Getting prepared for UFC action this coming Saturday? Here is everything you need to know about the event with our Guide to UFC 256.
Date: December 12, 2020
Location: UFC APEX in Las Vegas, Nevada
Start Time: 10:00 p.m. ET, 7:00 p.m. PT
Where To Watch: ESPN+ PPV
UFC Flyweight Championship: Deiveson Figueiredo (c) vs. Brandon Moreno
Overall Records: Figueiredo 20-1, Moreno 18-5-1
UFC Records: Figueiredo 9-1, Moreno 6-2-1
Last Fight: Figueiredo def. Perez (title fight), R1 SUB, UFC 255 (11/21/20), Moreno def. Royval, R1 TKO, UFC 255 (11/21/20)
Last Five Fights: Figueiredo 5-0, Moreno 4-0-1
Rankings: Figueiredo C, Moreno #1
Betting Odds: Figueiredo -290, Moreno +245
Preview: The historic 21-day turnaround for both men to headline this card is an amazing fight on many levels, but the big question is how prepared both men will be fighting again so soon. So much about this sport is about peaking at the right moment and being fully prepared for a fight, as both men were at UFC 255 on November 21 when Figueiredo submitted Alex Perez and Moreno finished Brandon Royval, both coming in the first round.
These two are coming into this with virtually no training camp as both are likely just focused on getting their weight back down after refueling following weight cuts weeks ago. That is an especially important aspect for Figueiredo, who looked huge against Perez, and he has missed weight previously and can’t afford to now. Moreno doesn’t cut as much weight so he likely will be good to go. If they can get through the hard part, the fight itself is a fantastic match-up.
Figueiredo is a heavy striker and a dangerous ground fighter. Moreno is a wild fighter who is equally good on the feet and on the ground. Both of them have good conditioning, but I don’t expect them to be in peak shape, either. This is a fight that would likely be absolute bonkers if both men had a full eight-week camps or longer, but the craziness of this could also equal a bonkers fight. This should be pretty fun.
Lightweights: Tony Ferguson vs. Charles Oliveira
Overall Records: Ferguson 25-4, Oliveira 29-8 1 NC
UFC Records: Ferguson 15-2, Oliveira 17-8 1 NC
Last Fight: Gaethje def. Ferguson (title fight), R5 TKO, UFC 249 (5/9/20), Oliveira def. Lee, R3 SUB, UFC On ESPN+ 28 (3/14/20)
Last Five Fights: Ferguson 4-1, Oliveira 5-0
Rankings: Ferguson #3, Oliveira #7
Betting Odds: Ferguson -165, Oliveira +145
Preview: This feels like the biggest fight on the card—no disrespect to Figueiredo and Moreno—and feels like the real main event. Ferguson returns to action looking to start a new win streak and get back into title contention, while Oliveira finally gets the high-profile fight he’s been wanting as he tries to win his eighth straight fight and put himself squarely in the middle of the title picture.
Ferguson came up short in his chance to become a two-time interim champion when he lost to Justin Gaethje in May in one of the best fights of the year, effectively killing the idea of ever seeing him fight Khabib Nurmagomedov, and that loss ended a 13-fight win streak. Oliveira scored the biggest win of his career in his last fight, submitting Kevin Lee in March, finally getting over that hurdle of not being able to win the big fight. When you look at Oliveira’s record, his losses have come to the best of the best, and Ferguson represents arguably the best fighter he’s ever fought.
This will be an interesting fight. Ferguson is wild on his feet and is known to have and show a lot of unique striking variations and has some tricks up his sleeve. Oliveira’s striking has improved significantly over the years to the point he’s become a dangerous foe on the feet. Where both men excel is on the ground. Oliveira is world-class on the mat, one of the best submission fighters in the sport, with 19 wins coming by submission. Ferguson is just as whacky and crazy on the mat as he is on the feet and shouldn’t be taken lightly, even by the best on the mat, as he is a black belt and has eight wins by submission, and he loves utilizing the D’Arce choke to the point he’s started to call himself “The D’Arce Knight.”
