UFC 255: Figueiredo vs. Perez Preview

A preview of Saturday’s UFC 255 card, set to take place in Las Vegas.

Updated: Oct. 19, 2020 • 5:40 PM ET

Valentina Shevchenko is one of the best fighters in the UFC.

With only five events remaining on its 2020 schedule, the UFC will return to the Apex in Las Vegas this weekend for UFC 255. The card will feature two title fights, with flyweight champion Deiveson Figueiredo and No. 4 ranked Alex Perez in the main event.

Figueiredo will defend the belt for the first time since winning it by first-round submission over Joseph Benavidez in July, his second consecutive win over the veteran. The two first fought for the vacant title in February, but Figueiredo was ineligible to win the title due to missing weight.

The champion has won four fights in a row, is 19-1 overall and 8-1 in the UFC.

Including the two wins over Benavidez, Figueiredo has key victories over Tim Elliott, Akexandre Pantoja, John Moraga and Joseph Morales. He’s the hardest-hitting striker in the flyweight division and has proven that he’s tough to defeat.

Figueiredo was originally scheduled to defend the belt against former bantamweight champion Cody Garbrandt, but a torn bicep forced the challenger to withdraw from the fight. MMA fans clamored for the fight, as two explosive strikers were set to face off, and Figueiredo was looking forward to fighting Garbrandt.

“I don’t get scared by opponents,” Figueiredo said via MMA Fighting. “With all due respect, Cody Garbrandt would have been a more dangerous fight for me, but I was training to knock him out. Unfortunately he got hurt, and I hope he recovers quickly so we can make this fight happen.”

Now, Perez has stepped in and will try to figure out how to combat the champion’s power. Figueiredo, however, doesn’t think the challenger has any chance of accomplishing his goal on Saturday.

“They put Alex Perez in, and I don’t see many qualities in him,” Figueiredo said. “I’m training really hard as if I was fighting Garbrandt. You can be sure that I’ll train hard to knock him out.

“Based on what I’ve seen, Alex Perez’s style favors me. He’s slow, I see no danger in him. That’s why I’m training to knock him out in the first round.”

Perez made his debut on Dana White’s Contender Series 5 in 2017 with a first-round submission victory over Kevin Gray. Since then, he’s 6-1 in the UFC with his only loss coming by TKO to Benavidez in 2018. With the loss to Benavidez, MMA math would say that Perez should have trouble with Figueiredo’s striking, but he dominated Jussier Formiga in his last fight, the only man to defeat Figueiredo. However, Benavidez defeated Formiga twice before running into Figueiredo, so MMA math need not apply on Saturday.

The win over Formiga was undoubtedly Perez’s’ biggest to date, but he’ll take on a champion who is on fire that will try to make a statement in his first title defense. The 28-year-old Perez, however, thinks anyone who is overlooking him is making a mistake.

“Everybody in the top five, top 10 can be beaten in any day, but feel like I just bring the pressure,” Perez told MMA Junkie shortly after he was offered the title shot. “I bring the size for flyweight, I’m a big flyweight. I bring the size, I bring the pressure, I bring the wrestling and the cardio, so I feel like we match up well.

“I feel like it’s going to be a great fight. People are counting it out because obviously Cody’s out, but I feel like we’re going to steal the show.”

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Co-main event

Saturday’s co-main event will be for the women’s flyweight title, as dominant champion Valentina Shevchenko will face No. 3 Jennifer Maia.

Shevchenko is one of the most dominant champions in the UFC. She has defended the belt three times, most recently defeating Katlyn Chookagian by third-round TKO in February. Her only two losses in the UFC have both come to bantamweight and featherweight champion Amanda Nunes; and with a win on Saturday, talks of a third fight with Nunes will certainly re-awaken.

Shevchenko believes a third fight with Nunes is the fight to make.

“I think it would be logical,” Shevchenko said on an episode of Hablemos MMA. “She’s been going through her opponents very easily, and I think that for the future, it would be logical to have a third fight because the second fight … I didn’t lose it. I won it.”

Meanwhile, Maia (3-2 in UFC) is coming off a first-round submission win over Joanne Calderwood, who was expected to fight Shevchenko next. For advice regarding her upcoming fight with Shevchenko, Maia reached out to the most valuable source she could.

“Basically, she told me to not let Valentina be comfortable leading the fight and impose my rhythm,” Maia told Sherdog.com about consulting with Nunes. “She is very intelligent and reads your game plan very well, mainly when you keep doing a similar sequence. And we worked pretty hard to bring some surprises to her.”

Maia believes she can shock the world in Las Vegas.

“Nobody is invincible, and I feel so prepared for that,” Maia told AG Fight. “If there is a person at the moment who can beat (Valentina), I feel like it’s me. I feel like it’s time for her to prove (that no one is invincible).

“The time has come to show it, winning it. To show that she managed to be champion for a while, but it will always be time for a defeat.”

 

The rest of the main card on ESPN+ at 10 p.m. EST

Welterweight bout - Mike Perry vs. Tim Means

Women’s flyweight bout - No. 2 Katlyn Chookagian vs. No. 4 Cynthia Calvillo

Light heavyweight bout - No. 14 Mauricio Rua vs. No. 15 Paul Craig

 

Prelims on ESPN 2 at 8 p.m. EST

Flyweight bout - No. 2 Brandon Moreno vs. No. 6 Brandon Royval

Middleweight bout - Joaquin Buckley vs. Jordan Wright

Women’s flyweight bout - No. 15 Antonina Shevchenko vs. Ariane Lipski

Welterweight bout - Daniel Rodriguez vs. Nicolas Dalby

 

Early Prelims on UFC Fight Pass at 6:30 p.m. EST

Welterweight bout - Alan Jouban vs. Jared Gooden

Middleweight bout - Kyle Daukaus vs. Dustin Stoltzfus

Welterweight bout - Louis Cosce vs. Sasha Palatnikov

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