Let’s be honest: the UFC has been perfectly happy to throw out some pretty garbage fight cards these days. Thankfully UFC 256 is not one of them.
Yes, we lost the opportunity to watch Russian killer Petyr Yan defend his title. But Dana White pulled an admirable audible by throwing flyweight champion Deiveson Figueiredo into another title defense just a month after destroying Alex Perez. Figueiredo is an absolute unit who is beasting through dudes right now, to the tune of four straight early finishes. If he smashes through Brandon Moreno, the UFC might have something it’s never had: a flyweight that brings in casual viewers. Imagine that.
In the co-main event, Tony Ferguson looks to rebound from his first loss in 13 fights. Except it wasn’t just any old loss: “El Cucuy” endured a brutal beating courtesy of Justin Gaethje for the better part of five rounds before the ref mercifully called it. Those are the types of losses that make you question whether a fighter will ever be the same. He’s not getting an easy bounce-back fight in Charles Oliveira, who has finished eight straight opponents to get here. Fun fact: he owns the UFC record for most finishes with 16. The Brazilian is so violent that folks have called him another version of Ferguson – the highest possible praise.
Normally, the UFC would call it a day after two strong fights. But we’ve got sweet matchups for new lightweight Renato Moicano, the oddly unranked Jacare Souza, undefeated heavyweight demigod Ciryl Gane, strawweight jiu-jitsu ace Mackenzie Dern, action fighter Cub Swanson, flyweight prospect Andrea “KGB” Lee and eye gouger extraordinaire Jingliang Li. Yeah, you’re gonna wanna record those prelims.
With so much to cover, we’re skipping over the normal “Bet It or Forget It” and going with Quick Picks to cover more ground. You can bet online with the UFC odds at BookMaker.eu, with live UFC betting available on fight night.
Deiveson Figueiredo -354 vs. Brandon Moreno +263
Fight goes/doesn’t go to decision: +205 / -265
Our Pick: Figueiredo wins inside the distance -160
If you want to play it safe, take the champ to win straight up – anywhere around -300 is fair. But we feel good enough to jack up the payout and take him to end the fight before the scorecards.
No disrespect to Moreno, but Figueiredo is peaking as a fighter. Just one month ago, he sliced through a quality challenger in Alex Perez like butter. Rogan was marveling that he looked close to 155 pounds in the octagon. Before that, he toyed with longtime No. 1 contender Joe Benavidez and finished him in back-to-back matchups. He’s freakin’ ginormous for the weight class and is an excellent athlete to boot. But it’s his power that scares everyone: he can turn out the lights with a single punch or he can suffocate you on the mat. Pick your poison.
Demetrious Johnson was the GOAT. Triple C earned Hall of Fame status as a double champ. But neither of those guys were as physically savage as Figueiredo. Moreno is a good fighter, but Figueiredo is just too good right now.
Tony Ferguson -150 vs. Charles Oliveira +120
Fight goes/doesn’t go to decision:
Our Pick: Ferguson to win at -175
Yes, there are valid reasons to be concerned about Ferguson. He just got his ass whooped, he’s entering his late 30s, and he’s had major injuries in the past. But we’re not writing him off just yet – this guy is obsessed with competing and his training regimen is legendary. Gaethje tuned him up, but his cardio held up and so did his chin – Ferguson was never knocked unconscious.
We’re gonna chalk up that loss to a terrible style matchup and give Ferguson the benefit of the doubt. Oliveira doesn’t have the power that Gaethje does, and that’ll allow El Cucuy to resume his regularly scheduled program of all offense, all the time. Oliveira has dramatically improved since moving up to 155, but as a featherweight he was known to crumble against energizer bunny types who just never stopped coming. This is a solid price on a fighter that’s been a top 3 lightweight for years.
Kevin Holland (-115) to beat Ronaldo Souza (-115)
Junior Dos Santos (+344) to beat Ciryl Gane (-489)
Mackenzie Dern (-200) to beat Virna Jandiroba (+158)
It’s weird that Jacare isn’t in the top 15 – all his recent losses have come against top 10 guys and he just took Jan Blachowicz (the current light heavyweight champion) to a close split decision. Maybe it’s preemptive: Jacare is 40 years old and is clearly slowing down. At this point, we’re going to pick almost any springy young fighter against him. In this case, that guy is Kevin Holland, who is actually a pretty solid prospect in his own right. Holland’s youth and athleticism wins out, and his price is excellent.
Ciryl Gane is undefeated, trains with Francis Ngannou and is a massive 6’5”, 265 pounds. He wins the eye test championship. But let’s not forget that he’s just 6-0 – not exactly the most experienced guy. And he’s not the type of killshot headhunter that JDS just can’t beat anymore. We love the 3-to-1 odds you can get on the former champion, who is easily the more skilled and experienced guy. It’s a risk considering his age and chin, but this is a winnable matchup.
We’re gonna stop doubting Mackenzie Dern. As a highly touted uber prospect, she just looked sloppy in her first few UFC fights. But something changed. After her maternity leave, jiu-jitsu wizard has been locked in. Two straight first-round submissions in 2020 suggest that she’s finally living up to her massive potential. What’s interesting is that her opponent, Virna Jandiroba, is a submissions specialist herself. But Dern is a bigger, better athlete who is proven to be one of the best grapplers in the world – this is her fight to lose.