This fight could come down to the mental side of things. Ferguson is one of the toughest and mentally toughest fighters in the sport. He never quits and never thinks about letting up, even when he’s taking a beating like in the Gaethje fight. Oliveira’s mental toughness has come into question in the past, as he has lost fights that he might’ve won just due to essentially giving up when things got tough. He has gotten better with that as time has passed, but Ferguson is going to test that in a way Oliveira hasn’t seen before.
This fight gives everything fight fans should want in a fight, and could be a solid late contender to join the Fight Of The Year talks. You do not want to miss this one.
Lightweights: Renato Moicano vs. Rafael Fiziev
Overall Records: Moicano 14-3-1, Fiziev 8-1
UFC Records: Moicano 6-3, Fiziev 2-1
Last Fight: Moicano def. Hadzovic, R1 SUB, UFC On ESPN+ 28 (3/14/20), Fiziev def. Diakiese, UDEC, UFC On ESPN+ 30 (7/18/20)
Last Five Fights: Moicano 3-2, Fiziev 4-1
Betting Odds: Moicano +120, Fiziev -140
Preview: These two were supposed to fight on the 11/28 card, but COVID-19 pushed the fight back, but it remains an exciting match-up and this is a nice fight to have on the main card. Moicano moved to the lightweight division in his last fight, where he submitted Damir Hadzovic in the first round, and then got mad at Hadzovic for tapping out because he wanted to keep fighting. Fiziev put on one of the most impressive performances during the Fight Island events in July, scoring a decision win over Marc Diakiese in a really fun striking battle. That fight kind of put Fiziev on the map a little and put him in a spot to where he was going to get a step up in competition, which is what Moicano is.
Moicano is someone who has headlined UFC events in the past and look at this list of some of his prior UFC opponents: Brian Ortega, Chan Sung Jung, Jose Aldo, Calvin Kattar, Jeremy Stephens, Cub Swanson. He’s fought a lot of highly-ranked foes, and is looking to start working his way up the lightweight ladder. Fiziev has just three appearances inside the Octagon but has shown to be a very strong striker with some heavy leg kicks and power in his hands. He has yet to score a finish in the UFC and it will be the first time he’s fought in the United States, and he has admitted that he’s needed time to get adjusted to the time change.
Moicano throws a lot on his feet, but he excels in the ground game, scoring half of his career wins by submission. He also has been knocked out in two of his last three fights, so he will need to avoid the power that Fiziev brings. This could end up being a wild brawl, and I like Moicano’s chances being the underdog in this one.
Middleweights: Ronaldo Souza vs. Kevin Holland
Overall Records: Souza 26-8 1 NC, Holland 20-5
UFC Records: Souza 9-5, Holland 7-2
Last Fight: Blachowicz def. Souza, SDEC, UFC On ESPN+ 22 (11/16/19), Holland def. Ontiveros, R1 TKO, UFC On ESPN+ 39 (10/31/20)
Last Five Fights: Souza 2-3, Holland 4-1
Rankings: Holland #15
Betting Odds: Souza +150, Holland -170
Preview: ‘Jacare’ fights for the first time in 2020, returning from dealing with a bout of COVID-19, as he fights for the first time in nearly 13 months. He is looking for his first win in over two years, and with roster cuts looming, having just turned 41 with losses in three of his last four, you could argue this is a must-win situation. He gets the upstart prospect in Holland, who is also coming off of dealing with a minor case of COVID-19. Holland is taking this fight on short notice, but that has never been an issue for him in the past, though Souza is by far the biggest fight of his young career.
Holland has been a very active fighter over the last two years, and this will be his fifth fight in 2020. Just for comparison- Souza’s last win came on November 3, 2018 at UFC 230, and Holland was 0-1 in the UFC at that point. Holland has won seven fights since Souza last won a fight, and he’s been doing it with flashy striking, an underrated ground game, and some trash talk on the feet. Those kind of mind games will be hard to implement against Souza, so Holland should be looking to use his long reach to keep Souza at bay.
Souza is still a game fighter and doesn’t get the credit he deserves on the feet for being a solid striker, and if Holland is smart, he should avoid a ground game with Souza at all costs. Souza is one of the all-time greats on the ground in the UFC, and though Holland is a black belt under Travis Lutter, who was one of the best in the world on the mat in his prime, Souza will have the advantage there. Holland should be looking to pressure Souza, which is what the likes of Jan Blachowicz and Jack Hermansson did when they defeated Souza last year.
