If Brandon Moreno learned anything about himself from last December's thrilling draw against Deiveson Figueiredo, it's that he belongs in the conversation among the top flyweight fighters in the world.
Seven months later, Moreno cemented himself as the very best on Saturday in a dismantling of Figueiredo in their rematch, which served as the co-main event of UFC 263 inside Gila River Arena in Glendale, Arizona. Moreno (19-5-2) became the first Mexican-born champion in the promotion's history.
In a moment deserving of recognition as one of the most feel-good moments in UFC history, an emotional Moreno celebrated the third-round submission victory by looking back at a journey that saw him cut from the UFC just three years ago.
"This moment is so amazing. This f---ing life, man. This f---ing life!" Moreno said. "I feel so amazing!"
Figueiredo (20-2-1), who himself rallied from relative obscurity to become the sport's fighter of the year in 2020, added to the emotional post-fight scene by lifting Moreno up into the air to join his celebration.
"The man that I am, I preach love thy neighbor," Figueiredo said. "The better man today was Brandon Moreno, so congratulations."
Unlike their first meeting, a majority draw that featured an insanely high pace and all action throughout, the rematch was thoroughly dominated by the 27-year-old Moreno.
Figueiredo, who needed the full two hours and was forced to shed his clothes on Friday to make the 125-pound limit, was much more patient in the early going before he was dropped by a stiff jab in the opening round.
Moreno, who closed Round 1 in top position on the ground, got up quickly from a Figueiredo takedown in Round 2 and went on to take his opponent's back as he continued to stockpile momentum.
Figueiredo, 33, ate a short right hand early in Round 3 before Moreno took him down once more. The Arizona crowd nearly exploded as Moreno flirted with a choke attempt from behind after taking Figueiredo's back.
Finally, Moreno was able to secure the choke on his second attempt to force the quick tap. Referee Mike Beltran waived off the fight at 2:26.
"I worked so hard for this," Moreno said. "Watch me now holding this, man. It's unbelievable. I made it a goal to be better every day and watch me now! I'm so f---ing happy! Let's go!"
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