A changing of the guard took place at UFC 256.
Deiveson Figueiredo is a long way from putting a stamp on the flyweight division like Demetrious Johnson, who held the Flyweight Championship for over 2,000 days, but with a second straight title defense, he has become the most recognizable flyweight in the UFC.
Only three weeks after defending his title at UFC 255, Figueiredo (20-1-1) returned at UFC 256 to retain his title via a majority draw against Brandon Moreno, who also fought at UFC 255, with a third-round finish. Figueiredo stated after the fight that he was in the hospital until 2 a.m. earlier that morning due to a stomach infection, yet he still looked phenomenal in this back-and-forth fight. And despite entering the bout as a massive underdog, Moreno (18-5-2) displayed incredible heart and presented an unrelenting style that constantly caused problems for the champ. Figueiredo was deducted a point earlier in the fight for a low kick, which proved critical. Had Figueiredo not lost that point, he would have won the fight by decision. When it happens, a Figueiredo-Moreno rematch will be highly anticipated, which is exactly the type of excitement the flyweight division desperately needs.
The most shocking decision of the night took place in the lightweight bout, and it was stunning to see the manner in which Charles Oliveira dominated Tony Ferguson. A staple of the lightweight division, Ferguson (26-5) was completely dominated by Oliveira (30-8, 1 NC). The fight is officially listed as a victory via unanimous decision for Oliveira, but that is an understatement to anyone that watched the fight. Oliveira controlled every single aspect of this bout, especially showcasing his excellence on the ground. The loss, which was even more lopsided than Ferguson's defeat to Justin Gaethje this past May, is a significant blow to Ferguson's title aspirations. Oliveira, however, now puts himself in a position to challenge the winner of the Conor McGregor-Dustin Poirier fight in January.
The rest of the card delivered. Kevin Holland extended his undefeated streak in 2020 with a vicious KO of Ronaldo "Jacare" Souza, Ciryl Gane remained undefeated with an impressive TKO win against the once-great Junior dos Santos, and Mackenzie Dern won a critical third round to defeat Virna Jandiroba by unanimous decision.
Holland was on his back in the opening round when he somehow used his incredible reach to hit Souza with a blow to the forehead, then capitalized by reigning blows on Souza to end the fight by knockout. Souza was so rattled that he was unable to make it to his feet or leave his stool when Holland had his hand raised. Holland celebrated the win by calling out Khamzat Chimaev for a fight next Saturday, seeking his sixth win in 2020 and looking to cement his place as a contender in the middleweight division. Ciryl Gane (7-0) also looked excellent in his bout against Junior dos Santos (21-9), backing up the notion that he is the next big thing in the heavyweight division. And Mackenzie Dern claimed a fight against Virna Jandiroba (16-2) that was even after two rounds by seizing control of the third round with her striking. The unanimous decision victory elevates Dern (10-1) in the women's strawweight title picture.
The 256 card ended the UFC's slate of pay per views on a high note. The undercard was solid, adding credibility to Holland, Gane, and Dern. There was also the breakout performance from Oliveira, who manhandled Ferguson. Ultimately, this night will be remembered for the main event. Figueiredo and Moreno were outstanding, bringing forth a pace that earned its right to headline an upcoming pay per view.
FLYWEIGHT CHAMPIONSHIP BOUT: DEIVESON FIGUEIREDO VS. BRANDON MORENO -- 12:36 AM ET
Deiveson Figueiredo and Brandon Moreno were brilliant in the UFC 256 main event.
The five-round, 25-minute bout proved the toughness and excitement of these two fighters, and breathed life into a flyweight division constantly surrounded by question marks. The decision was ultimately placed in the hands of the judges, and the result was a majority draw that allowed Figueiredo to retain the Flyweight Championship.
This was an incredible fight that had an unrelenting pace. Figueiredo (20-1-1) laid in a number of brutal shots, yet Moreno (18-5-2) consistently responded with an answer. Moreno showed incredible fight, especially after Figueiredo tagged Moreno’s left shoulder. Moreno had success bringing Figueiredo to the mat. While he did not do enough to secure the decision, Moreno certainly earned himself a rematch against Figueiredo.
Figueiredo was deducted a point earlier in the fight due to a low kick. Clearly, the judges felt he had won three rounds, and that point ultimately turned this night from a decision victory to a draw. But the fight was spectacular, and a rematch, where both fighters receive a full training camp, will add a type of excitement not always reserved for the flyweight division.
LIGHTWEIGHT FIGHT: TONY FERGUSON VS. CHARLES OLIVEIRA -- 11:53 PM ET
The surprise of the night took place in the lightweight bout, as Charles Oliveira completely dominated Tony Ferguson.
Oliveira (30-8, 1 NC) controlled all three rounds, defeating Ferguson (26-5) by unanimous decision.
There was no room here for doubt. Oliveira was extremely impressive in the first round, overpowering Ferguson, nearly forcing a first-round submission. The armbar he locked on Ferguson at the end of the round appeared to, at the very least, hyperextend Ferguson’s left arm. Oliveira again took control in the second round, briefly halted only when an elbow from Ferguson caused a cut above Oliveira’s left eye, and temporarily paused the bout. When the round resumed, Oliveira remained in control, refusing to allow Ferguson to get onto his feet or create space.
