Deiveson Figueiredo wasted no time at all against Alex Perez (#4) to complete his first flyweight title defence within two minutes of their main event matchup, while Valentina Shevchenko showcased her wrestling en route to a UD win over a gamely Jennifer Maia in the night’s co-main. Elsewhere, there were wins for Brandon Moreno and Katlyn Chookagian, among others.
Figueiredo defends flyweight strap, calls out brandon moreno
R1, 1:57 – Figueiredo beats Perez via submission (guillotine choke), retains flyweight strap
Alex Perez had started so well. Landing stinging leg kicks, he looked to push the pace and force Figueiredo into an uncomfortable spot early on. Then within a flash, it was all over.
His single-leg takedown attempt near the cage was the beginning of the end, though the 28-year-old wasn’t exactly aware of that when he initially shot for the manoevure near the fence.
Figueiredo transitioned beautifully out of danger, remarkable considering Perez actually had hold of his left leg at one stage. He forced the #4 ranked contender into an uncomfortable spot.
From there, it was curtains. Perez wriggled free from a grounded leg trip and rushed forward, landing a hammer fist as he immediately looked to secure Figueiredo’s back for a submission.
Instead though, Deiveson realised that a choke opportunity had suddenly presented itself and swung his left arm over to crank the challenger’s neck. It was a tight hold which only worsened as Perez was gradually breaking free, forcing the tap less than two minutes into this main event.
Post-fight, he called for his next defence to be against #1 contender Brandon Moreno next – something promoter Dana White confirmed they hope to make some time before Christmas.
It’s easy to forget this fight was originally billed as former bantamweight champion Cody Garbrandt’s flyweight debut after Performance of the Night honours on his return in June.
He pulled out in October with a torn bicep, but had this to say immediately post-fight:
Maia puts up credible fight, Shevchenko ultimately too much
49-46, 49-46, 49-46: Shevchenko defeats Maia via UD, retains women’s flyweight title
As she was against Chookagian and many before her, Valentina Shevchenko was an overwhelming pre-fight favourite to blitz past Jennifer Maia (#3).
This encounter definitely felt like the most one-sided as far as betting odds were concerned and potentially ominous too, but ultimately the champion retained her crown in a gruelling battle.
Although the big news is she lost a round, for the first time in a while, she importantly beat the Brazilian at her own game – grappling – while finishing strong during their stand-up exchanges.
She earned an early takedown and racked up shoulder strikes on the ground in R1, asserting herself with plenty of control time while smothering Maia comfortably from top position.
R2 was deja vu, until suddenly it wasn’t. Jennifer did well to quickly return to her feet, landing some knees while holding her own in their clinch exchanges near the fence. Then, she wrestled Shevchenko to the ground as the roles reversed – something truly alien to the defending champ.
Just as you could be forgiven for thinking the tide had turned, Shevchenko emphatically shut the door again. She landed bruising overhand lefts in R3, started showcasing her striking skills and pounced as Maia looked vulnerable, completing a big takedown with no warning whatsoever.
Maia, the naturally bigger woman, displayed impressive physical strength to fight her way back up standing from bottom position. That didn’t last, as Shevchenko secured another takedown to finish R3 exactly the way she wanted to: on top, asserting control and growing confidence.
Shevchenko began R4 with a handful of one-two punch combos that Maia had mixed success countering, before the champion emphasised her explosive power once more with another timely takedown after they engaged in the centre of the Octagon.
Maia knew she needed a stoppage if the title was going to change hands here, but the Brazilian’s efforts to try and force clinch control as well as submissions were too late to have much impact.
Instead, Valentina’s sheer striking speed was on display as time continued ticking down and although you could say she looked a touch less unbeatable, she was still dominant as usual.
It was a gruelling fight at times, one she knew it was going to be. Beating your opponent at their own game is easier said than done – not least in a title defence – proving she’s so well-rounded.
