Brandon Moreno and Deiveson Figueiredo have fought for 12 1/2 thrilling rounds in three bouts over the past 25 months. When they meet for a fourth time Saturday night, the winner will have the UFC flyweight title and the last word in one of the top rivalries in recent martial arts history.
Moreno knows exactly what he’s getting into when the cage door closes in Rio de Janeiro, and he’s outspokenly confident in his ability to reclaim the belt he won in their second bout and lost in their third.
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It’s the walk to the cage in front of the famously maniacal Brazilian MMA fans that has this likable Tijuana native both concerned and excited.
“I can visualize this,” Moreno said with a grin. “Maybe starting the fight or walking to the octagon, maybe the people will be a bit aggressive with us – with me especially. But with the passage of rounds, the people will see all my hard work, and people will understand I’m just a little kid trying to put food on the table for my family.”
Only four men have held the UFC’s 125-pound title since it came into existence in 2012, and two of them will fight for that belt again at UFC 283. It’s the first title tetralogy in the promotion’s history, and Moreno is anticipating a big finish.
“It’s the last dance, man,” Moreno said. “My plan is to make a statement in this one. My plan is to finish Deiveson Figueiredo. I know it. I’ve done it before. I can do it again. I understand that people, when the rumor started to come, people would say ‘Oh man, again, these guys?’ I understand their point, but I also understand that Deiveson and me, we make fireworks in the ring. I don’t want to see this guy again.”
The UFC’s first pay-per-view show of 2023 also is the promotion’s first show in Brazil since its infamous Fight Night in an empty arena in Brasilia on March 14, 2020, in the final event before the postponement of nearly all sports for the coronavirus pandemic.
The main event features 43-year-old Brazilian ex-champion Glover Teixeira against Jamahal Hill in a matchup for the vacant light heavyweight belt. Every fight on the main card features a Brazilian contender, including welterweight Gilbert Burns, flyweight Jessica Andrade and light heavyweight Johnny Walker.
The undercard is headlined by Brazilian former light heavyweight champ Maurício “Shogun” Rua, who claims he will retire after this fight with Ihor Potieria.
But the most compelling matchup on the card is the one with the most history. Moreno and Figueiredo both realize they have little chance of surprising each other after three bouts, so the winner will need to capitalize on his strengths.
“He’s the same guy with a lot of power in the right hand, trying to be a bully,” Moreno said. “Brandon Moreno is the same guy with the amazing cardio, with the speed, with the volume of punches. I think we can’t change that.”
Their first three fights were uniformly exciting, but ultimately decided nothing. After they fought to a thrilling majority draw in December 2020 in Las Vegas, Moreno finished Figueiredo with a rear naked choke in the rematch before Figueiredo won a decision in the third bou t last January in Anaheim.
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Figueiredo injured both of his hands in that victory, and the UFC annoyed him by awarding an interim flyweight title belt during his injury recovery. Moreno won that temporary strap, stopping Kai Kara-France last summer.
Moreno’s training for the fourth bout was interrupted last month when his new coach, James Krause, was prohibited from training fighters for UFC competition amid an investigation into a suspicious result in a bout involving another one of Krause’s students in November.
Moreno continued his training camp with the rest of his team in Las Vegas, and he emerged ready to continue this remarkable rivalry in front of the most hostile crowd he has ever faced. To a competitor like Moreno, it’s a thrill.
“I try not to think too much about it, but it’s a lot of pressure,” Moreno said. “It’s for the belt. It’s in a different country. I’m just ready to get going. It’s going to be fun.”
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