UFC 255: Perez Looks to Spoil the Party of New Champ Figueiredo

Deiveson Figueiredo and Alex Perez, UFC 255 weigh-in
LAS VEGAS, NEVADA - NOVEMBER 20: (L-R) Opponents Deiveson Figueiredo of Brazil and Alex Perez face off during the UFC 255 weigh-in at UFC APEX on November 20, 2020 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC)

Deiveson Figueiredo is one of the breakout stars of 2020, but Alex Perez could steal his place and become one of the most unexpected UFC champions in history at UFC 255.

In terms of breakout performances, it’s hard to top the circumstances of Deiveson “Daico” Figueiredo’s last performance in July.  To recap: his travel was delayed due to a positive COVID-19 test to the point that his opponent had already arrived and completed his quarantine at the time that Figueiredo was just starting his.  He had to make weight under those circumstances with all the added pressure after missing weight several months prior. To top it off he had to once again defeat a perennial title challenger.  It all made for an epic story of redemption and vindication as he stopped Joseph Benavidez in one of the most dominant performances by a fighter first claiming UFC gold.

Consider that, two years ago his ascension to this point was almost taken out of his hands.  With the UFC flyweight division on life-support, Figueiredo’s hard work almost seemed to occur in obscurity as it felt like a matter of time before all flyweights not named Henry Cejudo would soon be released.  The turn of events to keep the weight class has led to Figueiredo’s story being able to be appreciated by the casual fan base.  Though he’s accumulated a 20-1 record and has been in the UFC since 2017, it is only recently that the greater MMA public became interested in the multi-dimensional contender who worked as a hairdresser and sushi chef before his fighting career took off.  The promotion may be focused on another breakout star, but there is no doubt that Figueiredo has performed as he’s needed to in order to claim his place in the spotlight.

If one thing has been proven in the MMA world in 2020, it is that staying prepared and being consistent is the best thing a fighter can do for oneself.  That is especially true in the flyweight division where the nature of the weight class has long win-streaks and signature victories at a premium.  Alex Perez is one such example as the withdrawal of former bantamweight champion Cody Garbrandt from Saturday has led to an opportunity to shock the MMA world and become one of the most unexpected champions in recent history.  At a time when the promotion had both Brandon Moreno and Askar Askarov available, the (by-comparison) newer addition to the UFC roster getting the opportunity to fight for the belt is a huge opportunity.

Perez joined the UFC in 2017 through Dana White’s Contender Series after building a career almost exclusively in the Northern California regional circuit in Tachi Palace Fights.  He holds a 24-5 record that includes a 6-1 run in the Octagon.  He has notable victories over Jussier Formiga (the only man to defeat Figueiredo), Mark De La Rosa, Jose Torres and fought the aforementioned Askarov to a draw.  An added wrinkle to the fight, Perez is looking to become the first Contender Series alum to win a UFC main event and become a UFC champion.

Both men enter the fight with a number of weapons at their disposal.  For Figueiredo, his striking figures to be the most dangerous weapon as his ability to deliver damage quickly for a flyweight is amongst the best in the game today and he can punish Perez upon entry should he get his range and timing early.  For Perez, his wrestling could prove to be the x-factor if he can get the champion off his fight and force him to work off his back where he can slow the pace of the fight.  That said, both men are incredibly well-rounded with the matchup figuring to be competitive as long as it lasts in every area.

A victory for Figueiredo will lead to an interesting matchmaking situation.  The fight with former champion Garbrandt remains the biggest in terms of drawing in viewers, but contenders like Moreno, Askarov, and Brandon Royval will also have legitimate cases for a title shot.  Perez could find himself in the same situation, with an immediate rematch with Figueiredo being a possibility due to the Brazilian’s recent dominance.