MMA Ratings Podcast

November 23, 2020

The UFC Flyweight Divisions: Outlining the Challengers For Deiveson Figueiredo and Valentina Shevchenko

By Adam Martin

On Saturday night at UFC 255, UFC Men's Flyweight Champion Deiveson Figueiredo and Women's Flyweight Champion Valentina Shevchenko both had successful defenses of their titles. In the main event, Figueiredo made quick work of Alex Perez as he finished his opponent in the first round by submission for his first official UFC title defense. As for Shevchenko, she won a unanimous decision over Jennifer Maia in the co-main event to keep her belt. The win marked Shevchenko's fourth straight successful title defense at 125 lbs. Both Figueiredo and Shevchenko are dominant champions in the flyweight division.

Now that Figueiredo and Shevchenko have won their fights, the next question is, who should they fight next? Below I take a look at the potential challengers awaiting for both Figueiredo and Shevchenko in their respective flyweight divisions.

For Deiveson Figueiredo

Figueiredo looks absolutely unstoppable right now. The 32-year-old Brazilian won the first 11 fights of his professional MMA career before joining the UFC in 2017. Since then, "God of War" has gone 9-1 in the Octagon, with seven of those wins coming by submission, an absurd finishing rate for a flyweight. So far in the UFC, Figueiredo has defeated many of the top flyweights on the roster, including Perez, Joseph Benavidez (twice), Tim Elliott, and Alexandre Pantoja.

For Figueiredo's next fight, the UFC has already made the surprise announcement that he will return in three weeks against Brandon Moreno at UFC 256. So this is a rare situation where we actually know what's next for the champion. However, we all know that anything can happen in MMA, and there's no guarantee that Figueiredo vs. Moreno will go on as planned. Or, Figueiredo may go out there and win quickly again. Either way, we can take a look ahead at other challengers.

Aside from Moreno, another top-five fighter who is chasing a title shot is Askar Askarov. The Russian is an excellent young prospect at 125 lbs, and one or two more wins could earn him a title shot. You can also point to two other fighters that Moreno beat, in Brandon Royval and Kai Kara-France. Both are ranked in the Top 10 at 125 lbs, and neither has faced Figueiredo yet, so both men need to be looked at as future title challengers in the near future.

You also can't forget about Cody Gabrandt. Remember, it was originally supposed to be Garbrandt against Figueiredo at UFC 255, until Garbrandt was injured and forced to withdraw. The former UFC Bantamweight Champion Garbrandt still plans on moving down to flyweight at some point, and he represents an intriguing matchup for Figueiredo. And then of course you can't forget former champion Henry Cejudo. Who knows, maybe he can be lured back for a fight against Figueiredo.

For Valentina Shevchenko

Unlike Figueiredo, who has already been booked to fight Moreno, we don't know for sure who Shevchenko will fight next, but there are several options that stand out above the rest. The 32-year-old Kyrgyzstan native has been utterly unstoppable, and every time she fights the betting lines keep getting longer and longer. But Shevchenko is always able to get her hand raised, and at this point, she looks like she could be a dominant champion in the women's flyweight division for years.

For her next fight, Shevchenko will likely fight Jessica Andrade, who recently knocked out Katlyn Chookagian in her flyweight debut. The former UFC Women's Strawweight Champion held UFC gold last year but had to move up in weight after several losses knocked her out of title contention at 115 lbs. By knocking out Chookagian, though, Andrade essentially stamped her own ticket to a fight for the belt at 125 lbs. At this point, Andrade is the clear frontrunner #1 contender.

Then again, don't count out Lauren Murphy. The long-time veteran has won her last four fights, and has been very vocal on social media as of late about fighting for the belt. She is lacking that big-name, marquee win that would push her above Andrade, but she isn't far behind. Other contenders, such as Chookagian, Cynthia Calvillo, and Joanne Calderwood would all need another win, or two, if they hope to jump up and make the leap to a title shot.

But the fun fights for Shevchenko may not be against current contenders at 125 lbs. Instead, there are two superfights that appear to be more interesting. If Shevchenko plans on sticking at 125, then perhaps Weili Zhang could make the move up in weight for a future champion vs. champion fight at flyweight. If Shevchenko wants to move up to bantamweight, then a trilogy fight against Amanda Nunes -- still the only woman to defeat her in the Octagon -- also makes sense.

With Deiveson Figueiredo and Valentina Shevchenko the champions of the UFC's flyweight divisions, 125 lbs has arguably never been in better shape. Figueiredo and Shevchenko both appear to be dominant champions who could hold their belts for a long time, and, for the most part, they are both exciting fighters. Figueiredo has perhaps more finishing ability than any flyweight ever, and no one is more well-rounded at 125 lbs than Shevchenko. The future of the flyweights in the UFC is bright.

UFC 255
Valentina Shevchenko vs. Jennifer Maia (UFC Women's Flyweight Championship): Valentina Shevchenko def. Jennifer Maia via unanimous decision (49-46, 49-46, 49-46).

UFC 255
Deiveson Figueiredo vs. Alex Perez (UFC Men's Flyweight Championship): Deiveson Figueiredo def. Alex Perez via submission (guillotine choke) at 1:57 of Round 1.

UFC 255: Figueiredo vs. Perez took place November 21, 2020 at UFC Apex in Las Vegas, Nevada.

Click HERE for more UFC 255 Analysis

No comments:

Post a Comment

*** Anonymous comments will NOT be published. ***

Use the "Name/URL" option.