GLENDALE, Arizona -- Brandon Moreno wasn't even supposed to be competitive with Deiveson Figueiredo the first time they fought in December. And after showing he could be competitive in a majority draw, he still wasn't supposed to win their rematch Saturday.
No one will count out Brandon Moreno anymore.
Moreno (19-5-2) upset Figueiredo (20-2-1) in dominant fashion at UFC 263 inside Gila River Arena, submitting him via rear-naked choke at 2:26 of the third round. Known as one of the most dangerous finishers in MMA, Figueiredo looked lost against Moreno, who was actually cut by UFC less than three years ago.
In winning, Moreno became the first Mexican-born champion in UFC history.
"I can't even believe it," he said. "This is a real dream come true. I worked so hard for this belt. I have 10 years as a professional, 15 years training every single day. ... This moment is so special. Not just for me, but for all my people, for my country, for my family, for my team ... for everybody."
Moreno, of Tijuana, looked on point from the moment the fight started. He calmly walked Figueiredo down with the jab and countered effectively when Figueiredo chose to throw his big shots. He dropped Figueiredo with a left hand in the opening round and had him badly hurt, but the Brazilian survived and made it to the next frame.
Figueiredo, 33, looked to switch things up and wrestle with Moreno in the second and third rounds, but Moreno was more than prepared. He countered with effective grappling and simply showed more hustle in certain moments. He won the majority of the scrambles and escaped any poor positions Figueiredo managed to get him in.
According to UFC Stats, Moreno out-landed Figueiredo in total strikes 47-24. He also scored two takedowns to Figueiredo's one and racked up 4:49 of control time compared with 1:30 for Figueiredo.
"I have so much respect for Deiveson," Moreno said. "Obviously, he tried to make it something special, to put more eyes in the fight, pushed me in the press conference, but actually, when he pushed me, I knew I won the fight. I won the fight there. My confidence was very high and he looked different. He didn't want to look me in the eyes, he put his sunglasses on, he just looked different."
It's an amazing story of perseverance for Moreno, who was cut by the promotion in 2018 when the flyweight division as a whole was in jeopardy. Just last year, Moreno was skipped in line for a title shot by former bantamweight champion Cody Garbrandt, although Garbrandt was eventually pulled from that contest. He is 3-0-2 in his past five fights as a betting underdog.
Just 27, Moreno is still entering the prime of his career. For Figueiredo, it's the first time he has been finished in his pro career and his first loss overall since 2019.
"I'm enjoying this moment because you never know what happens tomorrow, you never know what happens next month," Moreno said.