It may have lacked star power due to injury, but Saturday’s UFC 255 card in Las Vegas still featured a pair of title bouts atop the marquee.
The flyweight title in both the men’s and women’s divisions was defended on a night that certainly won’t go down as one of the most exciting in UFC pay-per-view history. There was still a handful of intriguing bouts filling out the card, however, creating a number of takeaways moving forward.
Let’s take a closer look at what took place inside the UFC Apex facility.
The Devieson Figueiredo era is alive and well
The fight to simply make 125 pounds on Friday proved tougher for the UFC flyweight champion than his actual title defense against Alex Perez. Figueiredo quieted a hot start for Perez in the opening seconds by calmly turning a takedown against him into a tight guillotine choke to force a tap at 1:57 of Round 1. Although Perez was a late replacement for the injured Cody Garbrandt, he was deserving of the title shot given his record coming in. But Figueiredo made it look easy. With swagger for days and a well-rounded game, the Brazilian finisher seems to be the perfect heir to the flyweight crown once worn by Demetrious Johnson and the recently retired Henry Cejudo.
Valentina Shevchenko may never lose at flyweight
The fact that Shevchenko dropped a round to the durable Jennifer Maia and ultimately proved unable to stop her despite being an absurd -2000 betting favorite may have brought a moment or two of suspense. But the reality is that Shevchenko dominated yet another top contender at 125 pounds by adjusting her grappling-heavy game plan to pick Maia apart with heavy left hands that left her bloody and swollen. The combination of Shevchenko’s well-rounded brilliance and a decidedly shallow pool of contenders (save for former strawweight champion Jessica Andrade, who may end up with a puncher’s chance) could lead to the 32-year-old Shevchenko defending her crown for as long as she’s willing to keep fighting. Her technique is brilliant and her combination of IQ, durability and variety has Shevchenko on her way to becoming an all-time great.
One step forward, two steps back for Mike Perry
The reality show that is the life of Perry almost never takes a predictable turn. One fight after seemingly putting his career on track with a thorough victory over Mickey Gall, the much-maligned UFC welterweight came up decidedly empty against late replacement Tim Means. Not only did Perry forfeit 30% of his purse by missing weight by a whopping 4.5 pounds, he was unable to solve the veteran Means’ length and technique. With his pregnant girlfriend in his corner, Perry dropped to just 3-6 in his last nine fights including losses in three of his last four outings. Perry still brings eyeballs and curiosity each time he appears in the public eye, but he’ll need to figure out a way to be effective against the very elite at 170 pounds or his time will be up given the baggage he brings to the promotion outside the cage.
Brandon Moreno deserves a shot at the flyweight crown
“The Assassin Baby” can always be counted on to empty the tank each time he enters the Octagon. That fighting spirit was on display against Brandon Royval in their high-paced shootout. Although a shoulder injury to Royval brought an end to the fight, Moreno looked sharp and dangerous throughout. Improving to 4-0-1 in his last five, the only thing that might keep Moreno out from getting the next shot at the 125-pound crown is whether former bantamweight champion Cody Garbrandt, who pulled out of a title shot this weekend due to injury, can stay healthy.
Joaquin Buckley proves he’s more than just a one-hit wonder
Admitting after the fight that he felt the pressure to live up to the spectacular spinning-back-kick knockout that put his name on the map in October, Buckley improved to 4-1 in his last five fights with a violent finish of Jordan Wright. Buckley, who called out veteran James Krause after the win, rebounded from a slow start to hammer Wright with power shots to close Round 1. He would need just 18 seconds to complete his destruction the following round and remains an interesting out in the middleweight division given his athleticism and marked improvement.