This is the fight that pits veteran against prospect, and this has the potential to be a really fun fight between two men eager to take home the victory.
Heavyweights: Junior Dos Santos vs. Ciryl Gane
Overall Records: Dos Santos 21-8, Gane 6-0
UFC Records: Dos Santos 15-7, Gane 3-0
Last Fight: Rozenstruik def. Dos Santos, R2 TKO, UFC 252 (8/15/20), Gane def. Boser, UDEC, UFC On ESPN+ 23 (12/21/19)
Last Five Fights: Dos Santos 2-3, Gane 5-0
Rankings: Dos Santos #7, Gane #14
Betting Odds: Dos Santos +335, Gane -420
Preview: This is another fight that sees a veteran in need of a win going against a top prospect. This time it’s former UFC Heavyweight Champion Dos Santos looking to end a three-fight losing skid against the undefeated Gane. Gane has become the new Francis Ngannou of the division as a guy no one wants to fight, and you have to give props to Dos Santos for taking a fight that not many would.
Dos Santos knows he has a lot to prove, and even though he is a former champion with 21 career wins, he is still a huge underdog in this fight. Gane has just six fights under his belt and hasn’t fought in a year as multiple fights he’s agreed to have fallen apart for a multitude of reasons. He’s a former kickboxer who has spent his time in the UFC showing off his submission skills, as two of his three UFC wins have come by submission. He is still a dangerous striker with knockout power, and Dos Santos is going to need to avoid being hit. Dos Santos has been finished in his three losses, and his last six losses have all come by knockout. It’s come to a point where he either knocks you out or he ends up knocked out.
If Gane wants to play with Dos Santos on the mat, Dos Santos is a black belt, even though he hasn’t shown much in the way of ground fighting in his UFC career. On the feet, Dos Santos is going to need to stay away from the pocket and outside of the reach of Gane. This is a real dangerous fight for Dos Santos to take, and is a real proving ground fight for Gane, who many are pegging as a future title challenger.
A win for Dos Santos would do wonders for him and show he isn’t quite done yet. A win for Gane would sky rocket his career. This is a great opener for the main card.
Start Time: 8:00 p.m. ET, 5:00 p.m. PT
Where To Watch: ESPN2 & ESPN+
Featherweights: Cub Swanson vs. Daniel Pineda
Overall Records: Swanson 25-11, Pineda 27-13 2 NC
UFC Records: Swanson 10-7, Pineda 4-4
Last Fight: Swanson def. Gracie, UDEC, UFC On ESPN+ 19 (10/12/19), Pineda def. Burns, R2 TKO, UFC 252 (8/15/20)
Last Five Fights: Swanson 1-4, Pineda 3-0 2 NC
Betting Odds: Swanson +115, Pineda -135
Preview: Swanson returns to action for the first time in 14 months as he looks to score his second straight win. He scored an upset win over Kron Gracie in his last appearance in October 2019, which ended a four-fight losing skid. He is coming off surgery for a torn ACL that he suffered in a submission grappling event. Pineda is in his second UFC stint, and is looking for his second straight Octagon win after scoring an upset over Herbert Burns in August. Pineda hasn’t suffered defeat since August 2017 and has improved since the first time he was in the UFC.
Swanson is the biggest name he’s faced in his 43-fight career, and Swanson is eager to prove that he can still compete at a high level. Swanson has fought the best of the best in his career, and has wins over Dustin Poirier, Charles Oliveira, Tatsuya Kawajiri and Jeremy Stephens in his career, and also was involved in one of the all-time great fights in UFC history with Doo Ho Choi. He is an excellent striker with an underrated ground game, and has been training alongside T.J. Dillashaw and Juan Archuleta the last few years, so he trains with strong training partners.
Pineda is a flashy striker and a great ground fighter, and all 27 of his wins have come by stoppage. Swanson would be best dragging this fight into the deep waters as Pineda tends to fade in the third rounds, and Swanson is a pressure fighter. Pineda is the slight favorite but I tend to lean this fight in the favor of Swanson. This has the makings of another fun fight on the card.
