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Editorial: How the ‘violence gremlin’ Deiveson Figueiredo beat Alex Perez with everything

At UFC 255, Deiveson Figueiredo managed to put on a masterclass in less than two minutes.

Deiveson Figueiredo is now 3-0 for the year. That’s two blistering finishes over MMA’s Dan Marino (Joseph Benavidez), and now he just choked out one of the division’s pluckiest contenders in less than two minutes. Demetrious Johnson will go down as one of the greatest MMA champions ever. But his punctuation for the flyweight crown was functionally splitting a series with Ian McCall and just barely getting by Benavidez. This isn’t to trample over DJ’s Reebok grave, but to emphasize how exciting it is to have a champion putting a stamp on the division straight out the gate.

Not only is Figueiredo co-signing all the beats, but he’s doing it with an egg-timer. He’s scheduled to defend his title in just 21 days. That kind of turnaround is its own topic, but let’s face it — it’s been awhile since Figueiredo has even broken a sweat. Traditionally, flyweight fighters are asked to do kind of everything because there’s always so much happening. It’s not like heavyweight, where you can get away with being good at one or two things, and then be bad at everything else.

That’s what makes Figueiredo so fascinating. There are things he doesn’t do well, such as backing up (as happened against Jussier Formiga; although to be fair, this is typical of most talented pressure fighters), or defending takedowns (as we saw against Jarred Brooks). Even in this fight, Perez took immediate advantage of what looked like a tactical goof on Figueiredo’s part — starting southpaw. This gave Perez, a very good kicker, access to Figueiredo’s body and head from his power leg, which he used to solid effect early on. But Figueiredo is no goof. Re-watching the fight, I completely missed the body shots he landed on Perez. While we can’t say whether this was a concerted strategy on his part or not, or how it would have played out over five rounds, it’s worth noting that body kicks do favor the southpaw, who has a more natural path to the liver. Mirko ‘CroCop’ Filipovic is one of the better heavyweights of his era, and his success basically hinged on reloading single southpaw attacks. It was confusing at first, but Figueiredo being the superior power hitter — it made a lot more sense than it did at first glance.

I’ve talked extensively about Figueiredo’s submission brawling; the unique weaving of pressure brawling and submission attacks. Another way of looking at it is the use of techniques as weapons in and of themselves; and by that I mean techniques that would typically be considered peripheral or means-to-an-end style attacks. We don’t think of Figueiredo as a judoka, but he decided to floss some of it against Perez when he went from defending a takedown to using a kani basami, which you can see below.

We’ve broken the move down before. While the scissor leg is traditionally used as a takedown, Figueiredo managed to transition it into a submission attempt. There are a lot of ways this could have gone wrong for most fighters. Perez could have landed enough hammerfists to put Figueiredo in a tough spot, or Figueiredo could have ceded top control.

Instead Figueiredo, being the madman that he is, immediately gives up his back, rolls over for a guillotine attempt before establishing his own guard, and then pulls Perez into his guard to eventually sink a technically brilliant arm-in guillotine.

Just to backtrack, I want to re-emphasize how incredible Figueiredo’s movement was there at the end. If you’re trying to sink in a choke, the last thing anyone is gonna do for you is happily roll into guard if they don’t have it. To get him there Figueiredo disrupted Perez’ balance by kicking out Perez’ right leg with his left. Doing so forced Perez to square up, keeping space tight enough for Figueiredo to eventually wrap him up. This is the kind of detailed craftsmanship we saw missing in the Alan Jouban vs. Jared Gooden fight; where instead of torqueing towards himself to make full use of his body, Jouban relied only on his arm strength, and didn’t score the submission as a result.

Figueiredo has been called the violence gremlin, which is funny, but also fitting. Especially since the term ‘gremlin’ began as a World War II term to explain random mechanical trouble. He doesn’t always look mechanically thorough, and we’re still early enough in his title reign to wonder whether his style is sustainable for the next several years. Whether he’s the most technical striker, or most technical grappler seems moot. So far he’s figured out the mechanics of violence, and right now, there’s no better technician.