My best bets for UFC 255

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UFC 255 from the Las Vegas Apex Center is one of five events remaining on the organization’s 2020 docket. This card features several fights worthy of potential investment, so I’ll take an abbreviated look at a handful of matchups.

Last week’s parlay release of Abdul Razak Alhassan <1.0u> was another poor move on my part. I anticipate no chalk parlays as we close out the year. Sean Strickland ended up closing + 110 and KO’d the game yet callow Brendan Allen, which offset the Alhassan debacle. The Eryk Anders-Antonio Arroyo fight was canceled after weigh-ins, so there was no play there.

2020 Insight the Octagon: 36-26 + 17.62u.

Deiveson Figueiredo -300 vs. Alex Perez + 250, flyweight (125 pounds), championship

Several dominant champions are spread through the 12 weight classes in the UFC, and any discussion of dominance must include flyweight champ Figueiredo.

What sets him apart from others in his division is his massive size — especially on fight night, when he competes at + /-153 pounds — his extreme athleticism, his precision timing and striking and his abundant power. Figueiredo works best by aggressively walking opponents down, then battering them.

If he has an Achilles’ heel, however, it would be his lack of a ground game.

In most battles, opponents are not determined, skilled or conditioned enough to work their way through the punishment incurred striving to gain inside position on Figueiredo. But the way to compete with him is in fact to close distance on him and wrestle him up, just as Jussier Formiga did in March when he beat Figueiredo by decision. However, Figueiredo has had time to address this shortcoming and couple it with his size, which translates into a formidable takedown defense.

Perez, the fourth-ranked flyweight, is three years younger and an inch taller, but that’s where his advantages end. He has not faced nearly the level of competition Deiveson has, and a common opponent, Joseph Benavidez, finished Perez while Figueiredo trucked Benavidez on two occasions. A second common opponent, Formiga, displayed the wrestling to beat Figueiredo while Perez finished the aged Formiga in brutal leg-kick fashion.

So Perez does enter this fight with the momentum, winning his last three, and he has the wrestling background to try to take Figueiredo to the floor. The key lies in Perez’s ability to close distance, get this to the floor and tax the champion where he is most uncomfortable. That seems a tall order.

I regard Figueiredo as a strong favorite.

Valentina Shevchenko -1200 vs. Jennifer Maia + 750, women’s flyweight (125 pounds), championship

In my view, champion Shevchenko is on equal footing with Amanda Nunes as the most dominant pound-for-pound women’s fighter in UFC history. Yes, Nunes defeated Shevchenko twice, but that was at 135 pounds, and Shevchenko went up from her 125-pound weight class. Believe me when I say Shevchenko is as lethal a modern mixed martial artist as there is today, male or female.

The third-ranked Maia is walking into as thorough a whuppin’ as is Alex Perez in the main event. Maia’s weaponry is BJJ, and her success is linked to gaining the inside on Shevchenko, then taking this fight to the mat.

The truth is that Shevchenko is more versed everywhere than anyone in the division. For Maia to have any shot, she must clasp onto and then roll Shevchenko to the floor and try to catch her with some slick submission. But the odds of that are long.

Mike Perry -155 vs. Tim Means + 135, welterweight (170 pounds)

Means is a 16-year MMA veteran whose career has spanned three weight classes over 44 fights. He will have 4 inches of arm and leg reach as well as a height advantage in a fight that figures to be a stand-up war. I award experience and physical advantages to Means.

But his opponent can easily intimidate. Perry is innately mean, overly aggressive, inner-driven and likely not playing with a full deck. Recent behavior away from the octagon can be researched, but part of Perry’s mystique is mirage.

Perry is strong as a mule, unrelenting with his forward pressure, telegraphing with his power strikes and able to sustain incredible amounts of physical damage. This makes him a dangerous opponent for anyone without years of mixed martial arts experience. 

Perry has youth, strength and maniacal mental ability, yet Means has a depth of experience and the ability to use movement and precision striking to calmly keep Perry on the outside, so Means can pick and peck his way to a decision.

Means + 135

Cynthia Calvillo -170 vs. Katlyn Chookagian + 145, women’s flyweight (125 pounds)

Calvillo is the fourth-ranked flyweight and was scheduled to fight an elimination bout before it was canceled. That forced her to find another opponent. At least she is showing mettle by facing Chookagian, the second-ranked flyweight, who just fought and was finished by Jessica Andrade on Oct. 18.

Calvillo, who fights out of Team Alpha Male, is nasty to her roots. She fights using unrelenting pressure, wrestling, toughness and grit.

Last month I chose Chookagian to beat Andrade. That handicap missed, but I’m considering coming right back to her here as she has the takedown defense, movement and striking to keep Calvillo at distance and paint her with strikes. Chookagian has experience, 5 inches of height and arm and leg reach advantages, and I regard her as live in this fight. But I will wait until later in the week to take in weigh-ins, which are so critical in handicapping the UFC.

Joaquin Buckley -275 vs. Jordan Wright + 225, middleweight (185 pounds)

What we remember from Buckley is last month’s stunning back kick that knocked Impa Kasanganay completely out on his feet. Timber! We don’t know a lot about Buckley, but we do know he was iced himself two fights back by rapidly rising contender Kevin Holland, so he is fallible.

Buckley is short and compact for the division and possesses profuse punching power coupled with a full flavor of bad intentions. Many fans are convinced from one dynamic kick that Buckley is the real deal. But I’ll have to see more.

His opponent, Wright, goes by the moniker of “Beverly Hills Ninja.” This chap fights out of Beverly Hills and looks the part of a movie star playing UFC competitor, especially early in his career when his skills were dull and his opponents were statues.

At 6-foot-2, Wright is taller and has a substantial reach advantage, but his level of competition is still a bit lacking. We’ll get to see if Buckley is a legitimate threat in this division while also determining if this pasty white suburban kid from Rodeo Drive can fight.

Lean Wright.

Brandon Moreno -195 vs. Brandon Royval + 160, flyweight (125 pounds)

Moreno was all set to fight Alex Perez before Perez got the call to be in the main event. Many, including me, thought the opportunity should have gone to Moreno, so I can see him having a little extra motivation coming into this bout.

Moreno, who gives Mike Perry a run for the title of looniest fighter in the UFC, mixes Muay Thai striking, BJJ and erratic movement to attack opponents. Moreno has earned his way to the No. 2 ranking in the division and is determined to fight for a championship. He enters this bout peaking and will need every advantage he can muster, for his opponent is most dangerous.

Royval has had two impressive wins since he hit the UFC a few months ago, and he has been rewarded with this fight, the winner of which is likely to be the next challenger for the flyweight title. Royval, a southpaw, is a high-volume striker who employs movement to create angles for a striking attack that includes fists, elbows and knees. He’ll own height and length advantages, giving him the edge in the stand-up. Moreno must deal with the physicality, pressure and striking of Royval.

Moreno’s experience and grit will be tested against a young, talented, carefree fighter who has little to lose and everything to gain.

Royval + 160

I’m targeting a couple of other fights. I’ll have updates later in the week and a full synopsis Saturday morning at GambLou.com.

 

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