The third round was no different. Oliveira dominated on the mat, refusing to give any space for Ferguson. The win is his eighth in a row and the most impressive of his career.
For the first time in his career, Ferguson has dropped consecutive fights. It is rare to ever see Ferguson lose, let alone dominated, but every single exchange belonged to Oliveira. This bout marked a stark change in the lightweight division, as Oliveira simply ran through a UFC cornerstone.
WOMEN’S STRAWWEIGHT FIGHT: MACKENZIE DERN VS. VIRNA JANDIROBA -- 11:14 PM ET
Mackenzie Dern defeated Virna Jandiroba by unanimous decision in a standup bout that went right down to the finish.
The victory puts Dern (10-1) in position to pursue the Women’s Strawweight Championship. Jandiroba (16-2) avoided Dern’s shots for the majority of the fight, but that changed in the third round. This is Dern’s third straight win, and proving herself in what turned out to be a striking fight bodes extremely well for her future.
Dern took a knee to the nose in the second round that appeared to break the bone, but she responded with an aggressive third round, especially with her striking. Her power jab played a key factor and winning that third round gave her the fight.
MIDDLEWEIGHT FIGHT: KEVIN HOLLAND VS. RONALDO SOUZA -- 10:51 PM ET
Kevin Holland has his signature win.
Holland (21-5) made the famed Ronaldo “Jacare” Souza look like he belonged anywhere but the Octagon. The finishing sequence saw Holland use his reach to strike Souza (26-9, 1 NC) off his back, landing a shot on the forehead and staggering Souza, then landing a flurry of blows to end the fight by KO.
The victory finishes an outrageous year for Holland. He won all five of his fights in 2020, making a claim for fighter of the year. Incredibly, following the win, Holland immediately started pitching a fight against Khamzat Chimaev on next Saturday’s Fight Night card. If this happens, it would generate a massive spotlight for him, and serve as another opportunity to show the world that he is one of UFC’s brightest rising stars.
Souza was so badly hit that he could not even get off the stool for the victory announcement. The 41-year-old has now dropped his past three fights, and it is difficult to watch him endure the twilight of his career.
HEAVYWEIGHT FIGHT: JUNIOR DOS SANTOS VS. CIRYL GANE -- 10:20 PM ET
UFC 256 opened with a heavyweight bout, as Ciryl Gane stayed poised and under control in a second-round TKO win against Junior dos Santos.
Though Gane (7-0) continued his undefeated streak, the win was not without controversy. Santos (21-9) claimed that the finishing shot was illegal, as it was a strike that was awfully close to being a full blow behind the head. But Santos was leaning away, Gane caught up a piece of the ear, and it was ruled a legal blow.
A high-level striker, Gane is incredibly quick for a heavyweight. In only his fourth UFC bout, he mixed up his range and stayed active, moving at a frequency where he was never a stationary target. He also avoided Santos’ lead hand and hook, and now picks up a big win against a former UFC Heavyweight Champion.
For Santos, the decision marks his fourth straight loss, which is the worst stretch of his professional career.
PREVIEW -- 9:30 PM ET
UFC 256 is a proving ground.
Flyweight Champion Deiveson Figueiredo looks for his second successful title defense in the past three weeks at UFC 256, as he puts his belt on the line against Brandon Moreno. Figueiredo (20-1) defeated Joseph Benavidez in back-to-back fights en route to winning the belt, which is relevant again tonight as Moreno (18-5-1) spent time living and training under the watchful eye of Benavidez. He will look to avenge Benavidez’s losses by dethroning Figueiredo, though that is going to be quite a challenge. Figueiredo is in the midst of a dominant stretch and enters this fight a massive favorite.
The card also marks the return of Tony Ferguson, who was last seen in the Octagon in May when he was defeated by Justin Gaethje in a lopsided fight. That loss cost Ferguson (25-4) his shot against Khabib Nurmagomedov, who announced his retirement in October after making quick work of Gaethje. Ferguson’s opponent is Charles Oliveira, a fighter that has elevated himself to seventh in the lightweight rankings amidst his current seven-fight win streak. A win for the underdog Oliveira (29-8, 1 NC) places an entirely new spotlight on his future. But if Ferguson looks impressive with a flashy finish against Oliveira, he immediately reinserts himself into title contention.
The 256 card offers tremendous depth. In addition to a women’s strawweight contest pitting Mackenzie Dern against Virna Jandiroba (16-1), there is also a middleweight bout featuring Kevin Holland against Ronaldo Souza. On paper, these should be victories for Dern (9-1) and Holland (20-5), especially in the case of the latter, who looks to capitalize against an aging Souza (26-8, 1 NC). The opening bout of the night is a heavyweight tussle, with Ciryl Gane seeking to continue his ascent to stardom against a former Heavyweight Champion in Junior dos Santos. If Santos (21-8) can pull off the upset and give Gane (6-0) his first loss, then that opens the door for one more significant run in the UFC after three straight losses. Gane only has three UFC fights in his career, and a win against Santos would be extremely meaningful as he continues to prove himself as one of the top heavyweights in the world.
While not featuring the most dazzling main event this year, UFC 256 offers plenty of depth throughout the card and bouts with outcomes that should deliver immediate consequences.