the 185-pound weight class over the years and remains a dangerous veteran presence standing between emerging talents like Holland and the upper echelon of the middleweight ranks.

MORE UFC 256: Inside The Octagon | Fighters On The Rise | Oliveira vs Lee Free Fight | Ferguson vs Barboza Free Fight | Renato Moicano | Junior Dos Santos | Order UFC 256

There has been a great deal of movement in the division over the last several months, and this bout is bound to have an impact on the rankings as well, even though neither currently occupies a position within the Top 15. It will be interesting to see if Holland can keep things rolling as he takes on his most experienced opponent to date or if Souza will collect his first victory in over two years and re-claim a place in the Top 10.

JUNIOR DOS SANTOS VS. CIRYL GANE

The pay-per-view main card kicks off in the heavyweight division in a clash between former champion Junior Dos Santos and rising star Ciryl Gane.

Making his third appearance of 2020, “Cigano” seeks to end the first extended losing streak of his career on Saturday night, as he enters this weekend’s event on a three-fight slide. It’s difficult to know how to read Dos Santos’ recent struggles, as the affable Brazilian will turn 37 next month and has been through countless battles inside the cage. At the same time, his setbacks have come against the division’s top three contenders, so it’s hard to fault the former titleholder too much for landing on the wrong side of things.

While Dos Santos has struggled of late, Gane has enjoyed unmitigated success, posting six consecutive victories to begin his career, including three wins in five months last year during his rookie campaign in the UFC. The 30-year-old French fighter posted submission finishes in each of his first two starts, then capped off 2019 with a unanimous decision win over Tanner Boser in Busan, South Korea.

This is a considerable step up in competition for Gane, but also the precise type of matchup the promising rising star needs at this stage of his development. Similarly, a pairing like this affords Dos Santos an opportunity to show that he’s still a formidable talent in the upper tier of the heavyweight division, especially if he emerges victorious.

The heavyweight division will be in the spotlight next year, and the outcome of this contest will have a significant impact on how the top names in the division are booked in 2021.

Every UFC Finish By Tony Ferguson
Every UFC Finish By Tony Ferguson
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CUB SWANSON VS. DANIEL PINEDA

Veterans Cub Swanson and Daniel Pineda look to build on victories in their most recent appearances when they square off in this exciting featherweight matchup.

Last time out, Swanson snapped a four-fight losing streak, showing that he’s still got plenty left in the tank by outworking Kron Gracie en route to a unanimous decision victory. The 37-year-old suffered a torn ACL and meniscus when he battled Jake Shields at Quintet Ultra last December, but has made a career of rebounding from serious injuries with impressive performances, and the potential is there for him to replicate that feat this weekend in Las Vegas.

Pineda scored his first UFC victory in more than seven years when he returned to the Octagon in August and collected a second-round stoppage win over Herbert Burns, earning a Performance of the Night bonus for his efforts. Unbeaten in his last seven outings, the Texas native can make a case for inclusion in the Comeback Fighter of the Year race if he’s able to secure a second straight victory on Saturday night.

Both Swanson and Pineda are well-rounded veteran competitors that can be counted on to deliver exciting performances each time out. UFC 256 boasts a host of outstanding matchups with electric potential, but it shouldn’t surprise anyone if “Killer Cub” and “The Pit” put forth a Fight of the Night effort in this one.

MACKENZIE DERN VS. VIRNA JANDIROBA

Standout grapplers and ranked strawweights Mackenzie Dern and Virna Jandiroba clash in what should be an exciting matchup that establishes the winner as an emerging contender in the 115-pound weight class heading into 2021.

Dern landed on the wrong side of the results in her return from maternity leave last October, suffering the first loss of her career in a clash with fellow rising star Amanda Ribas. Since then, the Brazilian jiu-jitsu standout has earned back-to-back submission wins over Hannah Cifers and Randa Markos to re-affirm her standing as one of the best up-and-comers on the UFC roster.

Jandiroba began her career with 14 consecutive victories, capped by winning and defending the Invicta FC strawweight title. She dropped her promotional debut against former champ Carla Esparza but has since collected consecutive submission wins over Mallory Martin and Felice Herrig to push her record to 16-1 overall.

Both women have exhibited Top 10 potential and each could very well get there in time, however only one of them will be moving one step closer to that goal following this weekend’s encounter. Will Dern continue rolling or will the more experienced Jandiroba hand her another defeat and extend her winning streak to three?

GAVIN TUCKER VS. BILLY QUARANTILLO

Featherweights coming off strong outings in their most recent appearances and looking to extend their respective winning streaks collide here as Gavin Tucker and Billy Quarantillo throw down in what promises to be an exciting affair.

