December 12, 2020 - 11:59 pm
Updated December 13, 2020 - 8:15 am
Deiveson Figueiredo and Brandon Moreno fought to a thrilling majority draw at UFC 256 on Saturday night at the UFC Apex, with Figuereido setting a UFC record with two defenses of his flyweight title in three weeks.
Lightweight contender Charles Oliveira earned his eighth consecutive victory by unanimous decision after dominating former champion Tony Ferguson on the ground.
Just 21 days after Figueiredo (20-1-1) stopped Alex Perez for his first title defense at UFC 255, the Brazilian returned to the cage and survived a perilous stalemate with Moreno (18-5-2), who also fought at UFC 255.
With a stirring midfight rally after a low blow left him in pain on the canvas, Moreno came agonizingly close to becoming the first Mexican-born champion in UFC history.
Referee Jason Herzog took a point from Figueiredo in the third round for the low kick, and Figueiredo’s mistake proved crucial: One judge scored it 48-47 for Figueiredo, but the other two had it 47-47. The Associated Press also scored it 47-47.
Figueiredo and Moreno capped the final pay-per-view event of a tumultuous year for the UFC, the first major North American sports organization to return to competition amid the coronavirus pandemic.
The promotion has put on 32 events in 32 weeks since early May despite innumerable fight cancellations and alterations because of positive COVID-19 tests. After one more event in Las Vegas next Saturday, the UFC will take a three-week holiday break before resuming weekly shows, likely inside its coronavirus-secure bubble in Abu Dhabi.
Conor McGregor, the biggest star in combat sports, is scheduled for a rematch with Dustin Poirier at UFC 257 on Jan. 23.
Figueiredo and Moreno both won at UFC 255 and then agreed to stay in Las Vegas for a hastily arranged title fight headlining a card that had been decimated by injuries and COVID-related bout cancellations.
Figueiredo and Moreno traded big shots from the opening minutes, with both fighters showing power belying their 125-pound frames. Moreno took significant damage around his right eye in the first two rounds, but he also peppered Figueiredo with shots and controlled the champion when they went to the ground.
Moreno was in serious pain after Figueiredo’s low blow, but he gathered himself and unleashed on Figueiredo for the rest of the round. Moreno also looked sharper in the fourth round, but Figueiredo rallied with power in the fifth.
Oliveira (30-8) left no doubt about his worthiness for a title shot in his one-sided victory over Ferguson (25-5), who lost his second fight in 2020 after going 12-0 over the previous seven years. The brawl-loving veteran took a monstrous beating seven months ago in a loss to Justin Gaethje
Oliveira won 30-26 on all three judges’ cards. Only four active UFC fighters have longer winning streaks than the Brazilian submission specialist.
Oliveira cemented his championship credentials in the UFC’s deepest weight class by controlling most of every round against Ferguson. He sunk in a nasty armbar in the closing seconds of the first, but Ferguson simply refused to tap before the bell, even as his elbow bowed dangerously in the wrong direction.
Oliveira again took Ferguson to the canvas early and controlled the rest of the second round. Oliviera’s takedown in the third was a full body slam, and he again controlled the balance of the round.
The main card began with former heavyweight champion Junior Dos Santos’ fourth consecutive TKO loss, this time to France’s Ciryl Gane, a former muay thai fighter who only started MMA three years ago. Dos Santos complained of being hit with an elbow in the back of the head at the start of the decisive sequence in the second round.
Middleweight Kevin Holland got his fifth victory of 2020 in spectacular fashion moments later, knocking out Ronaldo “Jacaré” Souza with punches from the ground just 1:45 into the first round.
Holland, who was pulled from a fight scheduled for Dec. 5 after testing positive for COVID-19, somehow generated enough power in a right hook to stop the veteran Jacaré despite being on the bottom of their clinch on the ground.
Holland has won five fights in seven months after the UFC’s coronavirus pause, and he yelled at the cageside cameras after this victory, asking for another fight next week.
“If I broke records this year, that means I need to break more records next year,” Holland said. “We’re just getting started. If I’m happy off what I did, that means I can’t continue to grow.”