7 takeaways from UFC 255
Deiveson Figueiredo retained the flyweight title with a first-round submission of Alex Perez in the main event of UFC 255 on Saturday in Las Vegas.
In the co-headliner, Valentina Shevchenko earned a clear-cut decision over Jennifer Maia to keep the women's flyweight belt.
Here are seven takeaways from the event.
Figueiredo kicks off what may be a lengthy reign
Heading into his first title defense, many people had the impression that Figueiredo could hold the flyweight crown for quite some time. And it seems like they could be right.
Figueiredo's title reign got off to a good start in Saturday's main event. He made quick work of Perez, the No. 4-ranked contender who previously held an impressive 6-1 UFC record. Perez has been considered a dark horse in the flyweight division since his promotional debut in 2017, but the champion shut him down with ease.
Figueiredo possesses all the tools of a longtime champion: he's powerful, quick on his feet, slick on the ground, and seems to have a high fight IQ. He's probably the most well-rounded fighter in the weight class. No disrespect to Brandon Moreno, Cody Garbrandt, Askar Askarov, or any of the other contenders who could face Figueiredo in the future, but it sure doesn't seem like the 32-year-old will be giving up his belt anytime soon.
Shevchenko remains untested at 125 pounds
Shevchenko's fourth title defense was arguably her most competitive to date, with Maia winning the second round on all three judges' scorecards. Yet, the fight still wasn't close.
That speaks volumes about how good and how dominant Shevchenko is as the women's flyweight champion. Maia controlled her in the clinch and on the ground for five minutes, but got beat up on the feet and ground for the other 20.
I suppose I can see how it could be considered a moral victory for Maia. Not many people thought she would take Shevchenko the distance, never mind win a round. After all, Maia was a 10-1 underdog - and even higher depending where you looked.
Still, not every title defense can be a brutal knockout or crazy submission, even when you're a dominant champion like "Bullet." She's unstoppable at 125 pounds, and Saturday's result didn't change that. Until Shevchenko faces off with two-division champ Amanda Nunes again, she will continue to win.
Perry holding himself back
Mike Perry is showing flashes of improvement, yet he continues to fall short.
The welterweight took Tim Means to the mat and attempted a rear-naked choke early in their main-card bout. That's something we haven't seen from Perry throughout his four-year UFC stint. In fact, he's never won a professional bout by submission, but his game is evolving.
However, in the end, Perry's face was bloodied up and Means got his hand raised after a 15-minute battle. With another setback, it's pretty clear Perry is holding himself back.
In a controversial move, "Platinum" opted to be cornered by his girlfriend in his last fight, a decision win over Mickey Gall in June. This time it was his girlfriend and another man who's unknown to the MMA world.
Perry badly missed weight for the Means fight, coming in 4.5 pounds over the welterweight limit. Afterward, he wrote on social media he fights to fight, not to make weight.
Perry isn't taking his career seriously. The 29-year-old's lack of coaching and guidance was fine when he fought a lesser competitor, but as soon as he was matched up against a veteran, Perry fell short.
He has the makings of a 170-pound contender, but he won't get there if he doesn't give his full effort.
Chookagian refuses to be a gatekeeper
Katlyn Chookagian let it be known she won't settle for gatekeeper status, cruising to a victory over Cynthia Calvillo in a battle of top flyweights.
When Chookagian suffered a first-round TKO defeat to Jessica Andrade in October, it appeared her days as a contender were numbered. She was 1-2 in her past three bouts and had already lost to Shevchenko in a title fight in early 2020.
But "Blonde Fighter" is apparently relentless, and she's right back in the mix at 125 pounds after getting past Calvillo, who was coming off a lopsided win over Jessica Eye. Calvillo was a sizable favorite and considered a potential future opponent for Shevchenko.
Chookagian, of course, had other plans. She needed a win at UFC 255 - a loss would've deemed her irrelevant in the division. But as of Sunday morning, the 31-year-old is still very much part of the conversation.
Rua's time is up
Former light heavyweight champion Mauricio "Shogun" Rua lost his rematch against Paul Craig, tapping to strikes in the second round after getting flattened out on the ground.
I'll be honest, this was sad to watch. Rua is a legend, a Hall of Famer, a former champ, and he lost to a middling fighter in devastating fashion. The current version of Rua doesn't even compare to the prime Rua who finished Lyoto Machida, Chuck Liddell, and Alistair Overeem, among many others. They're two different people.
We know Rua has been past his prime for years. At the same time, he has won more fights than he's lost since 2016, so there hasn't been an extremely obvious time for him to retire - until now.
At 38 years old, it's gone beyond Rua being over the hill. The Brazilian, who's taken a lot of damage in his career, is clearly shot. He should call it quits before he tarnishes his legacy.
Moreno ready for a shot at gold
"I'm ready for the title now."
After finishing Brandon Royval in the featured preliminary bout, Brandon Moreno stated his case for the next flyweight title shot. And I can't argue with him.
Moreno, tied as the No. 1 contender on the UFC's official rankings, is riding a four-fight unbeaten streak. He hasn't lost since May 2018. And in the past two years, he's made massive improvements to his overall game.
Nicknamed "The Assassin Baby," the 26-year-old has grown up in front of our eyes since joining the UFC four years ago. After his stint on "The Ultimate Fighter 24" and his early UFC success, it was clear Moreno was someone to watch at 125 pounds.
Now he's a legitimate contender, and Moreno is ready to face Figueiredo for the belt.
Buckley not a one-hit wonder
There was an unusual amount of hype surrounding the undercard bout between middleweights Joaquin Buckley and Jordan Wright.
That's because Buckley was a month removed from the viral knockout - you know, the spinning back kick, you've definitely seen it - of Impa Kasanganay that sent his notoriety soaring.
When a fighter gets some buzz, they seem to lose it all in their next bout. But that didn't happen to Buckley, who viciously finished Wright with punches.
"New Mansa" proved he's not just a one-hit wonder. And with every finish he scores inside the Octagon, his stock will elevate.
This doesn't necessarily mean Buckley is a future champion or contender, but that shouldn't matter. Enjoy him for what he brings to the table. And why even have that conversation this early? Buckley has only had three fights in the UFC and is 26 years old, so the verdict is still out on his ceiling.
If he does turn out to be a title challenger? Even better.