A pair of world titles will be at stake atop the marquee of Saturday's UFC 255 card from the Apex facility in Las Vegas.
Although this is anything put a deep pay-per-view card, there are still plenty of interesting storylines in play to take notice of as Deiveson Figueiredo defends his flyweight title in the main event against Alex Perez and Valentina Shevchenko faces Jennifer Maia in a co-main slot for the women's flyweight crown.
Let's take a closer look at what to watch for entering this weekend.
1. A new era for the men's 125-pound division?
A complete fighter with devastating power, Figueiredo used 2020 as his breakout year in the aftermath of Henry Cejudo vacating his flyweight title. The 32-year-old native of Brazil twice finished division stalwart Joseph Benavidez (after missing weight the first time) to claim the vacant title. In a division that has only known two world champions in its seven-year history, from the legendary (yet under appreciated) Demetrious Johnson to the clout-chasing Cejudo, Figueiredo has a chance to bring some stability with a win over Perez, who was a late replacement for the injured Cody Garbrandt. With a nickname that translates to the "God of War," Figueiredo also might have the skills to accomplish it having gone 8-1 since signing with UFC in 2017 with six stoppage wins. Perez, however, has been just as hot by improving to 7-1 since his UFC debut with a stoppage win over Jussier Formiga in June. A victory could lift the 3-1 favorite Figueiredo into a strong case for fighter of the year in 2020 while firmly attaching himself as the face of the division.
2. The Fighting Shevchenko Sisters are back
This will be the first time in 15 years that both Valentina and Antonina fight on the same card. Admittedly, that's a pretty lame tag line for the importance of 125-pound champion Valentina Shevchenko's next title defense. That's what happens when you're on a dominant run in a largely shallow division and can enter as a -1400 favorite against the next challenger in line. Brazil's Jennifer Maia will get the call this time as a +800 underdog fresh off a surprisingly dominant win over Joanne Calderwood in August. The good news for Shevchenko's hunger for competition is that the women's flyweight division is in the midst of a small (but needed) influx of possible contenders led by former strawweight champion Jessica Andrade and top contenders Cynthia Calvillo and Lauren Murphy. The bad news is that they aren't fighting this time. So why not celebrate this footnote for the Shevchenko family as Valentina competes on the same MMA card as older sister Antonina (who takes on Ariane Lipski) for the first time since the siblings fought at the 2005 WXF: X-Impact World Championships in Seoul, South Korea.
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3. The Mike Perry reality tour makes a stop in Vegas
Let's face it, if the unpredictable UFC welterweight known as "Platinum" is fighting, regardless of opponent, it's must-see TV. I don't make the rules; that's just the way it is. Whether he's scoring knockouts inside the cage or making headlines for doing so against elderly men outside of restaurants, Perry is the kind of personality you can't stop watching. His thorough victory over Mickey Gall in June saw Perry snap a streak of three defeats in four fights. It also saw him eschew normal fighter behavior by employing his girlfriend, Latory Gonzalez, as his lone cornerman. Gonzalez is currently pregnant with Perry's first child, which only adds to the bizarre quality of his return against Tim Means, who replaces the injured Robbie Lawler, should she continue as his coach.
4. For better or worse, "Shogun" isn't slowing down
It has been nine years since Mauricio "Shogun" Rua last wore the UFC's light heavyweight title and not a year has gone by since where it didn't feel as if we were watching the final days of one of MMA's historic action heroes. Yet, somehow, Rua is still just 38. Even more unbelievable, he's somehow 5-1-1 since 2015. Despite regularly accruing a savage level of damage in most of his fights, Rua just keeps plugging along. This weekend's rematch against submission specialist Paul Craig, whom he fought to a split draw in 2019, marks the 40th fight in his surefire Hall-of-Fame career. Rua will most likely get touched up as usual but it's not out of the question that he wins as oddsmakers have "Shogun" as just a slight underdog. That old man river, he just keeps rolling along.
5. All the pressure is on Joaquin Buckley to do the spectacular … again
Known as nothing more than a journeyman middleweight for Bellator, LFA and UFC in recent years, the 26-year-old Buckley became somewhat of an overnight sensation in October when his spinning back kick knockout of Impa Kasanganay went viral and produced multiple celebrity reactions. After a slew of media attention, Buckley will make a short turnaround for his next fight as he looks to make it two wins in a row when he faces Jordan Wright. Although it will be extremely difficult for Buckley to produce another highlight-reel finish while a group of new eyes focus themselves upon him for the hope that he do just that, adding another victory to his career mark of 11-3 is of the utmost importance.