Newly crowned UFC flyweight champion Deiveson Figueiredo made his first title defence in impressive fashion in the main event of UFC 255.
The 32-year-old, who captured the vacant title with victory over long-time contender Joseph Benavidez in July, needed fewer than two minutes to submit American Alex Perez in the headline bout at the UFC Apex in Las Vegas.
Figueiredo and Perez both started quickly as the pair traded powerful strikes early on before the American attempted to take the fight to the canvas.
The challenger successfully landed a takedown on the champion but, as the pair scrambled for position on the mat, Figueiredo locked up a tight guillotine choke off his back and forced the Dana White’s Contender Series graduate to tap after just 1:57 of the opening round.
The Brazilian’s victory extended his winning run to five, with his past four victories all coming inside the distance, as he cemented his status at the top of the men’s 125lb division.
Shevchenko made to work in latest title defence
In the night’s other main event, reigning UFC women’s flyweight champion Valentina Shevchenko continued her dominance of the women’s 125lb weight class with a hard-fought but unanimous decision win over Brazilian challenger Jennifer Maia.
Returning from knee surgery, 32-year-old Shevchenko went into the fight a colossal 1-20 betting favourite, with one Las Vegas punter staking $12,000 (£9,000) to win just $600 (£451) from a Shevchenko victory.
But the Kyrgyzstani fighter was made to work much harder than many expected as she battled with Maia in a gritty, grapple-heavy contest that went all the way to the judges.
Despite weathering a tricky second round on the mat, Shevchenko ran out a comfortable winner on the scorecards, earning scores of 49-46 on all three to complete a remarkable week for her family.
Earlier in the night, her older sister Antonina picked up a second-round TKO victory over Brazil’s Ariane Lipski while, earlier in the week, her mother Elena earned a Muay Thai ‘shadowboxing’ world title after performing a demonstration of her techniques in a virtually hosted competition.
Shevchenko’s 20th career victory extended her winning run to six as she registered her fourth straight title defence.
Buckley claims another big KO
There was another big win for American middleweight powerhouse Joaquin Buckley, who handed fellow rising prospect Jordan Wright the first defeat of his career with another eye-catching knockout in their preliminary card bout.
Buckley claimed a spectacular spinning back-kick finish of Impa Kasanganay on 11 October in Abu Dhabi, with many observers claiming it was the leading contender for knockout of the year.
On Saturday, the 26-year-old from St Louis added another powerful stoppage win to his record with a second-round knockout of Wright to claim his second straight victory in the UFC and extend his overall record to 12-3 with another impressive stoppage.
Scotland’s Craig defeats a legend
UFC 255 also saw success for Scottish light heavyweight Paul Craig, who prevailed in his rematch against former UFC champion Mauricio ‘Shogun’ Rua.
Craig stepped in at short notice and fought Rua to a split draw back in Sao Paulo in November 2019.
But, after taking a full training camp to prepare for the rematch, the 32-year-old left no doubt this time as he dominated the action before claiming a second-round TKO finish of the 38-year-old Brazilian legend.
It was his 14th career victory and extended his 100% finishing rate in the process.
Craig afterwards set his sights on the UFC’s very best. “It’s taken me four years to get to the top 15,” he said.
“Now I’ve set the goal of getting that title. That’s what I want. By the end of 2021, I would love to be fighting for that title.”