Although his fourth and final trip to the Octagon of the calendar year didn't end with the same finality as his first three, UFC flyweight champion Deiveson Figueiredo did a tremendous job marking 2020 as his own.
The 32-year-old Figueiredo (20-1-1) was a respected figure among hardcore fans of the 125-pound division entering the year but was far from a household name. Three stoppage wins, an all-action draw against Brandon Moreno last Saturday and Figueiredo becoming the king of all flyweights later, we now have a frontrunner for fighter of the year.
The fact that Figueiredo, a native of Brazil, was even able to hold off Moreno at UFC 256 and be the fresher fighter in the fifth round was an amazing testament to his intangibles. Moreno was twice hospitalized for food poisoning in the final 24 hours before the fight took place and spent all five rounds throwing exhaustive finishing blows.
That has been the key for Figueiredo throughout this eye-opening journey, the fact that at every turn of difficulty -- from issues making weight to Moreno dragging him into the deepest of waters -- the champion has proved able to overcome.
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Figueiredo's quick turnaround of two main event slots atop pay-per-view cards just three weeks apart gave the division every possible chance to prove its worthiness in the aftermath of former champion Henry Cejudo's abrupt retirement. This was a division two years ago that was openly talked about being dissolved, yet now has proven in a short matter of time to be among the sport's most exciting at the highest level.
A big credit for that should go to Figueiredo's swagger and his willingness to play the role of badass as the division's face. But his sustained success wouldn't have been possible if not for his pound-for-pound ranked pedigree, which allowed him to make major moves within the top 10 with each title fight.
In victories over Joseph Benavidez (twice) and Alex Perez, just as he did in the Moreno fight, Figueiredo proved that his ground game is as dangerous as his standup. He also proved his toughness, world-class stamina and a desire to shine when the lights are the brightest.
The flyweight division has a new sheriff and one, if the Moreno fight is an indication, shouldn't expect a gimme fight from here on out. But the P4P rankings seems to have found a new major player just the same.
For CBS Sports' updated divisional rankings,.
Men's pound-for-pound rankings
| 1. Jon Jones||Heavyweight||26-1 (1 NC)||--|
|After vacating his 205-pound title, Jones has been busy in the weight room bulking up for a move to heavyweight, which has the potential to see him remove any argument as to who is MMA's G.O.A.T. It also seems as if Jones' flirtation with facing Israel Adesanya will stay as just that. |
|2. Israel Adesnaya||Middleweight champion||20-0||--|
|UFC president Dana White made the bold proclamation in recent months that Adesanya's next fight would likely be a challenge up north to light heavyweight for Jan Blachowicz's title. Should White change his mind, rematches with Robert Whittaker and Marvin Vettori remain interesting tests at 185 pounds.|
|3. Kamaru Usman||Welterweight champion||17-1|
|Usman was dominant in outworking late-replacement Jorge Masvidal to defend his title at UFC 251, but a scheduled December defense against teammate Gilbert Burns has bene pushed back to 2021 due to injury. Either way, Usman's improved striking has only made his advantages on the ground even stronger. |
|4. Deiveson Figueiredo||Flyweight champion||20-1-1|
|It's not likely that a fighter moves up in the pound-for-pound rankings following a draw, but Figueiredo hasn't had the typical breakout year we have been used to. This force of nature injected much-needed life into the division and proved along each step just how dangerous and well-rounded he can be. |
|5. Stipe Miocic||Heavyweight champion||20-3|
|The 38-year-old Miocic closed out his trilogy with Daniel Cormier at UFC 252 in August by cementing his status as the greatest heavyweight in UFC history. Miocic said he isn't retiring anytime soon, and appears on course for a spring rematch against slugger Francis Ngannou.|
|6. Alexander Volkanovski||Featherweight champion||22-1||--|
|A second win over former champion Max Holloway brought with it a bit of controversy over the disputed split decision. However you scored it, Volkanovski is expected to have his hands full next time out with a re-energized Brian Ortega.|
|7. Dustin Poirier||Lightweight||26-6 (1 NC)||--|
|At 31, Poirier very much remains championship material, which his all-action June win over Dan Hoooker proved. Poirier returns on Jan. 23 in a rematch with Conor McGregor that could see some form of a title at stake should Khabib Nurmagomedov's retirement talk prove real. |
|8. Max Holloway||Featherweight||21-6||--|
|Holloway was forced to settle for a split-decision loss in his title rematch with Volkanovski, which was heavily disputed by critics. The performance showed that at 28, Holloway remains among the best in the world. He returns on Jan. 16 against rising contender Calvin Kattar. |
|9. Justin Gaethje||Lightweight||22-3||--|
|Gaethje appeared close to chopping down the left leg of Nurmagomedov until the departing lightweight champion mounted and submitted him. But with the title expected to become vacant, there's no reason "The Highlight" can't work himself back to the top over the next year. |
|10. Petr Yan||Bantamweight champion||15-1||--|
Although his expected December return against Aljamain Sterling was delayed until next year, Yan very much looked like the real deal in 2020 by claiming the vacant title at 135 pounds. Equal parts power and precision, the 27-year-old will get plenty of chances to improve his ranking on this list in such a loaded division.
Dropped out: None
Just missed: Jan Blachowicz, Robert Whittaker, Gilbert Burns, Charles Oliveira, Brian Ortega, Aljamain Sterling, Conor McGregor
Women's pound-for-pound rankings
|1. Amanda Nunes||Bantamweight/Featherweight champion||20-4||--|
A dominant featherweight title defense over Felicia Spencer in June has only widened the gap between Nunes and every other female fighter at or near her weight divisions. Although Nunes' expected return in December at 145 pounds against Megan Anderson was delayed, Dana White has recently been open to the idea of a trilogy bout against Valentina Shevchenko.
|2. Valentina Shevchenko||Flyweight champion||20-3||--|
|Fresh off of MCL surgery, Shevchenko displayed her well-rounded attack in a wide decision win over a game Jennifer Maia at UFC 255. Although her preference is a trilogy back up at 135 pounds against Amanda Nunes, future title defenses at flyweight against Jessica Andrade and Lauren Murphy offer a decent amount of intrigue considering the division's lack of depth. |
|3. Weili Zhang||Strawweight champion||21-1||--|
|Zhang's ascent to stardom after becoming China's first UFC champion only continued in her first title defense at UFC 248. She co-authored quite possibly the best fight in women's MMA history against Joanna Jedrzejczyk while answering any remaining questions about her skills, toughness and cardio. Following a long layoff to finish out the year, look for big things in 2021.|
|4. Rose Namajunas||Strawweight||9-4||--|
|The former 115-pound champion made an emphatic return from a long layoff to end talk of retirement by avenging her title loss to Jessica Andrade. "Thug" Rose was forced to walk through hell to do so in a near disastrous final round that left her swollen and bloody. An inevitable showdown with Weili Zhang for the belt could be the best fight to make in women's MMA.|
|5. Joanna Jedrzejczyk||Strawweight||16-4||--|
|The former champion proved she's still got a ton left in the tank by pushing Weili Zhang to the limit in a split-decision loss. Jedrzejczyk's return, however, remains uncertain as the 33-year-old said a 2021 appearance would only come once fans are allowed to pack arenas once again. |
Dropped out: None
Just missed: Jessica Andrade, Germaine de Randamie, Holly Holm, Aspen Ladd, Yan Xiaonan