3 things we learned from UFC 256

Here’s what we can take away from everything that happened at UFC 256

Whenever it comes time to think about the best of a year or all-time in a certain category, recency bias is always brought into play and encountered. But in the case of last night’s UFC 256, the praises of the card should be sung throughout the coming year — and perhaps even in the long-term future.

From top to bottom, UFC 256 absolutely delivered. The card featured highlights aplenty, including finishes, breakout performances and unreal showings of heart — all capping off with arguably one of the greatest flyweight title fights, if not greatest fights in general, we’ve ever seen inside the Octagon.

Here’s what we learned from UFC 256.

1. Deiveson Figueiredo vs. Brandon Moreno was the greatest flyweight fight in UFC history — gives Weili Zhang vs. Joanna Jedrzejczyk FOTY competition

While we saw plenty of great fights during this bizarre year, arguably none of them seemed to match the Fight of the Year capability as the blood, sweat and tears that Weili Zhang and Joanna Jedrzejczyk left in the Octagon in there women’s strawweight title fight at UFC 248 in March. Then, last night happened.

Deiveson Figueiredo and Brandon Moreno put on a display that has earned significant praise for both men all across the MMA community. Both men gave it their all in the Octagon, display the most iron of chins, and both men coming back after getting tagged by the other. Both men were battered. All rounds were close — some too close to call.

Even though the fight ended up being scored a draw, normally a disappointment, it felt like (as cliche as it is to say) there were no losers last night. This is all even more maddening when you think about how both men fought just 21 days earlier at UFC 255, both scoring first-round finishes.

Figueiredo, with the quickest turnaround by a champion in UFC history, has fully cemented himself as the new face of the UFC’s flyweight division. Moreno, an alumnus of The Ultimate Fighter who was once cut by the UFC, has cemented himself as an exciting fighter to watch. And the flyweight division, which appeared to be on its death bed about two years ago — in the wake of Demetrious Johnson being traded to ONE Championship and the then-upcoming Henry Cejudo vs. TJ Dillashaw title fight — isn’t going away anytime soon.

2. Deiveson Figueiredo solidified himself as a 2020 Fighter of the Year contender — but so, too, did Kevin Holland

If you were in a pool at the start of the year in which you and a bunch of others tried to select who would be Fighter of the Year in 2020, none of you probably would have chosen Deiveson Figueiredo or Kevin Holland for your wager. But as it turns out, both men are true contenders for the award as the year comes to a close.

Figueiredo didn’t have the brightest of starts. Sure, he was in four flyweight title fights this year; in fact, every fight he was in during 2020 was a title fight. But Figueiredo missed weight for the February clash with Joseph Benavidez at UFC Norfolk, and his second-round finish of Benavidez came with some controversy. As such, the belt remained vacant and questions loomed over if Figueiredo could even make 125 again.

Fast forward to now and everything thought back then seems so silly. FIgueiredo did make weight for the rematch with Benavidez on Fight Island in July and finished him in an even more dominating fashion. In fact, no one dominated Benavidez the way Figueiredo did since Benavidez’s rematch with Demetrious Johnson. Then, Figueiredo goes and submits Alex Perez in just two minutes, and then, 21 days later has a Fight of the Year candidate with Brandon Moreno. Even with his blunder to open the year, Figueiredo has made a strong Fighter of the Year case.

But he’s not he only one who did such at UFC 256.

If we’re going to talk about fighters who succeeded in the UFC’s “COVID era,” and fighters who have competed often in 2020, Holland needs to be part of this conversation as well. After his win last night, Holland has his own place in the UFC’s history books, becoming just the third fighter in UFC history (joining Roger Huerta in 2007 and Neil Magny in 2014) to go 5-0 in a calendar year.

