UFC 256 was one hell of a card, wasn’t it? There were so many great performances and really fun fights that even with the numerous cancellations and reshuffling of the lineup, it kicked ass and delivered from the opening prelim to the main event.
Deiveson Figueiredo and Brandon Moreno put on an absolute bonkers main event that ended in a majority draw. That brutal groin kick that Figueiredo landed in round three that rightfully cost him a point, and cost him a win. Beyond that, this was easily one of the best title fights in UFC history and I think it surpassed Joanna Jedrzejczyk vs. Zhang Weili for Fight of the Year. It was war and then some. Figueiredo ruins 99% of flyweights and probably 90% of bantamweights with the shots he landed and yet Moreno never even got dropped. His toughness was out of this world and he was able to hurt Figueiredo in the fourth and go toe-to-toe for prolonged stretches. They were unleashing hell on each other in ways I’ve never seen out of a flyweight fight. I scored it for Figueiredo, one judge agreed with me but the other two judges had it a draw and while I disagree (especially the one who gave Moreno the 5th) I’m not against it. Why? Because it’s a title defense for Figueiredo as he didn’t lose his belt, and why wouldn’t you want to see an immediate rematch?
These two warriors took this fight on three weeks notice and delivered an all-time great brawl. And it was such high-level fighting too. Moreno’s toughness is to be lauded. Figueiredo’s cardio held up better than thought given he only ever throws power shots. I can’t believe what I witnessed. $50,000 is not enough for either fighter. They deserve $500,000 bonuses and substantial pay raises for the rematch. Thank god the UFC didn’t actually kill the flyweight division because just look at that god damn fight!
Meanwhile, Charles Oliveira gave Tony Ferguson that work. It had Fight of the Night potential on paper and it turned into a signature performance by “Do Bronx.” He outstruck Ferguson in the brief moments they were standing but it was his dominance on the ground that was sensational. Ferguson is a damn good grappler but Oliveira was much too strong and much too skilled. The only reason why Ferguson didn’t tap to that ridiculously deep armbar in round one is because he’s Tony Ferguson. But his right arm was jacked and that was functionally the end of the fight as a competitive contest.
Oliveira deserves a title shot whether Khabib is retired or not. He has improved so much and has answered a lot of questions about whether he can get past the upper echelon of the division. His wrestling is criminally underrated (including by me, seeing as I picked him to lose), his grappling is amazing and always has been, but he’s a much more structured fighter who’s less prone to falling apart at any given moment.
As for Ferguson, I feel sorry for him because he won 12 straight and due to a series of unfortunate incidents and a literal pandemic, he’ll surely wind up ending his UFC career having never fought for the undisputed belt. He’s given us absolute classics over the years but you have to wonder at the age of 37 if that’s finally taken a toll on him. Justin Gaethje bossed him on the feet and gave him career-changing damage, and now Charles Oliveira just big brothered him on the mat. “El Cucuy” has a lot to think about heading into 2021.
More thoughts below:
- Joe Rogan and Daniel Cormier turned that main event into the Brandon Moreno broadcast. It was unlistenable and just because an underdog is doing better than expected doesn’t mean you spend the entire time almost blatantly ignoring the success of one fighter over the other. Holy shit that was unbearable and not for the first time either.
- I was hoping Mackenzie Dern vs. Virna Jandiroba wouldn’t turn into a kickboxing match. That’s pretty much what happened for all but a couple of minutes but it turned out way better than I’d expected. Dern had a noticeable speed, volume, and power advantage, which is what led to the BJJ phenom’s decision win. Jandiroba had her own big moment when she busted Dern’s nose in the second round off of a knee. That was a good scrap and Dern showed some minor improvements to her stand-up that are basically required for her to contend in the gauntlet that is strawweight. She’s still a very flawed striker but I’m sure Jason Parillo will keep working to fix those issues.
- HOLY SHIT! I’ve watched enough Niko Price fights to know the crazy ways you can KO someone from your back, but what Kevin Holland did to Jacare Souza was unreal. Jacare predictably took Holland down twice, but Holland fared well off his back and my god did he do more than that. He knocked Jacare out with a massive right hand on the get-up. The ensuing shots weren’t even needed but they landed and Souza was extra out. Easily one of the wildest KOs I’ve ever seen. Holland goes 5-0 for 2020 and establishes himself as a contender at middleweight.
- Welp. That was what I feared would happen. Junior dos Santos got his ass kicked by Ciryl Gane and TKO’d in round two. Gane was drilling him with kicks all fight and JDS struggled to generate much offense outside of a couple of kicks and some heavy power punches towards the end of round one. The finishing sequence was a bit iffy was JDS might have been hit behind the head by Gane’s elbow, but JDS turned his back and it looked to have been behind the ear (legal) so JDS may be upset but he has no case. Nevada has replay so it only confirms he won’t win an appeal. Gane looks like a potential contender, whereas JDS just looks like a shell of his former heavyweight championship winning self.
- Cub Swanson ain’t done yet! Back from a torn ACL, Swanson overcame a very difficult start against Daniel Pineda and scored his first stoppage win in seven years. Pineda was lighting up his left leg (the one that had the ACL tear) early but he seemed to fade pretty hard and never showed any respect for Cub’s striking and his power. He got floored in round one and then knocked out in round two. Two in a row for the 37-year-old Swanson, and even though I picked Pineda I am happy to see Cub win because he rules and is a WEC legend. One of the most fun dudes in the sport and seemingly a top-shelf human being as well.
- Rafael Fiziev is scary. His kicks are like Barry Bonds home run swings and his combination punching is vicious. Renato Moicano’s best chance was to get this fight to the ground and he never could. He was okay trading with Fiziev but okay ain’t good enough when the other dude can end your night violently. First-round TKO for Fiziev and I thought the stoppage was fine. Chris Tognoni saw Moicano go out before his head hit the canvas, and he already made up his mind it was over before Moicano woke up again. Fiziev needs a ranked opponent with the way he’s looked against Diakiese and now Moicano.
- As expected, Gavin Tucker and Billy Quarantillo threw down. The Canadian featherweight essentially beat Quarantillo at his own game, keeping a high-pace in a grueling striking battle while getting timely takedowns to help stem the pressure from Billy Q. It was a shutout for Tucker but it was more competitive than that. Really impressive stuff from Tucker, who has really left that horrid beatdown he suffered against Rick Glenn well in the rear-view mirror.
- Strawweight veteran Tecia Torres just bullied and beat up late notice replacement Sam Hughes for an easy win. Hughes could not see out of her left eye and admitted as such to her corner, who did the unthinkable by MMA standards and stopped a lopsided fight in which their fighter had one functioning eye. That legit shocked me more than the actual fight and it’s actually refreshing to see that in this sport.
- Chase Hooper was down two rounds against Peter Barrett and clearly needed a finish to win the fight. He got that finish via Imanari roll into (eventual) heel hook. That’s a hell of a comeback for the
12-year-old21-year-old prospect, who’s clearly still very raw as an MMA fighter but you can’t knock his toughness and you have to respect the comeback.