UFC 255 features not one, but two flyweight championship bouts. Deiveson Figueiredo and Valentina Shevchenko will attempt to defend their belts against Alex Perez and Jennifer Maia, respectively. These are the UFC 255 staff picks.
UFC 255 is essentially a showcase for both the men’s and women’s flyweight divisions. Besides the two title fights, the card presents a couple of likely top-contender match ups. Let us not forget about Mike Perry–Tim Means and the return of viral knockout sensation Joaquin Buckley.
**Updated Records of BSP’s MMA Team: Alexis Rodriguez (22-18) & Ryan Truland (25-15)**
Here we go.
Deiveson Figueiredo (19-1) vs Alex Perez (24-5)
Alexis Rodriguez: This is an interesting fight; albeit not quite as interesting as the original match-up. It’s a fascinating bout stylistically. Perez’s wrestling makes him dangerous. Add improved striking and devastating leg kicks, and you have a worthy challenger.
Figueiredo has employed a somewhat reckless, yet measured style filled with pressure, hard counters and timing. He’s a bulldozer at 125lbs. Perez needs to chop down the bulldozer with hard leg kicks and threaten the wrestling. Figueiredo’s reactions will be the x-factor. If he takes some risks, such as going for chokes or throwing hard shots at the beginning, it may also pay off.
Figueiredo has shown enough of his own weapons to be the favorite. His power is unparalleled at flyweight. His timing is near perfect and he has grappling credentials to keep Perez at bay. Perez will find some success, but not enough to sustain and take the victory.
Pick: Deiveson Figueiredo by TKO, Rd. 3
Ryan Truland: I’ve been saying this, but I’ll say it again: Deiveson Figueiredo is the most powerful flyweight the UFC has ever seen. He throws every strike with BAD intentions. He told ESPN’s Ariel Helwani this week that he’s having the best camp he’s ever had; managing his weight much better.
I’d argue that Alex Perez is the second most powerful UFC flyweight right now. His vicious leg kicks were thoroughly on display in his previous fight versus Jussier Formiga. Perez has always utilized his chopping calf kicks and expect him to once again at UFC 255.
I’m having difficulty finding an aspect of the game where Perez will have the advantage though. If they trade on the feet, the both will land, but the champ is faster and more powerful. If they go to the ground, Figueiredo will tap into his BJJ black belt knowledge.
I see Figueiredo knocking the challenger down and sinking in a submission to retain his belt.
Pick: Deiveson Figueiredo by Submission, Rd. 2
Draftkings Odds: Figueiredo (-305) vs Perez (+240)
Valentina Shevchenko (19-3) vs Jennifer Maia (18-6-1)
Alexis Rodriguez: ‘The Bullet’ is the overwhelming favorite. She has been dominant in every one of her title defenses. She’s also one of the most well-rounded fighters in the UFC. Her striking is world-class, her grappling is amongst the best, and her IQ is off the charts.
Jennifer Maia is very well-rounded in her own right. She’s a black belt in Muay Thai and Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. She has many tools, but it feels like she is simply not there yet.
Shevchenko has a range of weapons to choose from and wherever the fight goes, she’ll have the advantage.
Pick: Valentina Shevchenko by Submission, Rd. 3
Ryan Truland: Let me begin by saying that I’m very happy for Jennifer Maia receiving this opportunity. The former Invicta FC women’s flyweight champ has the chance to shock the world this weekend.
The Brazilian native moves her feet well and keeps her hands high. She’s usually moving forward; using her Muay Thai when she closes the distance. I think there will be a very noticeable speed difference, with the advantage going to the champ.
Valentina Shevchenko is the second best female mixed martial artist on the planet. The fluidity in which she throws her combinations is simply beautiful to watch. Her ability to set traps for her opponents makes it appear like she’s a step ahead. That’s because she is.
I see this fight going similarly to Shevchenko’s fight with Katlyn Chookagian; someone Maia lost to via decision.
Pick: Valentina Shevchenko by TKO, Rd. 3
Draftkings Odds: Shevchenko (-1667) vs Maia (+850)
Katlyn Chookagian (14-4) vs Cynthia Calvillo (9-1-1)
Alexis Rodriguez: Katlyn Chookagian is coming off a nasty loss to Jessica Andrade just last month. Meanwhile, Cynthia Calvillo is coming off a decision win over Jessica Eye. Chookagian is the supposed better striker because of her ability to use her range. However, Calvillo looked good on the feet against Eye — out-striking her for five rounds.
Her grappling is her bread and butter though. She is great with timing and using her distance rather than pressure. It is Calvillo’s fight to lose. She has the tools to keep it close on the feet and dominate on the ground. She’ll take a clear decision win.
