AJ, my All Factors Considered co-host and I pick sleeper fights and give our main-card picks for each UFC event. Now that this blog space is up, I’ll be recapping the biggest takeaways from each week’s fight results.
FIGHT OF THE NIGHT: Deiveson Figueiredo vs Brandon Moreno | ($50K bonus to each fighter)
PERFORMANCE OF THE NIGHT: Ronaldo Souza vs Kevin Holland | ($50K bonus to Holland)
PERFORMANCE OF THE NIGHT: Renato Moicano vs. Rafael Fiziev | ($50K bonus to Fiziev)
Week after week highly anticipated bouts are being cancelled due to positive COVID-19 results and fighter injuries. In the year 2020, that’s simply the name of the game. Heading into last weekend’s UFC 256 card, many were unsure of what to expect. Both the current middleweight champion, Kamaru Usman, and women’s flyweight/bantamweight champion, Amanda Nunes, withdrew from their scheduled title defenses due to non-COVID related reasons. And being that this was the last pay-per-view event of the UFC’s 2020 calendar, it’s understandable that fans would be weary of spending $64.99 to watch two 125ers duke it out for the flyweight strap.
As the old proverb goes – don’t judge a book by its cover. UFC 256 winded up being one of the better cards the UFC has put on this year and one of the most balanced as well. Six out of the ten total fights resulted in a finish (5 KOs, 1 submission), the red corner slightly edged out the blue corner in total victories at five to four, and the judges decision to score the flyweight championship as a majority draw resulted in this matchup being dubbed an instant classic, perhaps rivaling UFC 248’s main event war between Weili Zhang vs Joanna Jędrzejczyk earlier in March (which feels like a lifetime ago).
Note from the editor: The Stock Report is subjective and represents the stances, views, and opinions of the All Factors Considered camp solely.
Higher NUMBER (1-5) = Higher Stock
Honorable Mentions: Rafael Fiziev, Gavin Tucker, Virna Jandiroba, Ciryl Gane.
Chase Hooper (10-1-1) – 2/5
Hooper vs Barrett @ 145 lbs – Fresh off the first loss of his career, the UFC threw young featherweight prospect Chase Hooper (10-1-1) to the wolves once again. Rather than facing an opponent who has more career fights than Hooper has years alive on Earth (Alex Caceres), Hooper faced off against Peter Barrett (11-5-0) who himself was fresh off of a loss against a hot prospect.
Barrett spent the first two-rounds of the fight thoroughly chewing up Hooper’s lead leg and outclassing him on the feet, which should come as no surprise given the rawness of Chase Hooper’s striking pedigree that was put on display in his fight against Caceres. But Hooper showed the resilience of grizzled UFC vet when he took over the fight in the third round and submitted Barrett with a heel-hook, which he later attributed to the time he’s spent training with MMA veteran Ben Askren and fellow featherweight contender and Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt, Ryan Hall.
Hooper escaped this bout victorious, and a win is a win is a win. But as UFC President Dana White noted in the post-fight presser “That kid has an incredible ground game. He needs to tighten up the wrestling game. You can’t come here and continue to take that kind of punishment and have any longevity in your career. We will see how he progresses. Listen, the kid is winning, but you can’t get your a** destroyed for three rounds and pull off a slick submission at the end of the third round. It’s gonna catch up with you.”
Showing that you can pull a rabbit out of your hat when you need it most definitely raises your stock in any combat sport promotion. But in the UFC the tests only get more challenging and if Hooper doesn’t get his hands right soon, I wouldn’t be surprised to see a KO loss and a cut from the promotion.
Tony Ferguson (26-5-0) – 3/5
Ferguson vs Oliveira @ 155 lbs – Going into UFC 256 it felt as if the MMA media scene had nothing but doubts for Tony “El Cucuy” Ferguson (26-5-0). Popular MMA media member Ariel Helwani even noted that his was a “crossroads fight” for Ferguson, despite his twelve-win streak prior to his loss against Justin Gaethje earlier this year. On All Factors Considered #20 I went on a brief tangent regarding the overall disrespect aimed at El Cucuy and doubled-down on him righting ship in his fight against Charles Oliveira (30-8-0). Simply put, I was wrong. But there is nuance to this conversation.
Charles Oliveira came dangerously close to extending his finishing streak to eight in-a-row when he attempted to end the fight in the closing seconds of round one. He had Ferguson in the tightest arm-bar I’ve ever seen a fighter not submit to, which led to to his opponent having to fight the remainder of the contest with only his right arm. Instead of tapping and potentially securing a quick turnaround against another top-ten opponent at 155, Ferguson opted to put his will on display and it is yet to be reported if he will end up on a medical suspension.
First, hats off to Charles “do Bronx” Oliveira for proving he’s a real deal championship contender in the lightweight division and putting Ferguson on the first losing streak of his career. I expect Oliveira to be crowned champion at some point in 2021, pending what the UFC brass decides to do with Khabib Nurmagomedov who retired after his title defense against Justin Gaethje at UFC 254.
Second, as I just noted, Tony Ferguson is on the first losing streak in his 31 professional fights. He’s lost to cream of the crop competition (regardless of ranking) this year and I anticipate him stringing together more wins against “lesser” opposition next year. Ferguson is down right now, but he’s far from out.
Kevin Holland (21-5-0) – 5/5
Souza vs Holland @ 185 lbs – Ronaldo “Jacare” Souza (26-8-0) was considered to be a betting favorite in his matchup against Kevin “Trailblazer” Holland (21-5-0). Holland, the man known as “Big Mouth” by UFC President Dana White, didn’t disappoint in terms of performance or antics. Holland may be a big talker, but he got the job done five-times this year and four of those wins came via a finish.
Now, since Holland has been more or less of a company man and stepped up whenever a fight fell through, some of those wins have come against questionable competition. For example, Charlie Ontiveros and Joaquin Buckley were both short-notice replacements for Holland’s originally scheduled opposition (Holland earned his KO victory against Buckley prior to Buckley’s viral KO against Impa Kansanganay). But Holland now has wins over Darren Stewart and Jacare Souza in 2020, which should even out the level of competition he’s faced.
Ultimately, Holland has yet to truly be tested on the ground (besides his submission loss to Brendan Allen in 2019) and he proved that he can knock his opponent out anywhere in the cage. On the feet, off his back, in ground and pound, it simply doesn’t matter. He effectively did to Jacare what no man has done prior – He outclassed him and made it appear as if he didn’t belong in the same cage as the hot prospect in Holland. And to be specific, Holland knocked Jacare unconscious with a right hook off his back and finished the job with ground and pound which earned him Performance of the Night honors and a $50K bonus.
If “Trailblazer” stays nearly as busy as he was in 2020, I fully expect him to be fighting top-five competition in the middleweight division and gearing up for a potential title shot. But if he keeps finishing opponents in style, Israel Adesanya or whoever will be wearing the middleweight crown should get ready to have their hands full. In my opinion, if Holland refines his defense a bit it’ll be tough to name an opponent more dangerous than him.
After Further Consideration is the blog space for the All Factors Considered camp. The Stock Report is subjective and represents the stances, views, and opinions of the All Factors Considered camp solely.