For the last 25 months, the rivalry between Deiveson Figueiredo and Brandon Moreno defined the flyweight division. Across four epic fights, Figueiredo and Moreno engaged in one of the greatest rivalries in the Octagon, and after Moreno’s TKO win over Figueiredo at UFC 283, it appears as though this historic chapter has come to a close.
With Moreno back on top of the division and Figueiredo apparently moving up to bantamweight, the title picture looks drastically different but just as enticing.
This is where we stand in the flyweight division:
Outlook: “The Assassin Baby” fought in a no-nonsense manner to close out his saga with Figueiredo, securing the belt in a nice and tidy three-round effort. His next challenge was in the crowd that night as Alexandre Pantoja congratulated the reminted champion while reminding him of his place in the title picture. Moreno obliged, and the matchup gives Moreno a chance to avenge a loss from 2018, as well as a loss from The Ultimate Fighter. Should Moreno get past him, Brandon Royval, Matheus Nicolau and others are circling and waiting for their chance at Mexico’s champion.
Outlook: Figueiredo announced his departure from the flyweight division after losing the likely final fight between Moreno and him, and it’s a move many anticipated happening sooner or later. It’ll bring a bevy of new faces for Figueiredo, who’s last four fights all came against Moreno. Whether he gets a shot at the top-5 right away or has to take a longer path through the shark pit that is the bantamweight division, he is an entertaining and intriguing addition to 135.
Outlook: Pantoja came out of a cannon against Alex Perez and made a clear statement: he is next. The first-round submission win came on the same night Moreno beat Kai Kara-France for the interim title, and Pantoja made a point of reminding people he held a win over both men. Pantoja appeared at UFC 283 to congratulate Moreno and demand his title shot, and Moreno apparently obliged. When that fight comes is up in the air, but it certainly seems like the Brazilian veteran has a title shot coming in the near future.
Outlook: Kara-France, who turns 30 in March, was slated to face Alex Perez at UFC 284 before an injury forced him to withdraw from the matchup. Because Moreno unified the title, Kara-France might have a difficult road ahead in terms of earning a second shot at the champ. What Kara-France has in his favor, however, is his fan-friendly style and penchant for the knockout. In terms of top-tier matchups, Matheus Nicolau is the highest-ranked flyweight who isn’t booked. He and Royval could run their wild 2020 bout back, but Royval is recovering from an injury himself. Whomever Kara-France fights next, it will be the first in a run of a few results he needs to rack up in order to get another shot at gold.
Outlook: The self-described “most entertaining fighter in the flyweight division” had a solid 2022 as he picked up a split decision win over Rogerio Bontorin and a submission win over Matt Schnell. Colorado’s Royval already holds a win over Kara-France but also has a past loss to Moreno on his record. His path to the title is dependent on if and when Moreno and Pantoja fight, but if he racks up another pair of victories in 2023, he could find himself in the discussion.
Outlook: Perhaps the division’s quietest climber, Matheus Nicolau has won four straight since returning to the promotion, most recently a knockout win over Schnell. The Brazilian is a well-balanced fighter who makes for a difficult matchup no matter he faces. Fights against Royval and Kara-France both make sense, but he could also find himself in a matchup to cement his top-5 spot against someone like Amir Albazi or Manel Kape.
In the Mix: Alex Perez, Amir Albazi, Manel Kape, Muhammad Mokaev
Outlook: Flyweight continues to develop into an entertaining and deeper division with each passing month. Veteran Alex Perez is still looking to bounce back from his disappointing result against Pantoja, and he could regain momentum should he beat out Kape in their rumored matchup. Kape started slowly in the UFC, but he seems to have found his groove and is on a three-fight winning streak. Kape is potentially the most dynamic fighter in the division’s top-10, and he is certainly a name to watch in 2023.
Someone more on the outside of the title picture than he is in it is Muhammad Mokaev. The 22-year-old wunderkind racked up three wins during his first year on the roster, and the undefeated prospect is already calling out people in the top-10. Although he hasn’t had anyone bite on that offer yet, it won’t be long until he can’t be denied.
Megan Olivi Talks With Holly Holm | UFC Fight Night:…