“I’m very glad it was five rounds and it lasted the full 25 minutes. When preparing for this fight, I knew she [Maia] wasn’t going to be an easy opponent – her body type, the way she fights, she’s tough.”
Afterwards, Shevchenko said she doesn’t want such a long hiatus between fights anymore. After all, she’s 32 and there are multiple challenges that still await her, including new #1 contender Jessica Andrade, who Dana made sure to wax lyrical about during the post-fight media scrum.
rest of the main card, including wins for Chookagian and Craig
30-27, 29-28, 29-28: Tim Means defeats Mike Perry via unanimous decision
In a catchweight bout at 175.5lbs, Tim Means overcame early adversity en route to an impressive UD win over Mike Perry – who came in overweight and was close to having this fight scrapped.
He was close to finishing things midway through R1, having secured an early takedown with a body lock as the base of his attacking impetus. His grappling transitions were impressive to watch, taking Means’ back and almost earning a first submission win via rear-naked choke.
Importantly, Means – an 8-year UFC veteran – finished the round strong with a succession of clean jabs which caught Perry square in the face and ultimately foreshadowed what was to come.
He landed 30 strikes in R1 but that only increased as the 36-year-old grew in confidence while Perry looked intent to land haymakers alone, physically taxing and inconsistent to say the least.
Perry-Means, total strikes
Perry was telegraphing his punches a lot and looked for a knockout punch, rather than sustained striking pressure, absorbing far too much damage which also helped Means’ fluidity too.
They grappled early in R3, exchanged furiously in the pocket yet it seemed like Means was constantly landing more effectively output than Perry. So much for Mike’s aggressive approach.
Post-fight, Means said he was disrespected by Perry underestimating him, sending pictures of him eating junk food preparing for this fight. Simply put, it’s difficult to envisage Perry (now 7-7 in the UFC) really breaking into the top 15 when he fights like this – not least after missing weight.
30-27, 30-27, 30-27: Katlyn Chookagian beats Cynthia Calvillo via unanimous decision
After a frustrating TKO defeat by Jessica Andrade just five weeks ago, Katlyn Chookagian had a golden opportunity to finish 2020 on a high and defend her #2 flyweight ranking in the process.
She did so with an excellent striking display against #4 ranked contender Cynthia Calvilllo, in a 15-minute battle that wasn’t truly competitive for large periods.
Whether she showed too much respect, was unable to effectively close distance or do the things which helped her succeed against Jessica Eye, Calvillo disappointed and was aware herself.
It’s why she apologised to her corner between rounds one and two, knowing that she needed to stop being so gun-shy and instead let punch combinations flow while engaging with grappling.
Saying and doing are two completely different things though, and Chookagian was comfortably boxing her into submission at range while showcasing sharp takedown defence too. That’s not to say Calvillo didn’t have her moments – they were infrequent and simply not sustained enough.
Katlyn’s left hand continued connecting all night as Calvillo’s face was red, then bloodied and cut from being jabbed to perfection at range. It was almost as if she didn’t see nor take notes from Andrade’s astute tactics last month when facing a much taller woman in Chookagian.
This continued into R3 and she’s now tied with Gillian Robertson and Shevchenko for most wins in women’s flyweight history (6). Unsurprisingly, she took offence to being a pre-fight underdog.
She already beat Jennifer Maia at UFC 244 this time last year so it’ll be intriguing to see who UFC pairs her up against next, though it’s definitely too soon for a title rematch against Shevchenko.
R2, 3:36 – Paul Craig defeats Mauricio Rua via TKO (punches)
A year and a week on from their split draw in Sao Paulo, there was finally closure on a two-fight series between Paul Craig (#15) and former light-heavyweight champion Mauricio Rua (#14).
Craig, who earned a Performance of the Night bonus on the Whittaker-Till card in July, showcased his wrestling and striking improvements against a Brazilian legend who was happy to trade with him but ultimately paid the price as time wore on and the takedowns increased.
