Where Does Moreno vs. Figueiredo Rank Among Biggest UFC Rivalries of the Last Decade?

Scott Harris@@ScottHarrisMMAFeatured Columnist IVAugust 2, 2022

Where Does Moreno vs. Figueiredo Rank Among Biggest UFC Rivalries of the Last Decade?

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    Josh Hedges/Zuffa LLC

    At the top of the UFC flyweight division, there’s Deiveson Figueiredo, Brandon Moreno, about a mile of open air, and the rest of the pack. But it’s so tight at the top, you can barely insert a judges’ scorecard between them.

    Moreno cemented the dynamic last Saturday at UFC 277, when he brought down the high-flying Kai Kara-France to capture the interim flyweight title. The end came in the third round following a brutal body kick that crumpled the New Zealander and ultimately led to a TKO stoppage.

    Lineal champion Figueiredo, who was sitting out with an injury (hence the need, or rather “need,” for the interim belt), entered the cage after the action. Although the relationship between the two has been chippy in the past, there was nothing but respect on Saturday. Both men called for a fourth bout between them, ideally before the year is out and potentially in Figueiredo’s home nation of Brazil.

    Chamatkar Sandhu @SandhuMMA

    Figgy and Moreno face to face in the cage 🤌 <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/UFC277?src=hash&amp;ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#UFC277</a> <a href="https://t.co/pDtaxT9kE6">pic.twitter.com/pDtaxT9kE6</a>

    Acrimony or not, with both fighters being absolute elites at the height of their powers, and with three back-and-forth affairs already under their belts—each man has won once, with the original 2020 contest going to a draw—this is one of the best rivalries the UFC has to offer.

    But it got us to thinking: Where does it rank on the wider scale? Let’s take a look at the best rivalries of the last decade and see where Figueiredo-Moreno stacks up.

5. TJ Dillashaw vs. Cody Garbrandt

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    Joe Scarnici/Getty Images

    In 2015, T.J. Dillashaw, who was then the UFC bantamweight champ, left Team Alpha Male, the camp that incubated him and molded him into an elite. But some of those teammates he left behind—including Cody Garbrandt—felt betrayed by his departure.

    The two men spent what felt like years going back and forth on just about any media platform that would have them. It culminated with the 25th season of The Ultimate Fighter, where the two coached against each other. Garbrandt was particularly vitriolic, just itching to get into the ring with the guy whom he felt had done his team dirty.

    When they finally locked horns at UFC 217 in 2017, Garbrandt was the champ. But Dillashaw was the better fighter that night and went on to recapture the strap via second-round TKO. He then repeated the feat nine months later with another TKO, this time in the opening stanza.

    Injuries, failed drug tests and the ravages of time and trauma have lifted some of the shine from this rivalry. But it was as heated as it could be in its day, and involved two champions duking it out at the highest level.

4. Brandon Moreno vs. Deiveson Figueiredo

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    Moreno vs. Figueiredo has been a can't-miss rivalry because it's gone so back-and-forth. However, it doesn’t contain quite as much heat as some of the best rivalries from this past decade.

    Moreno is the kind of guy whom you can take home and introduce to Mom, while Figuereido has been somewhat quietly but consistently excellent since joining the UFC in 2017 (a 10-2-1 record that includes four performance bonuses). His last six fights were all for a title, which isn't something you see every day, especially since he only held the belt for half of them.

    Still, both men are so skilled and easy to like (especially Moreno, a babyface out of central casting) that it’s hard to pick a winner, much less a side. This rivalry gains steam and attention each time that either man steps into the cage or in front of a mic.

    One of these two is the best male flyweight of his generation, but there’s only one path for either fighter to reach that destination. In both cases, it goes right through the other man.

3. Conor McGregor vs. Dustin Poirier

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    Would this rivalry have this megawatt level of luster if Conor McGregor wasn’t involved? No. But it is, so it does.

    Dustin Poirier had two wins over McGregor last year, but no one believes this grudge has yet been put to bed, especially given the intense and rather nasty (even by MMA standards) war of words between the two that continues to simmer.

    McGregor is still rehabbing from the gruesome leg fracture he suffered at UFC 264. With lightweight champ Charles Oliveira now inked to face Islam Makhachev in October at UFC 280, Nate Diaz slated to face Khamzat Chimaev in September at UFC 279, and Poirier ensconced in a new beef with Michael Chandler, McGregor’s next opponent is now uncertain.

    But even if that person isn’t Poirier right off the bat, it’s likely just a matter of time. McGregor is never on the outside looking in, and Poirier is one of the greatest foils of his foil-heavy career—and vice versa.

2. Kamaru Usman vs. Colby Covington

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    Kamaru Usman is not just the welterweight champ but the ruler of the UFC’s pound-for-pound rankings. Colby Covington, for all his bluster and trolling, is a hell of a good fighter in his own right.

    Although Usman won both their bouts, the first in 2019 and the second last November, each was compelling and competitive. It’s been nearly seven years since Covington lost to a fighter not named Kamaru Usman.

    To top it off, these two really don’t like each other. Covington talks trash in the key of MAGA, which infuriates Usman.

    Check this video (warning: offensive language) for a pretty solid rundown.

    Even as both men drift away from each other, Usman has acknowledged a third scrap is possible.

    As long as Covington continues to be polarizing and Usman continues to dominate the welterweight landscape, it’s not far-fetched to think the UFC might break out the checkbooks for a trilogy bout.

    Even if a third fight never happens, what has already happened to date between the two is more than enough to solidify this rivalry's place on this list.

1. Jon Jones vs. Daniel Cormier

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    Move over, Chuck and Tito. This may very well be the greatest rivalry in the history of the Ultimate Fighting Championship.

    It says a lot about the unparalleled nature of Jon Jones’ talent that he knocked out Daniel Cormier—one of only four fighters to hold two UFC title belts simultaneously—both times that they fought. It says a lot about the damage Jones has inflicted on his own career that both wins come with asterisks.

    A few months after the first win in January 2015, the UFC stripped Jones of the light heavyweight title following a hit-and-run. The second, in July 2017, was flipped to a no-contest after Jones tested positive for a banned substance.

    But take that out of the picture, and there’s still a mountain of drama between these two.

    Cormier, normally as mild-mannered as they come, could not conceal his hatred for Jones, whom he viewed as smug and a cheater. Jones was only too happy to play the troll.

    They brawled at a media event in 2014 to hype their first match

    They exchanged personal insults over hot mics at ESPN.

    The list goes on. But it might be best summed up by the bitter tears Cormier couldn’t stanch following his knockout loss in the rematch.

    Cormier is retired now, so barring something unforeseen, this rivalry is now one for the history books. But it will remain as perhaps the UFC's greatest rivalry ever, involving two of its greatest champions.


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