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UFC 256: Figueiredo v Moreno

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Tough enough to be king? - Figueiredo vs. Moreno was a lesson in championship mettle

Brandon Moreno may not have walked out of UFC 256 with the belt, but he made a fantastic statement as to his championship quality on Saturday night.

Photo by Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC

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Since his loss to Jussier Formiga back in 2019 Deiveson Figueiredo has quickly established a reputation as a remarkably powerful and unbreakably tough fighter atop the flyweight division. What he may not deliver in raw output, he makes count through devastating accuracy and finishing potential. Heading into UFC 256, this was the gospel.

Heading out of the event, those base facts are still true, but Brandon Moreno has done some creative rewriting to the text. Most notably, over the course of five rounds – in which he suffered brutal injury, and faced ferocious opposition for every second – the Tijuana-based fighter made it clear that as tough as the champion is, Moreno just might be tougher.

The power of ‘Deus da Guerra’ is an insane thing to behold. Up until Saturday night he was dropping opponents with one out of every 35 sig. strikes landed. At flyweight that pretty much means every reasonable round of output that Figueiredo has had in his career has resulted in an opponent on the canvas. After his fight with Brandon Moreno, those numbers are now one knockdown out of every 55 sig. strikes. Figueiredo landed more than half as many hard shots on Brandon Moreno as he has on all his other UFC opponents combined. And for all that, Moreno didn’t go down once.

Well, technically at least.

UFC 256: Figueiredo v Moreno Photo by Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC

For the many, many times he got punched in the head and gut, or had his legs battered, the greatest testament to Brandon Moreno’s toughness came at the hands of one of the most wicked groin strikes in MMA history. Deep into round 3 of what had already been a pitched war of wills, Figueiredo kicked his challenger square in the balls with such force and precision that Chris Tuchscherer felt someone walk over his grave. Moreno dropped to the canvas, retching and screaming through the pain. In countless other contests (and maybe several parallel universes) the contest would have been stopped then and there.

In our universe, in this fight, however, Moreno and the champion were trading blows again in the center of the cage only two minutes later. In fact, the round that followed was Moreno’s best of the fight; one that he picked up on every judges scorecard, even rocking Figueiredo with a fantastic series of short hooks in the pocket.

Even for a fighter who has never been KO’d in his career, and one whose only submission loss came in an unofficial exhibition bout, at UFC 256 the ‘Assassin Baby’ proved himself tougher than I’d have ever guessed. But, in doing so, he also showed just how impossibly high the bar to beat the champ might be right now.

Having only picked up the belt this year, Figueiredo has yet to do anything close to cleaning out his division, but just what it’s going to take to wrest UFC gold from his grasp is becoming less clear with every outing. When he took the only loss of his career, to Jussier Formiga back on the undercard of UFC Fight Night: Thompson vs. Pettis, some kind of game plan for success was laid out. Weather the storms, take him down, extend striking exchanges standing to out-pace him. Moreno did all of that. But, in 2020, it wasn’t enough.

Deiveson Figueiredo is set to rematch Brandon Moreno at UFC 263. Photo by Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC

Figueiredo met Moreno’s toughness and output head on, throwing 248 strikes over 5 rounds, most of them at full power, with seriously bad intentions. He got taken down 4 times over the course of the bout, but if Moreno ever got significant offense going from one of those takedowns, I don’t remember it. And, what’s more, he did all that while still landing at a 57% connect rate—exactly on par with his career average.

After the bout, the hair stylist turned chef turned bloodthirsty war god revealed this remarkable performance came after spending the previous night in the hospital for a severe stomach bug. If that is the fighter that Figueiredo has become, the recipe for beating him looks weaker than ever.

When the two men meet again in 2021, the stakes will feel suitably raised. No longer is it beast-mastering power threat against scrappy wildman. Deiveson Figueiredo vs. Brandon Moreno 2 is pure unstoppable force meets immovable object. Two men who have proved that they cannot be broken and will not be deterred, facing off again in the hopes of walking away as king of the flyweights. A rematch that practically guarantees violence, but even more so, will contain an impossible amount of heart on display.

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