In his first-ever title defense of the flyweight championship, Deiveson Figueiredo proved he belonged in the main event of UFC 255.
Figueiredo (20-1) needed only 117 seconds to finish Alex Perez, perfectly maneuvering himself into position for a guillotine choke that allowed no other choice but to tap. Perez (24-6) had entered the bout having won 11 of his last 12 fights, but his championship aspirations were quickly shattered by Figueiredo.
The one other title bout on the card saw Women’s Flyweight Champion Valentina Shevchenko defeat Jennifer Maia in a five-round fight by unanimous decision. This marked the first fight for Shevchenko (20-3) in nine months, as she had been recovering from MCL surgery. She controlled the vast majority of the fight, with the exception taking place in the second round, which Maia (18-7-1) controlled on the ground. Maia deserves credit for going the distance with a dominant champ, but there were never any moments when Shevchenko found herself in any serious danger.
Shevchenko’s older sister Antonina (9-2) fought on the prelims, and she was awarded one of the two “Performance of the Night” award bonuses for her TKO victory against Ariane Lipski (13-6). The second “Performance of the Night” went to Joaquin Buckley (12-3), who followed up his viral spinning back kick KO against Impa Kasanganay with an impressive KO win against the previously undefeated Jordan Wright (11-1-1).
Though the prelims were compelling, the 255 undercard was weak. The addition of Mike Perry was a black eye on the card. Tim Means (31-12-1, 1 NC) defeated Perry (14-7), who is dealing with active domestic abuse allegations. With all of the controversy surrounding Perry, the right call would have been to replace him from the card. The two other fights on the card were lackluster, as Katlyn Chookagian (15-4) defeated Cynthia Calvillo (9-2-1) in a women’s flyweight bout that stands as Calvillo’s worst performance in the UFC and further highlighted the difference between Shevchenko and the rest of the flyweight division. The card also wasn’t helped by its opener, as Paul Craig (14-4-1) finished Mauricio “Shogun” Rua (27-12-1) by TKO. Rua, a former UFC light heavyweight Champion, was entirely outclassed during his defeat.
Unless the UFC throws a curveball and gives the title shot to Cody Garbrandt, the next fight for Figueiredo is likely to be Brandon Moreno (18-5-1), who defeated Brandon Royval (12-5) by submission during the prelims. For Shevchenko, the possibility of a third bout against Amanda Nunes always looms, especially with no definitive number-one contender.
UFC 255 looked to be a showcase for its two flyweight champions, which is exactly what it turned out to be.
FLYWEIGHT CHAMPIONSHIP FIGHT: CHAMPION DEIVESON FIGUEIREDO VS. ALEX PEREZ -- 1:09 AM
In under two minutes, Deiveson Figueiredo made a statement to the entire flyweight division.
Figueiredo (20-1) retained the flyweight championship with a first-round submission victory against Alex Perez (24-6). While Perez was looking to wrestle, Figueiredo crisply transitioned and turned Perez right into a suffocating guillotine choke to finish the fight.
The submission win is Figueiredo’s seventh, tying a flyweight division record. He started off in a southpaw stance to avoid Perez’s low calf kick, and showed how dangerous he can be on the ground. His next opponent is likely to be Brandon Moreno, who was impressive with a victory against Brandon Royval in the prelims, but Cody Garbrandt would make for a bigger draw. Figueiredo now has options as he turns in a signature win, delivering an exciting finish in the main event during his first title defense.
WOMEN’S FLYWEIGHT CHAMPIONSHIP FIGHT: CHAMPION VALENTINA SHEVCHENKO VS. JENNIFER MAIA -- 12:11 AM
The Women’s Flyweight Championship remains in Valentina Shevchenko’s possession.
Despite a valiant effort from Jennifer Maia, the fight was awarded to Shevchenko (20-3) by unanimous decision after a surprisingly tough five-round bout against Jennifer Maia (18-7-1).
