Don't Rule Out Deiveson Figueredo Just Yet
UFC 269 is set to feature a matchup for the flyweight title that might not have seemed all that necessary when first announced.
Indeed, Deiveson Figueredo was doing an excellent job at establishing himself as a truly popular figurehead for the 125lb division at that point in time, but after losing in what was a very flat showing against Brandon Moreno - it does seem as though the wind has been taken out of his sails to some extent.
Now, I know there’s a lot to be said for Moreno’s performance - the way he showed up to that fight, improving on his performance in their first outing in every way imaginable.
That guy’s career has been one major obstacle overcome after another - constant examples of this incredibly driven fighter’s desire to improve, to subvert all expectations - even when the narrative is in the middle of forming.
And I do think that Moreno came into that rematch with Figgy in better shape, with a tighter gameplan, more confident of the fact that he could take his opponent’s best shots - that they weren’t going to cause him to crumble like all of the other flyweights.
But I dunno, as much as Moreno looked like a champion in there - Figueredo looked off, and if you ask me, that harrowing weight-cut down to the 125lb championship limit and his particular difficulty in hitting it that time around seemed to be really taking its toll.
He didn’t stalk with the same intensity, didn’t take a shot as well - and overall, I couldn’t help but feel as though we were seeing this guy’s time as a 125 pounder ending before our eyes.
Because during his most vicious performances - those wins over Joseph Benavidez and his first matchup against Moreno, he brought a level of physicality to the table that just didn’t have an equal at 125lbs.
The way those shots made Benavidez drop - that type of power just isn’t natural at flyweight.
And, of course, he missed weight during his first bout with Benavidez, something that left him unable to win the title at the first time of asking.
And during that UFC 263 matchup that saw him lose his title - he arrived on the scales with moments to spare, looking as drained as could be - something that brought about speculation that he had struggled shedding the weight.
So again, while I think that Moreno did a superb job in the rematch, it has been clear that an extension of Deiveson’s day at flyweight would be a tough ask unless something major changed.
And I don’t know if it’s a case of Figgy needing to be more thorough and disciplined with his nutrition and overall weight-cut, or if he already is giving it 100% and he’s just a bit too big.
Maybe it’s a mix of the two.
But what’s clear to me is that this next outing, from Deiveson’s perspective, is going to stand as a true indicator of what his future prospects are in both the flyweight division and in the UFC.
Because as much as I think Figueredo could be competitive within the bantamweight ranks, at 5 foot 5 - up against some of the more rangey customers at 135lbs - I’m not as convinced of his merits as a champion there as I am at flyweight.
And again, though I believed Moreno to be an incredibly improved talent, there was just something different about Figueredo - something that made him unrecognisable from the force of nature that battered Moreno in the first fight.
And look, maybe part of it was mental, maybe part of it stemmed from the fact that Moreno was still in there after five rounds with him in that first fight - but let us not forget that round by round, before the points deduction, the Brazilian was the one who won that fight 3 to 2 - and all things considered, though Moreno stuck in there and put it on him in a way that was truly admirable - that fight was more thrilling than difficult to call on the scorecards.
There was just something about the way Figueredo hit the mat after Moreno caught him with a sharp jab, something about the way he moved forward - not full of the same confidence that defined his approach in the first fight.
I could be wrong, but I think this trilogy bout - this contest that wasn’t necessarily the most widely requested by the fans - I think it has the potential to be something more similar to the first fight than the second.
I’m a big Brandon Moreno fan, but Deiveson Figueredo - if he is truly not in a situation where he absolutely has to move up in weight, if he can make this flyweight weight-cut work for him, I do believe he has the ability to make this a very tough night for Moreno.
Prior to losing that rematch, he was hitting levels that were truly exciting - as far as this modern era at 125lbs is concerned.
And with an eye on his past issues with making weight - I do think that this next matchup is absolutely crucial for setting out his next year or two within the UFC.
Because we know that Moreno’s going to improve, we know that he’s going to make his first defense count - his entire career has been built off his ability to subvert our expectations, to improve beyond the point that we would have considered his ceiling.
And there’s a part of me understands just how good the champ and how good he can be - but I suppose, the point of this video is more about me and my inability to lose faith in Deiveson Figueredo just yet.
I think the guy is a special athlete - and though we won’t know until fight night - or at the very least, when he steps on the scales next - but something tells me this flyweight rivalry hasn’t yet thrown up its biggest surprise.
And whether it’s the champion or the contender who gets their hand raised, each of these men has been playing a major role pushing the flyweight division into its new era - and both have made a tremendous account of themselves in recent years.
The best question, for me, is just how long Deiveson Figueredo can maintain a run in what I believe to be his best weight-class.
Because whether no matter how well he does at bantamweight, if that’s how things play out, his presence as the hardest hitter in the flyweight division - perhaps in flyweight history - yea, that will be missed.