In this article I will detail Figueiredo’s fights and performances and explain why, in my opinion, he was the UFC men’s champion of the year for 2020.
2020: 3-0-1 – one TKO, two submissions. One Performance of the Night (POTN) bonus and one Fight of the Night (FOTN) bonus. One title win, two title defences. Now 9-1-1 in the UFC, 20-1-1 overall.
Age 33. Brazilian. Background in Brazilian jiu-jitsu (black belt). UFC flyweight champion and #9 men’s pound-for-pound fighter.
1: February – defeated Joseph Benavidez by TKO at 1:54 of round two in the main event but was ineligible to win the title after weighing in at 127.5lbs. The finish came shortly after a clash of heads had opened up a cut on Benavidez that affected his vision.
Benavidez had won his last three and nine of his previous ten, and this was only his second KO/TKO loss in 34 professional fights. Due to the clash of heads and the belt still being vacant, a rematch was scheduled to take place in July.
2: July – made championship weight for the main event rematch with Benavidez and won by submission due to a rear-naked choke with twelve seconds of the first round remaining, earning a POTN bonus. The UFC flyweight title was the first title of Figueiredo’s professional career, and choking Benavidez unconscious proved that the first result was no fluke.
After his title victory, Figueiredo was booked to make his first defence against former bantamweight champion Cody Garbrandt, but Garbrandt suffered a torn bicep and was replaced by flyweight contender Alex Perez.
3: UFC 255 (November) – defeated Alex Perez by submission due to a guillotine choke 1:57 into the first round in the main event to defend his title for the first time. Perez had come into the bout having won his last three contests and eleven of his last twelve.
4: UFC 256 (December) – draw (48-46, 47-47, 47-47) with Brandon Moreno in the main event in what was the FOTN and one of the best flyweight contests in UFC history. Figueiredo retained his flyweight title despite being handed a point deduction in the third round because of a groin strike.
This victory marked the quickest turnaround between title defences in UFC history at just 21 days.
Figueiredo was widely criticised after failing to make weight for his first title fight and some questioned his win due to the manner in which it occurred. Not only did “Deus da Guerra” put in an even more impressive performance in the rematch but was keen to stay active as champion and accept fights with the most dangerous challengers available.
This attitude to being champion has silenced the doubters and reinvigorated the flyweight division.
It remains to be seen whether the fight with Garbrandt will ever take place but there are still plenty of challenges at 125lbs, as well as a possible rematch with Moreno. Dana White has recently said that the Moreno rematch looks most likely for the next title defence and could be scheduled for April or May.
Follow Rob Bartle on Twitter
Other articles by Rob Bartle via his Medium page