For six years between 2012 and 2018, the UFC’s flyweight division was dominated by Demetrius “Mighty Mouse” Johnson. Henry Cejudo briefly held the title after defeating the longtime champion, defending it once before moving to bantamweight and then retiring. The flyweight title for the first time ever sat vacant without a clear chance, and high expectations set by the previous owners, for many fans who the next champion would be was a fascinating prospect.
Deiveson Figueiredo entered the UFC in June of 2017 on an 11 fight undefeated streak over his entire pro career. He would extend this four more times within the UFC demonstrating how much promise the rising Brazilian prospect had to offer the division. However, his momentum would be halted by Jussier Formiga in 2019. Learning and returning, Figueiredo did not allow the first loss to deter him, and in fact, came back better than ever picking off big name after big name. Two impressive victories over Alejandro Pantoja and Tim Elliot set Figueiredo up to fight longtime Flyweight prince for the vacant belt after Cejudo’s departure. Joseph Benavidez had fought Johnson twice and established himself as one of the best fighters in UFC history never to win a belt. Unfortunately for him, Figueiredo made sure that was the highest role he would ever play, defeating him back to back and securing the title in their second fight after missing weight in the first. Four months later, against Alex Perez, Figueiredo solidified his champ status by securing his first title defense via first-round stoppage.
Gunning to prove himself further as quickly as possible, Figueiredo signed on to fight again just 21 days later against Brandon Moreno. Driving his way through the division, seemingly with ease, Figueiredo entered the bout as a large favorite, but Moreno shocked the world, competing with the champ to a razor-thin majority draw. Their rematch would be even more of a letdown for the champ who was defeated in the third round when Moreno sunk in a rear-naked choke. Their rivalry now at 0-1-1 for Moreno, Figueiredo now has a final chance to prove he is the better man when they complete the trilogy for the belt this Saturday at UFC 270.
“The God of War” is a fitting title for Deiveson Figueiredo, as his style is as terrifying and imposing as any flyweight to ever compete. Large for the division, as evident by past issues with cutting the weight, Figueiredo enjoys a distinct advantage in power over many of the other 125 pound men around him. That, coupled with good shot selection, speed, and a solid grappling base make him a difficult opponent to prepare for. Mentally, he is a fascinating puzzle to solve as well, it’s obvious he walks into fights with intense emotion, it’s more than a sporting competition, Figueiredo enters the octagon with the intent to destroy.
From a technical standpoint, Figueiredo’s power advantage allows him to walk down his opponents with forward pressure with confidence because he knows that in an exchange of shots, he needs to land less in order to win out on damage. However, that isn’t to say that he enters range with reckless abandon. He often level changes to lower his base into a long stance, which makes it look as though he is throwing a straight right but instead comes around the guard with a more hooking shot. This is a constant in his fights and it allows him to land a full-power shot in a tricky manner.
His tendency to knock his opponents has however caused him to develop a sort of headhunting approach at times. This caused him trouble most recently when, realizing that Moreno was in for the long game, Figueiredo found himself outworked and caught by quicker jabs to his rear power shots. Yet, for the most part, this has not been an issue, as it’s a type of bet on himself, he can be outlander because few end up making it to the bell. It’s also an aspect of his game that chains its way into his best grappling weapon; his guillotine. In 8 submission wins, 5 have come this way, and it’s a significant tool if his opponents, realizing his consistency in working upstairs, try to level change on him. If the submission does not work, Figueiredo has shown through a combination of strength and technical skill that he can scramble for upwards to half a minute hard and work his way up to the feet without much strain.
Mentally, it is also a possibility that Figueiredo is his own worst enemy, he carries a meanness into fights that isn’t always easy to sustain. In his second fight with Moreno, he went in attempting to counter his own aggressiveness because he felt he had walked into unneeded damage the first time around. This is counterproductive to the style that brought him to his highest moments of success and he found himself playing catch up, somewhere he is rarely ever caught. He also has an odd history of fight circumstances, fighting in a title fight but unable to capture it due to his own weight issues, issues allegedly not addressed well enough as it became a point of topic two fights later once again and cast doubt to fans on whether or not he fought in prime condition. Furthermore, some wonder how his first fight with Moreno would’ve played out had he not attempted to return in less than a month out from his first title defense and it’s camp.
Figueiredo toes the line between how far a warlike fighter’s mentality can be and professionalism. He comes in as big and powerful as he can but often risks depleting himself to do so. He is naturally one of the most aggressive fighters out there but he understands the drawbacks to being so and he is always gunning to fight even if it means fighting at a consistency outside the norms of the sport. Stylistically he’s a powerhouse in a division where they’re the rarest, making him one of the most exciting flyweights to ever compete. On January 16th he is set to make another run at his once held belt and even the score against his biggest rival, Brandon Moreno.
Braeden Arbour is an aspiring journalist out of Ontario, Canada. He is a recent graduate of Trent University, with a black belt in Karate and a blue belt in Judo. He has also been an avid fan of MMA for the last decade.