Womens’ Strawweights: Mackenzie Dern vs. Virna Jandiroba
Overall Records: Dern 9-1, Jandiroba 16-1
UFC Records: Dern 4-1, Jandiroba 2-1
Last Fight: Dern def. Markos, R1 SUB, UFC On ESPN+ 36 (9/19/20), Jandiroba def. Herrig, R1 SUB, UFC 252 (8/15/20)
Last Five Fights: Dern 4-1, Jandiroba 4-1
Rankings: Dern #11, Jandiroba #13
Betting Odds: Dern -175, Jandiroba +155
Preview: Two high-level submission artists square off in this strawweight bout as both Dern and Jandrioba look to score their third straight wins. After Dern took a year off to give birth, she had a disappointing comeback fight in a loss to Amanda Ribas, who really has shown to be a much better fighter than people gave her credit for at the time. She has bounced back in a big way in 2020, scoring first-round submission wins over Hannah Cifers and Randa Markos.
Jandiroba lost her first UFC fight in April 2019, but that came at the hands of former champion Carla Esparza, and she too has bounced back with two submission wins, coming over Mallory Martin and Felice Herrig. Both women are world class on the mat, with Dern having six wins by submission and Jandiroba having thirteen submission wins. Dern has more accolades in the submission realm and is the better ground fighter of the two. When it comes to striking, neither woman is what you would call world-class, or even great.
Dern is wild on her feet but has shown improvement there since she started working with renowned striking coach Jason Parillo. Jandiroba is shown to be almost lost on her feet at times, and has only landed a total of 28 significant strikes in her three UFC bouts, one of which went the full fifteen minutes.
This fight tends to favor Dern, who has shown that she has returned to becoming a real threat this year, and she still has worlds of potential at age 27. Jandiroba has the impressive 16-1 record, but doesn’t strike people as being a standout fighter. This should be a showcase for Dern.
Featherweights: Gavin Tucker vs. Billy Quarantillo
Overall Records: Tucker 12-1, Quarantillo 15-2
UFC Records: Tucker 3-1, Quarantillo 3-0
Last Fight: Tucker def. Jaynes, R3 SUB, UFC On ESPN+ 32 (8/8/20), Quarantillo def. Nelson, R3 KO, UFC On ESPN+ 35 (9/12/20)
Last Five Fights: Tucker 4-1, Quarantillo 5-0
Betting Odds: Tucker -110, Quarantillo -110
Preview: A pair of prospects in the featherweight division meet in an explosive match-up. Tucker fights for the second time in 2020, just the second time since 2012 he has fought more than once in a year. He is going for his third straight win after getting a submission win over Justin Jaynes in August. Quarantillo is looking to extend his eight-fight win streak after knocking out Kyle Nelson with a massive combo in September.
Quarantillo is an exciting striker with an excellent ground game, as he is a black belt, though he prefers to keep fights going on the feet. Tucker is also a black belt, and he is someone who prefers to fight on the ground, so he will be looking to drag Quarantillo to the mat. Tucker has excellent transitions and is very flashy on the ground, and he prefers to take back control and look for the rear-naked choke. He has yet to face an opponent the level of Quarantillo on the mat. Quarantillo also has great takedown defense and will be able to use his striking to keep the fight on the feet.
These two were supposed to fight in April until the pandemic pushed things back, and despite both fighting other opponents during the year, it seemed like they were on a collision course to fight this year, and this could end up being the explosive fight many are expecting.
Women’s Strawweights: Tecia Torres vs. Sam Hughes
Overall Records: Torres 11-5, Hughes 5-1
UFC Records: Torres 7-5, Hughes UFC Debut
Last Fight: Torres def. Van Buren, UDEC, UFC On ESPN 11 (6/20/20), Hughes def. Hindley, R1 SUB, LFA 93 (10/16/20)
Last Five Fights: Torres 1-4, Hughes 4-1
Rankings: Torres #10
Betting Odds: Torres -450, Hughes +350
Preview: Torres was originally scheduled to have a rematch with Angela Hill on this card, but Hill was forced out of the fight after testing positive for COVID-19. Torres still wanted to fight, so the matchmakers went to work and found Hughes willing to step in on just a few days’ notice to make her UFC debut. Hughes is still a relative rookie in the sport, having less than two years of professional experience. She has just six fights on her record, with wins in five of them. Four of her five wins have come via a finish, with three by submission, all of them coming in the first round.
