The UFC’s two flyweight divisions get a major showcase this weekend.
Deiveson Figueiredo will defend his flyweight title for the first time against Alex Perez in the main event of UFC 255 on Saturday in Las Vegas. In the co-main event, dominant UFC women’s flyweight champion Valentina Shevchenko will put her belt on the line against Jennifer Maia.
For Figueiredo, it’s a chance to reshape the division in his image, following a long reign by all-time great Demetrious Johnson and a much shorter one from Henry Cejudo. ESPN has Figueiredo ranked No. 8 in its MMA pound-for-pound rankings. In ESPN’s flyweight rankings, Figueiredo is No. 2 (behind Johnson), and Perez is No. 5.
Figueiredo (19-1) beat Joseph Benavidez via first-round submission in July to win the flyweight title. It was his second straight win over Benavidez, but the title was not on the line in February because Figueiredo missed weight. Figueiredo, 32, has won four straight fights and is 8-1 in the UFC. He has 16 stoppages in 19 pro wins, flipping on its head the notion that flyweights don’t finish fights.
Perez (24-5) has won three straight and 11 of his past 12 fights. The California native is filling in for the injured Cody Garbrandt, the former bantamweight champion who was supposed to move to flyweight and challenge Figueiredo at UFC 255. Perez, 28, is coming off a first-round TKO of Jussier Formiga via leg kicks at UFC 250 in June.
Meanwhile, Shevchenko will attempt to further her legacy in the co-headliner. “Bullet” is ESPN’s No. 2-ranked pound-for-pound women’s MMA fighter. At flyweight, Shevchenko is ranked No. 1, and Maia is No. 4.
Shevchenko (19-3) has won five straight fights. The Kyrgyzstan native has lost to only one woman in the UFC: Amanda Nunes, the current women’s bantamweight and featherweight champion. Shevchenko, 32, has three successful flyweight title defenses and is considered one of the best technical strikers — man or woman — in the sport.
Maia (18-6-1) has won three of her past four bouts. The Brazil native is coming off a first-round submission win over Joanne Calderwood in August. Maia, 32, is the former Invicta FC women’s flyweight champion.
Also on the card, Mike Perry meets Tim Means in a battle of all-action welterweights, women’s flyweight contenders Katlyn Chookagian and Cynthia Calvillo face off, and MMA legend Mauricio “Shogun” Rua meets Paul Craig in a rematch of a split draw from November 2019.
Fight in progress:
Recap to come.
Palatnikov got smashed with combinations in the first round and was nearly finished. He took two hard strikes below the belt. Yet, somehow, the debuting UFC fighter ended up not only with his hand raised but with a finish.
Palatnikov stopped Cosce via TKO at 2:27 of the third round in a welterweight bout to open UFC 255. The bout was a war of attrition. Cosce beat Palatnikov up in the first round, which was one of the most exciting rounds of the year in MMA. Both men were bloody by the end.
What a start to #UFC255!!!
— Steve-O (@steveo) November 22, 2020
Cosce caught Palatnikov with punches while Palatnikov was in the middle of a front roll in the first round. Palatnikov was trying to escape, but it didn’t work. Cosce poured it on from there, landing huge combinations. Palatnikov managed to survive the onslaught — and actually come back with big offense in the first. He landed hard elbows and a wild spinning back fist before the close of the initial five minutes.
“I knew, he’s a muscular guy,” Palatanikov said in his postfight interview. “If he [gives you] a few big shots and can’t drop you, he’ll get tired. … If I get hit, I get woken up.”
Palatnikov was the aggressor the rest of the way. He did absorb two low blows — one in the second and one in the third — but persevered through them. After the latter groin shot, Palatnikov came back from a pause in the action to rock Cosce with a huge right hand. He then slammed Cosce with punches on the ground until referee Chris Tognoni stepped in to call it.
Palatnikov, 31, is the first-ever Hong Kong-born fighter in UFC history. The Syndicate MMA product cashed as a +400 underdog. Cosce, a 25-year-old California native, earned his way into the UFC via a first-round TKO win over Victor Reyna on Dana White’s Contender Series in August.
Still to come:
Men’s flyweight: Deiveson Figueiredo (c) (19-1, 8-1 UFC, -280) vs. Alex Perez (24-5, 6-1 UFC, +240)
Women’s flyweight: Valentina Shevchenko (c) (19-3, 8-2 UFC, -1600) vs. Jennifer Maia (18-6-1, 3-2 UFC, +900)
Welterweight: Mike Perry (14-6, 7-6 UFC, -130) vs. Tim Means (30-12-1 1 NC, 12-9 1 NC UFC, +110)
Women’s flyweight: Katlyn Chookagian (14-4, 7-4 UFC, +220) vs. Cynthia Calvillo (9-1-1, 6-1-1 UFC, -260)
Light heavyweight: Mauricio Rua (27-11-1, 11-9-1 UFC, +155) vs. Paul Craig (13-4-1, 5-4-1 UFC, -175)
Men’s flyweight: Brandon Moreno (17-5-1, 5-2-1 UFC, -180) vs. Brandon Royval (12-4, 2-0 UFC, +160)
Middleweight: Joaquin Buckley (11-3, 1-1 UFC, -240) vs. Jordan Wright (11-0, 1-0 UFC, +200)
Women’s strawweight: Antonina Shevchenko (8-2, 2-2 UFC, -160) vs. Ariane Lipski (13-5, 2-2 UFC, +140)
Welterweight: Daniel Rodriguez (13-1, 3-0 UFC, -325) vs. Nicolas Dalby (18-3-1 1 NC, 1-0 1 NC UFC, +265)
(c) = defending champion