Pick: Cynthia Calvillo by Unanimous Decision
Ryan Truland: If the right Katlyn Chookagian shows up, we’re in for a great fight. The ‘Blonde Fighter’ is capable of fighting forward, backward, and laterally. She has long, effective kicks and a jab that keeps her opposition at distance.
Cynthia Calvillo is going to do everything she can to close that distance and work the clinch. She’ll likely have the advantage there, as well as the ground. She has a sneakily impressive resume already. This isn’t a huge step up in competition for her as some may believe.
I think Calvillo is going to fare well, despite surrendering nearly half a foot in height to Chookagian. In her previous fights versus women 5’7″ or taller, Calvillo is (2-0) with two finishes.
Pick: Cynthia Calvillo by Unanimous Decision
Draftkings Odds: Calvillo (-265) vs Chookagian (+205)
Mike Perry (14-6) vs Tim Means (30-12-1)
Alexis Rodriguez: Tim Means is replacing Robbie Lawler against an always dangerous Mike Perry; who showed he can win with anyone in his corner. Meanwhile, Means will look to bring his rough style and make it an ugly fight for Perry.
Perry will hope to land a big shot, knowing Means has been finished. ‘The Dirty Bird’ has shown grit and determination though too. Perry might just be too much for Means; especially considering he’s had a shortened camp.
Perry might not be the most technically savvy fighter, but he’s got a penchant for finishes.
Pick: Mike Perry by TKO, Rd. 1
Ryan Truland: Mike Perry will have his pregnant girlfriend and his “friend” Matthew in his corner for this fight against Tim Means. So basically he’s on his own; which he’s completely fine with. He looked pretty good in his last fight against Mickey Gall, but Means is a step up in competition.
I expect this to be a close, back and forth affair. Perry had to track down Gall, but Means will meet him in the middle. Means has been submitted a bunch throughout his career, yet I don’t see that coming into play this weekend.
I think it goes the distance. Both guys will have the other hurt, but neither will go down. ‘Platinum’ Mike Perry does just enough.
Pick: Mike Perry by Split Decision
Draftkings Odds: Perry (-162) vs Means (+130)
Brandon Moreno (17-5-1) vs Brandon Royval (12-4)
Alexis Rodriguez: This fight should be one of the featured bouts on the main card. Royval has looked impressive, while Moreno is a mainstay who’s accumulated some rallying victories.
This could be a number one contender’s fight and a fight of the year candidate. Moreno is an unorthodox fighter who has displayed a keen ability to find finishes; especially on the ground. Meanwhile, Royval has tamed his wild style a bit and is very well-rounded. His experience should be enough to get a decision win, but Royval won’t go away easily.
Pick: Brandon Moreno by Unanimous Decision
Ryan Truland: With a win, Brandon Royval has a real chance to go from UFC newcomer to top contender in less than a year’s time. His opponent, Brandon Moreno, thought he deserved to fight for the belt over Perez.
The winner of this PRELIM will be the next flyweight to challenge for the 125lbs belt. I say flyweight because Cody Garbrandt still plans to move down.
Royval will be tested to greater lengths than what he’s accustomed to. We’ll see how he responds. Moreno loves to throw his left head kick, which might be very effective against Royval’s southpaw stance.
This is my Fight of the Night pick because it’s so close. If it goes to the ground the scrambles will be incredibly entertaining. Close call.
Pick: Brandon Moreno by Unanimous Decision
Draftkings Odds: Moreno (-190) vs Royval (+150)
Joaquin Buckley (11-3) vs Jordan Wright (11-0)
Alexis Rodriguez: Buckley is riding high off his highlight heel knockout. It was definitely knockout of the year. However, this opponent will be as tough as they come. Jordan Wright has a good size advantage by standing four inches above the compact Buckley.
Buckley will look to keep it standing and cause some wild exchanges early. It should be a fun affair, but Wright will use his size and grappling to pull off the upset.
Pick: Jordan Wright by TKO, Rd. 1
Ryan Truland: Alright, I have to take one underdog and Jordan Wright is the one. Buckley is riding the wave of his sensational knockout, but I see Wright as a good value pick here.
‘The Beverly Hills Ninja’ is a natural light heavyweight, who’s coming down to 185lbs. He has some heavy hands and he’ll put them to use against Buckley.
Both these guys have bright futures, but I’m riding with the ‘dog here.
Pick: Jordan Wright by KO, Rd. 2
Draftkings Odds: Buckley (-278) vs Wright (+215)
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