It’s crazy to think there was once a time when Holland wasn’t given a UFC contract on Dana White’s Contender Series for running his mouth, and now he’s 8-2 in the Octagon, with the only two losses coming to future title challenger Thiago Santos (going the distance on late notice) and fellow top prospect Brendan Allen. This one calendar year has seen Holland run through Anthony Hernandez, Joaquin Buckley, Darren Stewart, Charlie Ontiveros and Ronaldo “Jacare” Souza.

Even if he doesn’t win the award, Holland must be a fighter to keep an eye on, and one who will hopefully continue all the noise he’s made as we enter 2021.

3. Charles Oliveira must be considered for the UFC lightweight title

Over the past four years, the likes of Khabib Nurmagomedov (before retirement), Conor McGregor, Tony Ferguson, Dustin Poirier and Justin Gaethje have been considered the top dogs in the UFC’s 155-pound division. In fact, even outside those bigger names, the lightweight division has been stacked with a seemingly endless amount of talent. But after last night, it can’t be denied that one man has now broken through into that upper echelon after a slow but steady build — Charles Oliveira.

In last night’s co-main event, Oliveira put a major whooping on Ferguson. Ferguson, a former interim lightweight champion, was easily taken down by Oliveira in the first round, where Oliveira remained in control and put on a nasty armbar that Ferguson insanely didn’t tap to before the round’s end. But Oliveira clearly damaged the arm, and then continuously rode Ferguson on the ground for most of the fight’s remainder. Only Gaethje, in Ferguson’s previous fight before facing Oliveira, can say he had truly dominated “El Cucuy” before Oliveira joined him in that exclusive group.

We can sit here and debate about if Ferguson came back too quickly from the Gaethje fight, or if we are witnesses to a Ferguson decline. But one thing is for certain — Oliveira can no longer be denied. And if you haven’t jumped on Oliveira’s hype train, where have you been?

After missing weight multiple times at featherweight, and his luck in the division appearing to have run out, Oliveira made his lightweight return in 2017, defeating Will Brooks. He’d lose to Paul Felder at UFC 218 before going on his current eight-fight win streak. This streak has seen him earn six Performance of the Night bonuses and set a new UFC record for most submission wins. And look at the names he’s come out victorious against: Clay Guida, Christos Giagos, Jim Miller, David Teymur, Nik Lentz, Jared Gordon, Kevin Lee and now Ferguson. Add in the fact that during his time at 145 he’s faced the likes of Jeremy Stephens, Max Holloway, Myles Jury, Anthony Pettis and Ricardo Lamas, and Oliveira has not only shown how talented he is but how capable he is of hanging with notable talents.

And considering where Oliveira may be when the new UFC rankings comes out, and his win over a former interim champ, Oliveira has to be considered a legitimate name in the UFC lightweight title picture. Oliveira called for the winner of next month’s Poirier-McGregor II, and it’s not a farfetched idea honestly. We’ll have to keep Gaethje (currently ranked No. 1) in mind and see where McGregor’s intentions and future in fighting lie, but Oliveira’s future could play out a different number of ways involving the title. Nurmagomedov may still be champ considered Dana White’s belief he’ll come back for 30-0, but let’s plan as if that doesn’t ever happen.

If Poirier defeats McGregor, perhaps he and Gaethje rematch for the title, and Oliveira is given another fight (Dan Hooker? Rafael dos Anjos?). If Oliveira gets through that, then maybe he gets the Gaethje-Poirier 2 winner in a title fight. If McGregor beats Poirier, however, then perhaps last night’s performance is enough to warrant “Do Bronx” facing Gaethje for the belt. And if the UFC says, “No, we’d rather do Gaethje vs. McGregor,” the first situation re-applies.

All in all, the time has come. Charles Oliveira is a legit top contender for the UFC lightweight championship.

UFC 256 took place on Saturday, Dec. 12, 2020, live from UFC Apex in Las Vegas, NV. Follow along with FanSided for all your live news and highlights.

Published at Sun, 13 Dec 2020 21:54:45 +0000

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