Three “Huh?” Moments in MMA Last Week: Long Live Oleinik, Anderson to Bellator, and Garbrandt the Flyweight

Cody Garbrandt vs. Pedro Munhoz, UFC 235
Cody Garbrandt and Pedro Munhoz Credit: Rodney James Edgar/Cageside Press

Cody Garbrandt: Flyweight title-contender

UFC 255 in late-November will be headlined by a couple of flyweight title fights. In the co-main event, Valentina Shevchenko will defend her belt against Jennifer Maia. In the main event, recently crowned flyweight champ Deiveson Figueiredo will take on… Cody Garbrandt? Huh?

The announcement came one day after Figueiredo said he wanted Garbrandt to make 125-pounds first, and that he thought it’d be unfair if the former bantamweight champ skipped the line. Huh.

As is often the case in professional MMA: things change. While contenders in one division getting jumped by contenders from another weight class for title shots isn’t anything new, it still usually feels a bit weird. Especially when the fighter skipping the line has never fought in that division, or made that weight.

But, with the current list of title-contenders at flyweight in the UFC, Garbrandt potentially offers a suitable solution for everyone involved. The promotion gets a higher profile fight to main event a PPV, Figueiredo gets a chance to showcase his skills to a larger audience, Garbrandt gets a title-shot and opportunity to rebuild his reputation, and the fans get to enjoy a far more interesting match-up than anything else the division has to offer.

Yeah, Garbrandt still has to make weight. And yeah, if the former bantamweight wins, there’s no telling how long he’ll actually stay at flyweight. But the other options available don’t outweigh those potential pitfalls.

Despite being on a one-fight winning “streak”, Garbrandt’s KO of Raphael Assuncao is still a more impressive recent victory than anything the top-ranked flyweights have to offer. Two of the contenders, Brandon Moreno and Askar Askarov, fought to a split-draw last year. Askarov defeated Alexandre Pantoja the same night Figueiredo became champ in his most recent fight, while Moreno and Alex Perez’s most recent victories both came over Jussier Formiga.

The likes of Moreno, Askarov, and Perez are all great fighters with solid resumés. But none of them have separated themselves from the pack. When you combine those factors with a proven draw and former champion who’s willing to drop down a weight class, you get situations like this. (See: Aldo’s title-shot) And that’s OK.

With a relatively shallow division that the promotion clearly doesn’t want to invest heavily in, stuff like this is going to happen more often than in other weight classes. If the worst thing that happens is Garbrandt becomes champ and bails to bantamweight, then oh well. At least we’ll get to see an intriguing match-up in what is very likely going to be a violent fight with a finish (See: Aldo’s title-shot). In the meantime, Moreno, Askarov, and Perez can sort themselves out.

We’ll see how much longer Aleksei Oleinik has left in the tank. But count us among those who’d be happy to watch him fight for as long as he’s willing to get into the cage. Corey Anderson will be getting used to a new cage soon, after he left the UFC’s Octagon for Bellator’s setup. And while he didn’t leave the promotion, Cody Garbrandt has the bantamweight division in his rear view mirror (for now), as he gets a shot at Deiveson Figueiredo’s flyweight belt. Huh.

Huh? for the road