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UFC 255 betting preview: Perez to shock Figueiredo in the main event, but Maia has no chance against Shevchenko

November 19, 2020January 7th, 2022

THE odds may well be stacked in favour of the champions when the two leading flyweight fighters on the planet return to headline UFC 255 this weekend, but don’t be surprised if we get an unlikely ‘Upset of the Year’ contender.

Deiveson Figueiredo makes his first defence of the men’s 125lb title against opportunist contender Alex Perez, whilst hapless Jennifer Maia challenges female monarch Valentina Shevchenko inside the lockdown Octagon in Las Vegas.

Perez steps up at one month’s notice, promoted from the undercard where he was original booked to meet Brandon Moreno in a title eliminator. Cody Garbrandt’s injury left Figueiredo without a dance partner and the 28-year-old Mexican-American jumped at the opportunity.

Growing up in a family of college wrestlers, Perez became an All-American in College but has trained in MMA since High School. A busy fighter, the 28-year-old landed in the UFC with an 18-4 record, capped by a first-round submission win on Dana White’s Contender Series.

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His 6-1 run inside the Octagon does include a first round TKO defeat to former top contender Joe Benavidez, but Perez is an athlete improving with every fight. A grappling savant, his stand-up game is rapidly evolving, best displayed in his last performance where he kicked the legs from under Jussier Formiga inside the same Apex Octagon during the summer. 

Whether he’s developed enough to go toe-to-toe with Figueiredo is another matter, however. The Brazilian looked awesome running through Benavidez twice this year to become the 125lb champ. A real-life cowboy from rural Northern Brazil, the 32-year-old has got heavy hands and a heavy grappling game of his own.

With former champion Henry Cejudo currently in quasi-retirement, Figueiredo looks to have the qualities of a champion on the cusp of a long reign. But there is no quit in Perez and if he can keep his chin out of danger, he’s got much more experience than the champion and has won over five rounds too.

The task of ending Shevchenko’s reign is far greater for Maia, however. The Las Vegas-based Kyrgyzstani champion is the most technical female fighter in the world. A career martial artist that’s lived and trained all over the planet, she’s spilled blood on every type of cage, ring and mat you can imagine.

In MMA, 13 of her 19 victories were by either knockout of submission, making Shevchenko something of an anomaly in women’s fight sports: she’s a natural born finisher. Shevchenko is 7/10 to win by KO, TKO, and DQ, 5/1 to win to win by submission, and 1/2 to win by KO, TKO, DQ or submission. And her three career defeats all come outside of her natural weight class, two on points against current bantam and featherweight double-champ Amanda Nunes.

Maia is here on merit. The Brazilian didn’t stand on ceremony when snatching the arm of Scotland’s Jojo Calderwood for a first-round submission back in August, extending her pro record to 18-6. Maia is 16/1 to win by submission. But her UFC run of 3-2 amplifies the gulf in class between the champion and the best available challengers.

Shevchenko won’t wait around. Despite being scheduled for five rounds, this match-up doesn’t go past the second, with the referee pulling Valentina off a bloodied and battered Maia for an early TKO. Shevchenko is 9/4 to win in Round 1, and 4/1 in Round 2.

Add value to your bet with a double though. Safe money goes with Figueiredo and his heavy hands landing for a similar quickfire TKO. Figueiredo is 3/4 to win by KO, TKO, or DQ. But I like Perez’s odds and can see him being busy enough to tough it out early on to snatch a gruelling decision on the scorecards (7/1).
 

Latest bout odds: Shevchenko (1/16) vs Maia (15/2), Figueiredo (33/100) vs Perez (12/5)
Tips: Shevchenko to win in Round 1 (9/4), Perez to win by submission (7/1). The double is 25/1
 

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