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One of the most intriguing flyweight matchups on the radar will play out this Saturday night in Lincoln, Nebraska on the main card of UFC Fight Night 135. Perennial top 10 contender and former NCAA Division I All-American wrestler John Moraga will look to turn his three fight winning streak into four. His opponent will be one of the most anticipated flyweight prospects we have ever seen in Deiveson Figueiredo. The undefeated Brazilian has broken into the rankings after three victories including two finishes to start his UFC career. He is a dynamic finisher with endless ways to stop a fight. This is certainly one of the can't miss fights featured on Saturday's card.
John Moroga looks to stop another star from rising
This is not the first time the UFC has put a very highly though of prospect in front of John Moraga (18-6). Last October, Moraga was scheduled to face another 14-0 prospect, Magomed Bibulatov. That fight ended in less than two minutes when Moraga hit the Russian with a big right hand then followed it up with a huge left hook to knock Bibulatov out cold.
He followed up that brilliant performance with a close three round decision win over former title contender, Wilson Reis. Reis was able to take Moraga down on eight occasions but many of those came from failed guillotine attempts by Moraga. Moraga proved that he could hold his own on the ground, escaping the takedowns and even reversing position and doing damage from the top. In this fight, Moraga was by far the better striker, landing everything from his power right to low leg kicks and flying knees. To give himself a chance against Figueiredo, John Moraga will need to mix up his striking and catch him with some power.
Moraga's opponent on Saturday is a very well-rounded fighter but he will have the best chance if he keeps it on the feet or gains a dominant top position. John Moraga is one of those strikers that can end a fight in the blink of an eye and can throw anything from punches to kicks and knees. As a taller and longer flyweight, he is used to having a reach advantage. That will not be the case on Saturday night so John Moraga will need to find a way to land that power right hand over the top without remaining in Figueiredo's striking range.
Figueiredo gets his chance to verify the hype
One of the most exciting prospects that we have ever seen in the flyweight division, Deiveson Figueiredo (14-0), will get the chance to jump all the way into the top five in the rankings at the expense of John Moraga. The 30-year-old Brazilian has ended seven of his 14 fights by knockout and another five by submission for an unbelievably high finishing rate for a flyweight. As a UFC fighter, he is 3-0 with two knockouts and a split decision win over Jarred Brooks. That split decision was very close with the media scorecards just as split as the judges. Brooks was the superior wrestler in that fight but due to Figueiredo's jiu-jitsu, he will be able to hold his own and even attack from guard if the fight hits the mat.
Most recently, we saw Figueiredo prove his ability on the ground by wearing down Joseph Morales with some brutal ground and pound for the majority of two rounds. He was able to keep top position and avoid upkicks while doing damage with punches and elbows without putting himself in too much danger. The fight was stopped when it went back to the feet and Figueiredo dropped Morales with a left hook and finished him. This fight is a true expression of how complete this Brazilian's game really is. No matter where Morales let the fight go, he was never safe.
The danger of Figueiredo is that no matter where the fight goes, his opponent is not safe. He is a Brazilian Jiu-jitsu Northeast Brazil champion but also has outstanding striking with knockout power. Figueiredo will likely be content to strike with Moraga but if he does not like what he sees, he will try to settle into some ground and pound. Despite how good his grappling is, Figueiredo should not be content to play guard against a high-level All-American wrestler like Moraga. Ending up under the slightly larger John Moraga is the worst thing that could happen to the Brazilian in this fight.
John Moraga usually loves to stand and let his hands fly but it will be interesting to see if he can get the better of the striking against such a great boxer and Muay Thai practitioner like Figueiredo. If Moraga does not feel comfortable laying in the guard of such a solid grappler, he needs to be patient enough to wait and find a home for that bomb of a right hand over the top.
Deiveson Figueiredo is so good in every area of MMA. We saw him get out-wrestled once but he proved that he can perform on the ground in his very next performance. As long as Figueiredo does nit rush a finish and run into one of Moraga's punches, he should have the advantage in this one. He is such a dangerous striker and will make his opponent pay for even the slightest hole in his game.
Pick: Deiveson Figueiredo -155
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