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Editorial: New year’s fight resolutions - UFC Flyweight edition

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Flyweight’s first challenge is also its stiffest: making sure everyone’s employed, first and foremost.

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

This one’s easy: keep it around. This isn’t like cool music, where a relationship among artists runs it natural course. These are the world’s most elite flyweight fighters, and they have to question their own job security so that what — Mark Wahlberg can get a down payment on his next American tragedy-based movie of the week?

I didn’t want to start this resolution on a sour note, but when we’re talking about flyweights, I’m not fond of the demand that’s set upon them. Flyweights have to be highly technical, move at a breakneck pace, fight elite competition night in and night out, and they have to do it all while upping the ante on audience entertainment. Flyweight’s a tough gig: you do everything you’re asked, and no matter how much more you give, one day you’ll be asked to give more.

May Deiveson Figueiredo set a record for title defenses within a year

The big storyline for the defending champion is whether or not he can maintain his hectic pace between fights, and within them. Dana White was asking a lot when Deiveson fought two bouts within weeks of one another. Somehow, Figueiredo made it look seamless: first by dumpstering Joseph Benavidez, then easily picking apart Alex Perez, until fighting like colliding nuclear warheads against Brandon Moreno. The 33-year old became a contender, a champion, and two-time defending champion all in one year. Who does that?

The magic number here is four: Demetrious Johnson and Matt Hughes managed to score three title fight wins in a single year. Figueiredo obviously won’t be fighting week-to-week, but you gotta wonder if Dana feels like he’s stumbled into the secret ingredient towards keeping flyweight alive — by keeping the title in constant motion. The ‘violence gremlin’ has a lot to offer, and we want his performances well-preserved, but this isn’t exactly the company to offer hazard pay. If this is the harsh reality of flyweight, might as well make history while we can, right?

Give Moreno all the fights

I was impressed with Moreno. More than just ‘giving the champion a tough fight’ there’s a lot to like about how much Moreno has progressed as a student of the game. His jab works in multiple directions, moving back or forward, and he’s come into his own as a fully-committed body-head combination puncher. His grappling is something I consistently underrate, but no more. I’ve always thought that Figueiredo was lowkey excellent on the ground, but Moreno had no fear exchanging scrambles. While I thought Moreno lost cleanly, it was still a great effort by the challenger.

Figure out the next contender as quick as you made Figueiredo defend his belt

It’s hard to say who’s next on the list of flyweight contenders. Benavidez hasn’t retired, but he’s definitely no longer part of the contender picture. Especially with Jussier Formiga cut; a fighter who may be every bit the elite gatekeeper Benavidez was. That leaves who?

It’s hard to say. Prospects like Askar Askarov and Kai Kara France offer a unique set of skills (especially Askarov), but I wonder whether or not they’re ready. Askarov represents a stylistic challenge more than anything, but it’s a matchup against someone like Figueiredo where the pendulum can swing either way. France, meanwhile, may represent a more traditional challenge with an equally predictable outcome, but France still has some room to grow and develop. Alex Perez, Brandon Royval, and Alexandre Pantoja round out the flyweight musical chairs. Whatever happens, let’s just keep the band together, pretty please?