Rua started purposefully but was forced into defending takedowns early on – Craig completing two in the first five minutes – and despite reversing one to finish on top, he’d still lost the round.
R2 was more of the same from Paul, who intensified his suffocating attacks to finish with a flourish as Rua’s defence could only hold up for so long. After a leg sweep took the Brazilian down with his back against the fence, Craig unleashed some ground-and-pound to prevail.
The win will, at the very least, move him up a place into 14th when the rankings are updated on Monday. After a 2-3 start to his UFC career, the 32-year-old Scotsman is now unbeaten in four and should naturally be targeting a crack at the top ten in 2021 with Johnny Walker (#9) on his radar.
Prelims as moreno and buckley take centre stage
In the flyweight division, Brandon Moreno retained his place as the #1 contender with a mature display over rising star Brandon Royval (#6), whose chance came slightly premature for the 28-year-old after four successive wins propelled him into the biggest fight of his career to date.
He started encouragingly – landing 24 strikes in R1 – but found himself in deep water as soon as the fight was taken to the ground after connecting with a spinning backfist midway through R1.
Moreno completed two takedowns and was close to finishing the fight with submissions too, despite Royval’s awareness that he was in trouble, just like against Kai Kara France at UFC 253.
The referee stopped the fight with one second left in R1 after Moreno landed some brutal unanswered ground-and-pound strikes and Royval was wincing with pain. It emerged that from Moreno’s unforgiving submission manoevures, he had popped his shoulder out of place.
Moreno post-fight, having been overlooked for Deiveson Figueiredo’s first title defence on this card: “I’m ready for the title now, why not?”
After his sensational knockout last month, Joaquin Buckley followed that up with a second-round knockout victory against Jordan Wright – ending his 11-0 unbeaten streak in the process.
Wright had a three-inch height advantage over the highly-rated middleweight and started fairly well, knowing there would be more intrigued eyes on Buckley after last month’s viral moment.
It was a fast-paced start and Buckley loaded up on his punches, causing all sorts of problems whenever they exchanged strikes in the pocket. Unsurprisingly, he was rocked and saved by the horn at the end of R1. Buckley blasted him with a combo early in R2 before Herb Dean rushed in.
During his post-fight interview, he admitted to some pre-fight nerves with added pressure on his name here and passionately called for a fight, January 23 against James Krause on Fight Island.
For those who don’t know the backstory, well… watch this:
Tonight was the first time two sisters featured on the same UFC card and #15 ranked women’s flyweight Antonina Shevchenko delivered an impressive grappling display against Ariane Lipski before ending the fight with a furious R2 TKO (punches) to retain her top-15 standing.
Meanwhile in the welterweight division, Nicolas Dalby earned his first victory since September last year with a UD win (30-27, 29-28, 29-28) over heavily-favoured Daniel Rodriguez.
The night started brilliantly, as welterweight Sasha Palatnikov recovered from a perilously close R1 stoppage to end Louis Cosce’s 7-0 streak with a relentless third-round TKO finish (punches).
Both were promotional debutants but neither did their ever-growing reputations harm during an entertaining scrap to kick off the prelims. Late in R2, Cosce had already fought more than his previous seven fights combined (8:21), but was punished after failing to get an early finish.
After a credible promotional debut despite defeat on the Poirier-Hooker card in June, Kyle Daukaus made his return and ended Dustin Stoltszfus‘ five-year winning run with a comfortable unanimous decision victory (30-27, 30-27, 30-26) in the middleweight division.
In the first of his new five-fight contract, experienced welterweight Alan Jouban returned to winning ways with a UD win over gamely debutant Jared Gooden.
It was a gritty battle over 15 minutes and although both landed plenty, Jouban outstruck the 26-year-old across all three rounds (41-33, 72-35, 56-32).
Pictures’ source: MMAFighting, MMAJunkie