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Kamil Krzaczynski/Associated Press
UFC 255, the promotion’s second last pay-per-view of 2020, is right around the corner.
The card, which goes down this Saturday inside the UFC APEX facility in Las Vegas, is decidedly lacking in the big name department—particularly after the recent UFC 254 and 253 events, which were helmed by mainstream stars in Khabib Nurmagomedov and Israel Adesanya respectively. Nonetheless, UFC 255 is absolutely jam-packed with elite talent of all descriptions.
In the main event, UFC men’s flyweight champion Deiveson Figueiredo will look further cement his status as one of the sport’s top pound-for-pound fighters when he takes on unheralded challenger Alex Perez. In the co-main event, meanwhile, the promotion’s women’s flyweight champion Valentina Shevchenko will attempt the fourth title defense of her iron-fisted reign opposite Jennifer Maia.
Elsewhere on the card, we’ll see appearances from ranked contenders, aging legends, and rising prospects alike, and by the time it’s all said and done, we should have answers to a number of pressing, fistic questions.
Without further ado, here’s what he we hope to have learned by the time the action has subsided in “Sin City” this weekend.
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The men’s flyweight division has always been popular among hardcore fight fans, but it’s simultaneously struggled to gain traction among the so-called “casuals”—those fans whose flagging commitment to the sport is often chastised, but whose viewership is absolutely crucial to the success of every major MMA promotion. That’s due, at least in part, to the division never having a champion that really resonated with the masses.
Demetrious “Mighty Mouse” Johnson, while easily one of the best fighters in the history of the sport, shockingly never caught on with casual fans. Henry Cejudo, Johnson’s successor, looked like he might become the division’s poster boy, but took flight after winning the title, and fought out the remainder of his career up at bantamweight.
Could Figueiredo be the man to finally draw some eyes to the flyweight division? It seems possible.
While the Brazilian may have a hard time connecting with North American fans because he doesn’t speak English, his fan-friendly fighting style—which has carried him to 16 finishes in 19 wins—seems to be generating some buzz.
If he’s able to pick up another flashy win when he takes on Alex Perez in the UFC 255 main event, he’s likely to score even more points with the fans, and with a little luck, he could becoming the headline-grabbing the champion the flyweight division has always needed.
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There have been a handful of fighters throughout UFC history that have achieved such dominance that it’s impossible to fathom them losing. Anderson Silva and Georges St-Pierre had this kind of unbeatable aura in their respective heydays. Jon Jones, Khabib Nurmagomedov, and Amanda Nunes are more recent examples of this sensation. UFC women’s flyweight champ Valentina Shevchenko, who is slated to defend her title against Jennifer Maia in the UFC 255 co-main event, is another.
Heading into this UFC 255 title fight, a Shevchenko victory feels like a sure thing, like the sun rising tomorrow, or Jon Jones and Israel Adesanya swapping asinine trash talk on Twitter. That’s not a knock on Maia, it’s merely an acknowledgement of the champion’s skill.
She’s easily one of the best strikers in MMA at present—regardless of gender—which is really not surprising given her extensive muay thai background. She’s also an incredible grappler, which she’s proven in many fights, most notably her 2017 submission of Julianna Pena.
She’s simply so good at everything that it’s hard to imagine any 125-pound woman—no matter their specialty—giving her much trouble. She’s not immune to defeat, but it sure doesn’t seem like it’ll happen any time soon.
We should have an even better sense of how untouchable she is after UFC 255.
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There are only a handful of veterans of the defunct Japanese promotion Pride still competing in mixed martial arts today. Mauricio “Shogun” Rua is one of them.
15 years after he won the Pride Middleweight Grand Prix in 2005, and 10 years after he captured the UFC light heavyweight title, the Brazilian legend is still slogging away on the sport’s biggest stage. That trend will continue on the UFC 255 main card, when he takes on Scotland’s Paul Craig.
Shogun and Craig have fought once before, in a 2019 fight that was ruled a draw after three competitive rounds. While fans are curious which man will come out on top in this unlikely rivalry, a more pertinent question is how much gas Shogun has left in the tank.
The Brazilian legend has proven that, even at 38, he’s still capable of thumping low-level and even mid-level light heavyweights. However, he’s struggled fairly consistently against the cream of the crop, and has also admitted that he’s considering retirement.
How much longer before he finally hangs up the gloves? We should have a much clearer sense of that by the time his UFC 255 rematch with Craig concludes—particularly if he comes up short.
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Before Deiveson Figueiredo and Alex Perez battle for the flyweight title in the UFC 255 main event, we’ll be treated to a dynamite flyweight scrap between Brandon Moreno and Brandon Royval on the undercard.
Under ordinary circumstances, this fight between the two streaking flyweight stars would produce the division’s No. 1 contender. However, these are not ordinary circumstances.
Before Figueiredo was booked to defend his title against Perez in the UFC 255 main event, he was scheduled to do so against former UFC bantamweight champion Cody Garbrandt. It was only when Garbrandt was forced out of the matchup with an injury that Perez got the call to step in against the champion.
While Garbrandt has yet to compete in the UFC flyweight division, he’s a bigger name than any other fighter in the weight class, and is extremely accomplished at bantamweight. As such, he’s widely expected to get the next crack at the Figueiredo-Perez winner.
However, if either Moreno or Royval is able to pull off something truly spectacular on the UFC 255 undercard, it might just be enough to leapfrog Garbrandt and swipe the next flyweight title shot.
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It was the knockout heard ’round the world.
During the preliminary segment of a UFC Fight Night card in October, Joaquin Buckley turned the lights off on the highly regarded Impa Kasanganay with a ridiculous spinning back kick to the chin. It was immediately hailed as the best knockout of the year thus far. Some of the more excitable members of the MMA community even called it the best knockout ever.
While that highlight-reel knockout win made Buckley a viral star, it didn’t change the fact that he was knocked out in his next most recent fight, or that that he’d been soundly beaten on two fights further back in his career. As good as he looked against Kasanganay, he’s got some work to do if he wants to evolve from viral sensation to legitimate middleweight contender. He’ll look to do just that when he takes on Jordan Wright on the UFC 255 undercard.
Can he pull it off? Time will tell.
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