Men’s Flyweight Champion Deiveson Figueiredo will defend his Championship at the second straight UFC pay-per-view at UFC 256.
The frequency of his fights and more specifically title defenses, along with the checkered history of the Men’s Flyweight division were the catalysts for this week’s article.
This week we will look at said checkered past for the Men’s Flyweight division and why Deiveson Figueiredo is its savior.
History of Men’s Flyweight in the UFC
To provide a brief history, the UFC Men’s Flyweight division was officially created in 2012 when a four-man tournament was set in place to crown the division’s first-ever champion. The eventual champion was one of the sport’s all-time greats, Demetrious Johnson. Johnson then went on a historic 11-fight win streak which is still the most successful title defense in the UFC to this day. Johnson was eventually defeated by Henry Cejudo, a former-United States Olympic gold medalist in freestyle wrestling.
After defeating Johnson, Cejudo went on a bit of a run himself, even achieving “double-champ” status by capturing the Bantamweight title as well. When Cejudo “retired” earlier this year (many fighters and MMA personalities do not fully believe he will stay retired), a new champion was to be crowned.
The proposed bout was to be between the division’s hottest new star Deiveson Figueiredo and Joseph Benavidez. Figueiredo won the bout but unfortunately missed weight and therefore could not be named champion. The two ran it back with the same result, crowning Figueiredo as the new Men’s Flyweight Champion, a title he still holds today.
A Division on the Verge of Collapse
While that brief history highlights the major points in the division’s eight-year history, there were some major low-points left out to talk about here. In a previous article, we talked about the UFC’s problem with Valentina Shevchenko. To summarize, having an unbeatable champion is not necessarily bad for the UFC, it is bad for the division that the champion is cannibalizing. To have a dominant champion like Demetrious Johnson be crowned champion so soon into the division’s formation essentially said to the MMA fans around the world that Johnson is incredible and there is never going to be anyone good enough to beat him. Even Cejudo, who eventually defeated him, had lost to Johnson previously. Also, as we said previously, sometimes, a dominant champion can still be good to the UFC at a company level.
People want to see the spectacular ways they can win and maybe, just maybe, see them lose their title.
That was never the case with Demetrious Johnson, however.
The common theories are that the Men’s Flyweight division never received enough press to build up its fighters or, to put blatantly, fans weren’t interested in watching 125-pound men fight. Whatever the case may be, in Johnson’s 11-fight title defense streak, he was the headlining fight four times with most of those cards barely breaking 100,000 pay-per-view buys and only one breaking 200,000 buys.
Had Johnson defeated Cejudo a second time, the common theory among MMA circles is that the Men’s Flyweight division would have been scrapped sometime after that. The division had been thought to be getting scrapped for a while and even after Johnson’s loss and subsequent trade to ONE Championship, the division almost got the boot. However, Cejudo’s “king of cringe” personality kept the division interesting. His desire to hold three belts and fight one of the female UFC Champions kept people talking about Henry Cejudo (there was no actual desire by anyone involved to do a male versus female fight but it did grab people’s attention). But when Cejudo started to focus on the Bantamweight Championship and then retirement, MMA fans thought that this is not the perfect time to get out of the Men’s Flyweight business. But Deiveson Figueiredo had something to say about that.
Crowning a New King
Figueiredo has proven to be cash money for the UFC. He will now headline his second straight pay-per-view and for good reason. Figueiredo sports a 20 win one-loss record and has devastating knockout power coupled with slick submission skills. Both fights against Joseph Benavidez ended in brutal knockouts which absolutely excite fans. His most recent win against Alex Perez came via first-round guillotine choke after a scramble on the ground. And now Figueiredo looks to continue his dominance against Brandon Moreno at UFC 256. Figueiredo is making his mark on the MMA community and is making sure we know that Men’s Flyweight is going nowhere.
Is the division perfect? No.
They still need to do a better job building up the contenders in the division. I write these articles every week and follow MMA on a daily basis and I couldn’t name five Men’s Flyweight contenders without looking it up.
In any other division, it is tremendously easier to recall contending fighters. That is one point of emphasis for the UFC moving forward. But other than that, with a new and exciting champion the people can buy into, Men’s Flyweight is in a great spot moving forward.
What do you think of Deiveson Figueiredo?
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