Just twenty-three days ago, the UFC’s flyweight division’s landscape remained unblemished following UFC 255. Twenty-three days later, things remain mostly the same.
Deiveson ‘Deus Da Garra’ Figueiredo remains the division’s pack leader. And Brandon ‘The Assassin Baby’ Moreno remains the division’s number one contender. For Figueiredo, his current status came with its fair share of adversity. Engaging in arguably this annum’s Fight of the Year — the Brazilian went to war for five-rounds with his Mexican challenger, with the two battling to a majority draw.
To think we’ve witnessed one of the greatest fights of recent memory, as well as possibly the best fight the UFC’s 125-pound division has seen, on just twenty-one day’s notice is quite staggering. To think, Figueiredo spent the night prior to his Octagon walk in a medical facility until the early hours of the morning — dealing with a suspected stomach infection, is quite incredible to boot.
Also, to think Moreno was released from his UFC deal two years ago, and to make it back to an undisputed title challenge in four fights since his return, as well as pushing Figueiredo to his absolute limit — is quite remarkable. Moreno, who detailed afterwards with UFC colour commentator Joe Rogan, that he may have suffered a shoulder injury during the back-and-forth, displayed one of the most steely chins and ability to endure as well as grit through some worrying moments in the pocket.
Before our flyweight barnburner, the lightweight division received a new legitimate upper-echelon contender. Back in May, we witnessed Justin Gaethje completely batter Tony Ferguson over five-rounds, in a largely competitive pairing — but it was a new experience for us. Nobody has done that to Ferguson before. Following Charles ‘Do Bronx’ Oliveira’s co-main event escapades against the Californian, the Brazilian will go down as the only to ever dominate Ferguson to the extent that we witnessed on Saturday night.
On the feet. From the top. Oliveira was levels ahead of the ever-present 36-year-old. Entering the outing as the #7 ranked challenger, the 31-year-old can now involve himself in the immediate title contender conversation.
Almost breaking Ferguson’s arm before the buzzer of the first-round with a gruesome armbar, Oliveira was denied as the former gritted his teeth and rode the storm.
In latter exchanges, Oliveira cut through to mount with ease, swept, and constantly balanced atop Ferguson — scoring his eighth consecutive victory with a unanimous decision win. Oliveira, the most prolific grappler in Octagon history has finally arrived at the top.
Below, join me as I play matchmaker for the UFC’s flyweight title — an easy run through once again this month, as well as floating potential next opponents for Charles Oliveira and Tony Ferguson.
Deiveson Figueiredo vs. Brandon Moreno II:
Like the first pairing of these two flyweight forces, it’s more or less booked on fight night once again. Figueiredo had dispatched Alex Perez with a timely guillotine in November, while Moreno had stopped an injured, Brandon Royval with strikes before the culmination of the first round. That same night, rumblings suggested Figueiredo and Moreno had already verbally agreed to meet just twenty-one days later, at Saturday’s UFC 256 event.
By all accounts, Figueiredo and Moreno are poised to run it back once again, however, let’s let these two score some time off as well as an adequate camp in order to prepare this time around. Cutting weight twice in the space of less than a month for Figueiredo is far from ideal, and Moreno needs to get not only his shoulder attention but his left forearm as well.
With four outings under his belt this year for Figueiredo, and three for Moreno, let’s give these two some time away from the Octagon ahead of a massive title rematch approaching the summer of next year. Once again, this one books itself.
Charles Oliveira vs. Justin Gaethje:
Oliveira called his shot following his masterclass on Saturday night. He wants the victor of the upcoming UFC 257 rematch of Dustin Poirier and Conor McGregor for the vacant lightweight title. It’s a shot he echoed, having already staked his claim to meet with the victor of that massive re-run prior to his win on Saturday night. Unfortunately for Oliveira, it’s not a call I’d bet gets answered.
Realistically, if current undisputed kingpin, Khabib Nurmagomedov decides to snap a recent retirement, the promotion is going to try everything in their power to match him with McGregor, should the Dubliner overcome former interim titleholder, Poirier for the second time in his career. The only other possible scenario in which I believe Khabib makes an Octagon return is for a heralded ‘superfight’ opposite former two-weight world champion, Georges St-Pierre.
So, that leaves Oliveira further out in the elements. I believe the Sao Paulo native poses a massive threat to Khabib. His scrambling ability is second to none, and how active he is with submission attempts is staggering. I also believe his dominant outclassing of Ferguson warrants a title tilt. The powers that be; maybe disagree.
Another contender hopeful of earning a title challenge is recent unification trier, the above-mentioned, Gaethje. The Arizona native also wants a shot at vacant gold against either Poirier or McGregor, but he believes he should only fight for the title off a victory. Poirier or McGregor are likely to feature in a lightweight title challenge before the closure of next year, and a pairing of Oliveira and Gaethje gives them a viable opponent for a potential vacant crown should Khabib remain retired.
Tony Ferguson vs. Paul Felder:
What I believe was quite noticeably different from the usual Tony Ferguson on Saturday night, was his hesitance while in range. Ferguson, a usually pressing force who throws caution to the wind, failed to ever really get started opposite Oliveira. Even in his eventual finish loss against Gaethje, he looked good for a round or two. That’s now two losses on that trot for Ferguson, who prior to May, was tied as most streaking force at 155-pounds with twelve straight successes.
Come the release of the official rankings later this week, he’ll likely slip outside the top-five, or at the most, grasp the number-five rank. A suitable matchup which is sure to bring eys along with it, would be an exciting pairing with recent short-notice card saver, Paul ‘The Irish Dragon’ Felder.
Felder stepped in from the commentary booth on fight week to replace a staph-ridden Islam Makhachev, welcoming former lightweight champion, Rafael dos Anjos back to 155-pounds in a gutsy, valiant effort. Dropping a dubious split-decision defeat, Felder slumped to his second consecutive blemish but hasn’t shown any signs of slowing down.
A pairing of Ferguson and Felder could legitimately still take main event honours above a highly-packed, Fight Nigth event, or even feature on the main card of a pay-per-view event in the opening quarter of next year, depending on where the faltering Ferguson wants to take his career, which is currently stuck in somewhat of a rut.