BELEM, Brazil — Demetrious Johnson has dominated the flyweight division for many, many years, but one unbeaten Brazilian believes he’s the man to topple “Mighty Mouse” from his UFC throne.
Deiveson Figueiredo is 13-0 as a mixed martial artist, including a pair of wins inside the Octagon in 2017. Now “Deus da Guerra” — whose nickname translates to “God of War” in Portuguese — is slated to meet Joseph Morales in Figueiredo’s home state at Saturday’s UFC Belem, and he hopes that another victory over a fellow undefeated talent will boost him up the 125-pound rankings.
”This fight will give me a big push in the division,” Figueiredo told MMA Fighting. “I’ll get to a title shot quicker fighting undefeated fighters. I believe that I’ll fight a top-five (flyweight) next after this win.”
Johnson has successfully defended his UFC title a record 11 times, and a potential superfight against bantamweight champion T.J. Dillashaw rests on the horizon. But no matter what happens next for the flyweight king, Figueiredo is confident that he will become a title contender in 2018.
”I will definitely earn a title shot this year,” Figueiredo said. “No doubt about it.”
Many flyweights have tried to solve the puzzle that “Mighty Mouse” represents, but every one has failed in a different way. Figueiredo, who has finished 10 of his 13 opponents so far in the sport, believes that he knows the secret.
”Whenever they put me against Demetrious Johnson, he will find out that he’s fighting someone who’s not afraid of him,” Figueiredo said. “His opponents were scared before they even entered the cage. I will go there to f*ck him up and knock him out.
”Stop his takedowns and counter. When my hand lands, he’s not made of steel. I know he’s not unbeatable, and I’m sure he can sleep.”
Figueiredo was able to stop his first UFC opponent, defeating Marco Antonio Beltran via TKO at UFC 212, but his second bout was much closer. In fact, the Brazilian admitted afterwards that he thought he would lose a decision to Jarred Brooks when the third round was over at UFC Sao Paulo, however two of the three judges ultimately scored it in Figueiredo’s favor.
”I learned that I have to get back up if I’m taken down,” Figueiredo said of the lessons gleaned at UFC Sao Paulo in October. “He will try to take me down and I have a good guillotine. If I don’t catch him with my guillotine, I’ll get back up. I won’t insist on the guillotine anymore, I will stay on my feet more.”
Set up to compete in front of his family and friends for the first time since joining the UFC, Figueiredo expects a warmer reception on Saturday compared to his previous fights in Brazil. While Figueiredo considers both Rio de Janeiro and Sao Paulo “home,” Belem is truly where his heart is. And Morales, a 9-0 prospect out of Team Alpha Male, is a worthy foe for Figueiredo’s homecoming.
”I will enter the cage to put on another show for them. It will be special,” Figueiredo said. “It will be awesome, man. That adrenaline that gets you tired won’t get to me because I will be so excited to give them a fight. I want to finish this fight, put on an exciting contest.”
“Deus da Guerra” promises an exciting contest, and he doesn’t see it lasting 15 minutes. Figueiredo admits that he had no idea who Morales was when first offered the fight, but now Figueiredo is aware of what Morales can do in the cage.
”He has a good jiu-jitsu, so I expect him to try to take me down, but if he does, I’ll get back up right away,” he said. “If he makes a mistake, I’ll catch him. I train for finishes. If we’re standing, I’ll go for the knockout all the time. I worked my hands in this camp and they are sharp. That’s how I see this fight ending.”