What does it take to become a star in MMA?
Well, to start with, you have to win fights. Obviously. But as we all know, that's not enough.
You have to end fights. There is no doubt about that.
You have to be round. For sure.
You have to be conspicuous. That always helps.
And you must be a showman for sure. Absolutely.
Deiveson Figueiredo has it all. He's a star in the making. He's the fighter the male flyweight division has been waiting for, and he's the next Brazilian star the UFC longs for.
On Saturday, in his first title defense, Figueiredo ended the best year of his career with a phenomenal win over Alex Perez in UFC 255. The extremely strong and fast Brazilian pulled off a beautiful guillotine in less than two minutes.
This was the kind of representation Figueiredo needed on his first major pay-per-view event, which happened to coincide with his first trip to Las Vegas. Imagine.
Deiveson Figueiredo [left] submitted Alex Perez in his first UFC flyweight title defense on Saturday night in less than two minutes. Jeff Bottari / Zuffa LLC
It was also the performance it took for the UFC to not only justify the decision to include Figueiredo in the main event, but also to stay at the men's flyweight.
It wasn't long ago that the entire department appeared to be life sustaining. Some even believed that Figueiredo would lose weight earlier this year ahead of the vacant title shot against Joseph Benavidez in what would turn out to be the final nail in the division's coffin. Some believed that the UFC would close the division for good after defeating Benavidez, but failed to win the title as it missed the weight. In all fairness, it seemed like the perfect excuse to cut bait.
Thank goodness the promotion decided against it.
I would like to believe that despite this mistake on the scale, UFC fans saw something in Figueiredo during the first fight against Benavidez. I mean, who wouldn't be intrigued by a former hairdresser / sushi chef / fisherman / bricklayer / security guard / taxi driver turned high-level fighter? Add in his 85% graduation rate, impeccable style, and cool hair and Figueiredo is exactly what the doctor ordered for 125.
And while I shower Figueiredo with praise, how about the fact that as a champion, he called out his closest enemy in the postfight interview with Joe Rogan? That rarely happens.
Rather than targeting the sexy name Cody Garbrandt, the champ called out a true flyweight, Brandon Moreno, who also happened to have a big win on Saturday and is unbeaten in his last five fights.
Look at this. An exhilarating, struggling 125 pound champion who proclaimed another flyweight who landed a big win in the coveted preliminary round of a pay-per-view event led by a men's flyweight title bout that didn't pay UFC -per-title had cited -view in over five years.
This feels fitting with year after year of strange events. It's also very refreshing.
Not every flyweight fight is a referendum on division and weight class. We no longer talk about whether the Division will cease to exist in a month or so.
No, now we're all looking forward to Figueiredo's next fight. His next defense. His next outfit. His next goal. And according to UFC President Dana White, we might even see him in action again next month. White said the plan was to keep Figueiredo in Vegas and have him face Moreno. That's a great idea. Forge the iron while it's hot.
This is a victory for the vocal minority who campaigned for promotion so as not to give up on the little boys. Because even the newest Brazilian UFC champion, who may also become the male fighter of 2020, is about to become his next star.