All roads lead back to a fourth fight between Deiveson Figueiredo and Brandon Moreno after Moreno captured interim gold at UFC 277 in Dallas, Texas. “The Assassin Baby” reasserted his place as a true star in the Octagon, and the two shared a respectful exchange in the cage after the result.
Despite the likely quadrilogy, flyweight has never been more fun as thrill-seeking contenders continuously make major statements on what feels like a monthly basis.
This is where we stand in the flyweight division:
Champion: Deiveson Figueiredo
Last Fight: Unanimous Decision Win vs Brandon Moreno (1/22/22)
Next fight: N/A
Outlook: “Deus Da Guerra” made major changes in preparation for his third fight with Brandon Moreno, and they paid off. Training with Henry Ceujdo, Eddie Cha and company at Fight Ready MMA in Arizona, Figueiredo arrived in amazing shape. In turn, he looked measured and composed in the trilogy fight and got the job done with a hard-fought decision, but in his post-fight interview with UFC.com, he said he needs at least “six months to recover” plus “four months to train.” That prompted the promotion to put on an interim title fight, which lined Figueiredo back up against Moreno for a matchup likely to take place either at the end of 2022 or beginning of 2023.
Outlook: Moreno debatably looked better than ever in his second fight against Kai Kara-France. Under the tutelage of James Krause, Moreno put it all together against the Kiwi, displaying high-paced pressure striking, as well as a keen defensive sense on the feet. The finishing instinct is always there for the Mexican, and he earned a fourth fight against Figueredo in style with his body kick TKO of Kara-France. A fan-favorite wherever he goes, Moreno might endure a hostile environment if the fourth fight takes place in Brazil, but it’s not hard to think “The Assassin Baby” will win some fans over no matter where he goes.
Outlook: Pantoja went into UFC 277 fight week with a point to prove, and he properly steamrolled Alex Perez to make said statement. Jumping on Perez from the start, “The Cannibal” blitzed the former title challenger to make his own claim at a title shot, especially considering he already holds wins over Kara-France and Moreno during their time on The Ultimate Fighter. Injury kept him out of that interim title consideration, and he is likely stuck in place until a fourth fight goes down between Moreno and Figueiredo unless the UFC wants to stick him against Kara-France in what would be a fun storyline of a fight.
3) Kai Kara-France
Last Fight: TKO Loss vs Brandon Moreno (7/30/2022)
Next fight: N/A
Outlook: During his first crack at UFC gold, Kara-France was building into the fight and having his best round of the night when Moreno ended things with a body kick, but amongst the disappointment lived a real certainty around Kara-France’s standing in the division. “Don’t Blink” is certainly title-worthy and one of the best 125ers in the world, and he bounced back well from his first loss to Moreno. Although his three-fight winning streak ended in Dallas, he remains one of the most entertaining and punishing fighters in the division and showed he isn’t far off from potentially capturing gold himself. Fights against Pantoja or Perez could put him right back into the mix, as well as a potential rematch against Brandon Royval, with whom he shared a chaotic two-round contest in 2020.
Outlook: Askarov debatably could’ve earned a title shot after he defeated Joseph Benavidez to extend his unbeaten record to 15 fights, but missing weight kind of stifled the Russian’s case. His loss to Kara-France was a close contest, but alas, he needs to bounce back from his first professional defeat to get back into the title picture. He already holds a win over Pantoja, so potential matchups against Brandon Royval or Alex Perez, against whom he was previously booked, make sense as he rebuilds his case.
5) Brandon Royval
Last Fight: Submission Win vs Matt Schnell (5/7/2022)
Next fight: N/A
Outlook: Flyweight’s self-proclaimed “most entertaining fighter” continuously backs that up with his unpredictable performances and wild chases for finishes, and although that propensity to put on a show gets him in tough moments, it also makes for memorable fights. After losing to Moreno and Pantoja on back-to-back occasions, Royval bounced back well to win a pair in a row, including a submission of Matt Schnell. Royval hasn’t fought Perez nor Askarov and holds a win over Kara-France, so his options are rather abundant at the moment in terms of a potential No. 1 contender fight.
In the Mix: Alex Perez, Matheus Nicolau, Matt Schnell
Outlook: The top-5 of the flyweight division seems to constantly shift underneath Moreno and Figueiredo, which means someone like Perez isn’t as far off the title chase as his back-to-back losses might indicate. And though he has battled the scale and general healthiness, the Dana White’s Contender Series alum has the talent to make a run.
Elsewhere, Matheus Nicolau has made the most of his return to the UFC with three consecutive wins over Manel Kape, Tim Elliott and David Dvorak. He could very well deserve a crack at someone in the top-5 or against someone like Perez or Matt Schnell. “Danger” has everyone’s attention after an awesome, come-from-the-brink victory over Sumudaerji in Long Island. Schnell is a veteran of the division who is a decision here or missed strike there from the top-5, and he is always exciting to watch when he is on form.