After a nine-month layoff, Shevchenko was far from her best. There were points in the second round when Shevchenko struggled with the strength of Maia, who controlled her on the ground en route to winning the round, but there was never a moment when she was in real peril or danger. An armbar attempt for Maia in the fifth round could have led to the upset of the decade, but Shevchenko deftly countered the maneuver. Shevchenko’s speed was a massive factor in her victory, which is an encouraging sign for a fighter that is only months removed from MCL surgery.
The game plan for Shevchenko was to grapple early and then let the arms fly, and the champ busted open Maia’s nose. She simply wore Maia down throughout the fight, though Maia certainly deserves credit for going five rounds with Shevchenko.
The victory marks the sixth straight win for Shevchenko, who remains on a different level than any other woman in the flyweight division.
CATCHWEIGHT FIGHT: TIM MEANS VS. MIKE PERRY -- 11:25 PM
Mike Perry and Tim Means delivered a competitive three-round fight, but that does not change the fact that this bout should not have been on the card.
Perry has a frightening amount of active domestic abuse allegations, and the UFC would have strongly benefited from replacing this fight altogether.
Means (31-12-1, 1 NC) won the fight by unanimous decision, surviving an early takedown and submission attempt from Perry (14-7) before issuing a clinic with his feet. Technique and movement were big advantages for Means in a fight that was catchweight after Perry did not make weight.
WOMEN’S FLYWEIGHT FIGHT: CYNTHIA CALVILLO VS. KATLYN CHOOKAGIAN -- 10:48 PM
Cynthia Calvillo and Katlyn Chookagian went the distance, with Chookagian (15-4) winning by unanimous decision.
This was largely a kickboxing fight, lacking any major action. Ultimately, it further highlights the wide disparity between Valentina Shevchenko and the rest of the flyweight division. Shevchenko already defeated Chookagian in February. While it is highly unlikely that the outcome would change if they were to have a second meeting, another victory or two for Chookagian will elevate her into a position where she is one of the division’s top contenders.
Calvillo (9-2-1) had an extremely disappointing night. She was unable to make any adjustments, never closed the distance against Chookagian and will need to redeem herself in her next few fights to reappear on a UFC pay-per-view card.
LIGHT HEAVYWEIGHT FIGHT: MAURICIO “SHOGUN” RUA VS. PAUL CRAIG -- 10:22 PM
Paul Craig flattened Mauricio “Shogun” Rua to open UFC 255, ending the fight courtesy of a TKO. Ground control was key for Craig, as he controlled the takedowns, ultimately securing a back mount in the second round that led to Rua to tapping due to unrelenting strikes.
Craig (14-4-1) takes a step toward the top 10 with the victory against Rua (27-12-1). They had fought to a draw in their last meeting, but Craig exposed Rua’s weaknesses through his wrestling, which was a major difference in this bout. Once Craig got the fight to the ground, he seized total control, forcing Rua to tap.
PREVIEW -- 9:58 PM
UFC 255 is a showcase card, with Valentina Shevchenko and Deiveson Figueiredo each looking to add to their highlight reel.
Shevchenko (19-3) defends the women’s flyweight championship against Jennifer Maia (18-6-1). This fight could have headlined the card, but the concern is that it will be too one-sided. Plus, the UFC has high hopes for Figueiredo (19-1), with the potential existing for a massive star out of Brazil. Figueiredo puts his flyweight title on the line against Alex Perez (24-5), and a flashy finish will justify putting him in the main event.
This is not the deepest card for the UFC, which is further compounded by a head-scratching fight pitting Mike Perry against Tim Means. Perry is dealing with domestic abuse allegations and should not be on the card. Since Perry (14-6) missed weight, the fight against Means (30-12-1, 1 NC) will take place at catchweight.
Cynthia Calvillo also looks to elevate herself in the women’s flyweight division. If Calvillo (9-1-1) can defeat Katlyn Chookagian (14-4), she should be next in line for Shevchenko. And the opener should be entertaining, pitting Paul Craig (13-4-1) against former light heavyweight champion Mauricio Rua (27-11-1).
UFC 255 does not feature the depth of more recent cards, but it will look to build off momentum during the preliminaries that included impressive wins from flyweight Brandon Moreno, middleweight Joaquin Buckley, and flyweight Antonina Shevchenko, the older sister of Valentina Shevchenko.