Torres is a big-time veteran, with this being her 13th official appearance in the Octagon, not counting the time she spent during the strawweight season of TUF. Torres is hardly known as a finisher, as 15 of her 16 professional fights have gone the distance. Her lone finish is a submission win. That kind of experience is what makes Torres one of the better fighters at 115 pounds, despite having recently gone through a four-fight losing skid.
This is going to be a tall task for Hughes on short notice, and this fight should easily favor Torres, who is better on the feet and has an underrated grappling game. I’m not expecting an exciting fight here, but it still should be a good fight.
Early Preliminary Card
Start Time: 7 p.m. ET, 4 p.m. PT
Where To Watch: ESPN+
Heavyweights: Serghei Spivac vs. Jared Vanderaa
Overall Records: Spivac 11-2, Vanderaa 11-4
UFC Records: Spivac 2-2, Vanderaa UFC Debut
Last Fight: Spivac def. Felipe, MDEC, UFC On ESPN+ 30 (7/18/20), Vanderaa def. Hunsucker, R1 TKO, Dana White’s Contender Series 34 (11/4/20)
Last Five Fights: Spivac 3-2, Vanderaa 4-1
Betting Odds: Spivac -225, Vanderaa +185
Preview: A heavyweight slobberknocker is featured on the prelims as Vanderaa makes his UFC debut against veteran Spivac. Vanderaa was seen on the Contender Series just last month, scoring a knockout win over Harry Hunsucker (that’s a real name) with some brutal ground-and-pound. Vanderaa knew he was getting a contract the moment he finished the fight as Dana White was impressed, and he immediately started calling his shot, asking for Spivac for his first UFC bout. Spivac’s attention was captured and he quickly accepted the fight.
Spivac has bounced between wins-and-losses in his four UFC bouts and will be looking for consecutive wins for the first time inside the Octagon. Vanderaa has won five of his last six fights and has improved more as he’s started working with UFC legend Dan Henderson. Vanderaa has scored ten of his eleven wins by stoppage, with seven wins by knockout, with six wins coming inside the first round. Spivac also has scored ten of his eleven wins via a finish, with six wins coming by submission. Vanderaa is likely the better fighter on the feet while Spivac is definitely the better fighter on the ground.
Spivac’s UFC tenure hasn’t been flashy thus far, and Vanderaa is wanting to make a statement right away, and I tend to favor him in this fight. This could be fun, or it could be sloppy, but I’m going with it ending up being fun.
Featherweights: Chase Hooper vs. Peter Barrett
Overall Records: Hooper 9-1-1, Barrett 11-4
UFC Records: Hooper 1-1, Barrett 0-1
Last Fight: Caceres def. Hooper, UDEC, UFC 250 (6/6/20), Zalal def. Barrett, UDEC, UFC On ESPN+ 32 (8/8/20)
Last Five Fights: Hooper 3-1-1, Barrett 3-2
Betting Odds: Hooper -380, Barrett +315
Preview: The opening bout of the show sees 21-year-old Hooper looking to bounce back from his first professional loss when he takes on fellow Contender Series veteran Barrett. Hooper got thrown to the wolves in his last fight, a decision loss to Alex Caceres. Caceres is a well-versed veteran and it ended up being the wrong match-up for Hooper, but also a learning experience as it clearly showed what he needed to work on. He went to train wrestling with Ben Askren, which looks to be his biggest weakness.
Barrett is probably a little more on his level and is a good chance for Hooper to bounce back. Barrett dropped a decision to Youssef Zalal in his UFC debut in August and finds himself in a must-win situation with the looming roster cuts, despite being only in his second UFC bout. His age works against him and he is just 3-4 over his last seven fights, and he’s been finished in three of those four losses. He is probably on the bottom end of featherweights they have on the roster. Hooper has some good striking for his age and is a good submission and ground fighter if he’s able to get the fight down, but he’s not some overwhelming takedown artist.
The sky is still the limit for him while Barrett has likely peaked as a fighter. This feels like a fight for Hooper to bounce back and showcase his potential, and it is a good thing they’re taking a step back with him and allowing him a chance to further develop.