Newfoundland’s Tucker posted his second consecutive victory with a third-round submission win over Justin Jaynes in August, collecting a Performance of the Night bonus for his efforts. A well-rounded fighter with a 3-1 record in the UFC and a dozen victories in 13 career appearances, the Canadian renaissance man is an underrated talent with the potential to make a run at the rankings in 2021.

“Billy Q” earned his place on the UFC roster with a victory on Season 3 of the Contender Series and has earned three wins in as many starts since, most recently scoring a third-round knockout of another Canadian, Kyle Nelson, in September. Quarantillo is equally capable of finishing a fight with strikes or a submission and hasn’t suffered a loss in more than four years, a streak he’ll certainly look to maintain on Saturday.

On a fight card flush with competitive matchups and exciting pairings, Tucker and Quarantillo have the potential to set the Fight of the Night bar rather high early in the evening. This is a must-see matchup.

TECIA TORRES VS. SAM HUGHES

Initially slated to take part in a highly anticipated rematch, Tecia Torres will instead go searching for her second straight victory in a showdown with promotional newcomer Sam Hughes.

A fixture in the Top 10 since the strawweight division’s inception, Torres snapped a four-fight slide last time out, using her edge in experience and savvy to out-work Brianna Van Buren in June. Much like Dos Santos, Torres’ losses came against elite competition — three champions and Brazilian contender Marina Rodriguez — and her win over Van Buren showed that reports of her demise had been greatly exaggerated.

UFC 256 COUNTDOWN: Figueiredo vs Moreno |  Ferguson vs Oliveira | Holland vs Jacare | Full Episode

Hughes steps in on short notice as a replacement for Angela Hill, who was forced out of the contest over the weekend. Fighting out of Catalyst MMA in Everett, Washington, Hughes has made three starts under the LFA banner in 2020, earning a unanimous decision win in her debut and losing to Contender Series competitor Vanessa Demopoulos in a championship showdown in the summer before rebounding with a first-round submission finish in October to push her record to 5-1 overall.

While losing a Top 15 pairing is always a blow, this matchup still offers a great deal of intrigue as Torres faces a high risk, low reward assignment against a newcomer brandishing a solid three-and-a-half-inch reach advantage. In terms of skill and experience, Torres laps Hughes multiple times, but it will be interesting to see if the “Tiny Tornado” can work her way inside or if the newcomer will be able to keep her at range en route to securing a massive victory in her first foray into the Octagon.

UFC 256 Embedded: Episode 1
UFC 256 Embedded: Episode 1
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SERGHEI SPIVAC VS. JARED VANDERAA

If fighters ever needed further proof of how pivotal it can be to have a name in mind heading into your post-fight interview, they need to look no further than this heavyweight pairing between Serghei Spivac and Jared Vanderaa.

The 25-year-old Spivac has alternated losses and wins through four UFC starts, heading into Saturday’s contest off a majority decision victory over Carlos Felipe in July. Each of his two career losses have come against veteran heavyweights, and he looked impressive collecting a second-round submission win over Tai Tuivasa at UFC 243, so with a little more seasoning, the emerging Moldovan could develop into a formidable member of the heavyweight class.

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Vanderaa lobbied for the opportunity to face the “Polar Bear” following his Contender Series victory at the start of November, and now, a little over a month later, the Team Quest representative is getting his wish. The 28-year-old newcomer is a mountain of a man who earned championship gold under the EFC banner in South Africa, claiming the title with a stoppage win over UFC veteran Ruan Potts.

Will Spivac make Vanderaa regret his decision to call him out or will the newcomer make the most of his opportunity and secure a quality win in his UFC debut?

CHASE HOOPER VS. PETER BARRETT

Featherweights kick things off on Saturday night as Contender Series alums Chase Hooper and Peter Barrett aim to rebound from setbacks in their first appearances of the year.

After securing a first-round stoppage win over Daniel Teymur in his UFC debut at the end of 2019, Hooper was thrown into the deep end in his sophomore appearance, catching a defeat at the hands of Alex Caceres at UFC 250. To his credit, “The Dream” showed considerable toughness and heart by lasting all 15 minutes with the former Ultimate Fighter contestant, but the contest showed his inexperience, nonetheless.

“Slippery Pete” earned a contract with a unanimous decision win over Sanghoon Yoo on Season 3 of the Contender Series, then went nearly a year before making his debut. When he finally stepped into the cage in August, he stood opposite Youssef Zalal and landed on the wrong side of a unanimous decision verdict.

Will the promising youngster Hooper get back into the win column or will the Massachusetts-based veteran collect his first UFC victory?