Brandon Moreno put one of the great rivalries in UFC history in the rear-view mirror when he dominated Deiveson Figueiredo for the better part of three full rounds and stopped him when the ringside physician ruled that Figueiredo couldn’t see out of his right eye.
Moreno regained the undisputed flyweight championship and he won the personal four-fight series with Figueiredo, 2-1-1. Moreno stopped Figueiredo in both of the fights he won.
What Moreno also did Saturday in the co-main event of UFC 283 at Jeunesse Arena in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, was to put his name in the conversation as the greatest flyweight in MMA history.
That still should belong to Demetrious Johnson, who now fights for ONE Championship but held the UFC belt for more than five full years, which covered 11 defenses, 12 championship wins and victories over luminaries such as Henry Cejudo and Joseph Benavidez, among others.
For some reason, Johnson never caught on with the public and late in this reign, the UFC began releasing 125-pounders as president Dana White openly discussed abandoning the division.
Thankfully, that never happened because we may never have realized the greatness inside of Moreno, whose back story is extraordinary. He got cut from the UFC, came back, and has made himself into one of the best pound-for-pound fighters in the world and in the conversation for greatest flyweight of all time.
He attacked Figueiredo from the get-go, mixed up wrestling and striking, kept a bristling pace that Figueiredo struggled to maintain and finished him after landing a perfect punch that closed Figueiredo’s right eye. Figueiredo, fighting in front of his home country, said he thought it might have been a poke, and the partisan crown clearly believed that, but replays showed it was clearly a punch that landed on the eye.
“I was trying to put pressure on him, move forward and let the guy get tired,” Moreno said.
He did those things expertly. He also chased his greatest rival from the division, as Figueiredo said he was moving to bantamweight.
“It was Brandon’s night,” Figueiredo said. “I thought it was an eye poke, but there’s not much you can say. I hope I don’t have lasting damage.”
Moreno said a lot with his style. He didn’t flinch a bit when Figueiredo tried to get a rise out of him at Friday’s weigh-in, and he wasn’t bothered in the least Saturday by the vocal pro-Figueiredo crowd at Jeunesse.
Johnson deserves to continue to be regarded as the best flyweight given his long reign, his win over Cejudo and the different ways he got it done.
While Moreno doesn’t have a win the likes of one over Cejudo, the competition at flyweight is better now than it was when Johnson was in the UFC.
He’s not the GOAT of the division yet, but he took a big step on that path on Saturday.