Alexandre Pantoja Outworks Brandon Royval to Retain UFC Flyweight Championship

It’s a successful defense for Alexandre Pantoja.

The 33-year-old Brazilian professional mixed martial artist secured the first defense of his flyweight championship on Saturday, outworking Brandon Royval in a clear decision victory in the co-main event at UFC 296 inside Las Vegas’ T-Mobile Arena.

Alexandre Pantoja

Pantoja (27-5) looked gassed midway through the five-round affair, but still managed to dominate Royval (15-7) on the ground en route to unanimous judges scores of 50-45, 50-45 and 49-46.

For Pantoja, it was his second victory over Royval.

The two met as rising contenders in August 2021, with Pantoja winning by submission.

“The fight was maybe boring. I don’t like to do that [kind of fight],” said Pantoja, who racked up nearly 16 minutes of top control, according to UFC Stats. “I needed to keep this belt for my family and Brazil. Brazil needs some [role models] right now. It’s a very hard place right now.”

Royval looked fresh at the end of the five rounds, but he simply had no answer for Pantoja’s grappling. Royval did well landing his jab and obviously commanded Pantoja’s respect on the feet, but he surrendered eight total takedowns — even in later rounds, when it was clear Pantoja was struggling with the pace.

“I felt a little dizzy during this fight,” Pantoja said. “This guy keeps a level that doesn’t stop any time, five rounds. I love that kid. He grew up [since the first fight]. I knew he was coming here to take the belt and I stayed here to defend.”

In addition to just getting Royval to the canvas, Pantoja was also effective at scoring offense and threatening submissions once he had him there. He passed Royval’s guard on several occasions and very nearly tapped him with a rear-naked choke in the fourth round.

Pantoja had his moments on the feet as well. He clipped Royval with a right hand in the second round that left him visibly shaken, and his kicks to the body were a good weapon, particularly earlier in the fight. Royval seized momentum in the fifth with a steady jab, but Pantoja eventually took him down to squash out the threat.

Pantoja has established himself as the clear No. 1 flyweight in the world. In addition to defeating Royval twice, he has defeated former flyweight champion Brandon Moreno three times, including an exhibition fight on The Ultimate Fighter reality series.

Brandon Moreno to Fight Amir Albazi in UFC Fight Night in Mexico City Next February

Brandon Moreno is preparing for a battle south of the border…

The 30-year-old Mexican mixed martial artist and former UFC flyweight champion will fight Amir Albazi in a flyweight contender bout on February 24 in Mexico City, Moreno has confirmed.

Brandon MorenoThe five-round bout will serve as the co-main event on the UFC Fight Night card, which will be the promotion’s first trip to Mexico since 2019.

ESPN has Moreno ranked No. 2 in the world at flyweight and Albazi at No. 4.

Moreno (21-7-2) is a former two-time UFC flyweight champion and the first-ever Mexican-born UFC champ. The Tijuana native dropped the title in a close split decision to Alexandre Pantoja at UFC 290 in July. Moreno was on a two-fight winning streak before the loss to Pantoja.

Moreno will also act as the official backup for the UFC 296 co-main event on December 16 in Las Vegas, according to ESPN, confirming news first reported by Eurosport Netherland.

Pantoja will defend the UFC flyweight title against Brandon Royval, and if either competitor is forced to withdraw, then Moreno will step in and compete.

Albazi (17-1) has won six in a row, most recently a split decision win over Kai Kara-France in June. The Iraq native is a perfect 5-0 in the UFC. Albazi, 30, previously won titles in Ultimate Challenge MMA and FightStar Championship.

Moreno has not fought in his home country since becoming the first Mexican-born UFC champion in 2021.

“I want to go there and win and celebrate with my people and [wave] the Mexican flag,” Moreno told ESPN. “It’s something special for me. I’m Mexican. At the end of the day, I’m working for that. I want to give more opportunities to the Mexican fighters.”

Alexandre Pantoja Defeats Brandon Moreno via Split Decision to Claim UFC Flyweight Belt

Alexandre Pantoja is officially a titleholder…

After five hard-fought rounds, the 33-year-old Brazilian professional mixed martial artist (26-5) claimed Brandon Moreno‘s 125-pound championship, as he narrowly edged the defending champion via split decision in the co-main event of UFC 290 inside T-Mobile Arena.

Alexandre PantojaTwo of the judges scored the title fight 48-47 for Pantoja, while a third had it 49-46 in Moreno’s favor.

UFC president Dana White said afterward that Moreno suffered a broken hand in the first round.

Saturday’s bout officially marked Pantoja’s second win over Moreno (21-7-2), although it’s really his third.

Pantoja submitted Moreno in a bout on The Ultimate Fighter reality show in 2016, but that result didn’t count toward their professional records as it took place as part of the show. They fought again in 2018, with Pantoja claiming a unanimous decision.

Saturday’s contest was the closest and most skilled to date.

“Moreno evolved so much,” Pantoja said. “I don’t expect a tough guy like that tonight, but I worked so hard for this. The last two years, I worked so hard, bringing my family to the U.S. [from Brazil] and my camp to American Top Team. … Guys, if you know my story, you’re gonna love me. I’ve worked so hard for that.”

The final numbers of the fight reflected just how close it was. According to UFC Stats, Moreno slightly outlanded Pantoja 167-161 in total strikes. Pantoja did better work on the ground, however. He took Moreno’s back multiple times and racked up more than eight minutes of control time. Moreno proved to be very tricky to hold down, but Pantoja maintained slightly dominant positions in crucial moments, which might have proved key on the scorecards.

Pantoja also dropped Moreno in the opening round with a nasty left hook. Moreno, 29, recovered quickly and never appeared close to going out, but Pantoja hurt him again with another left hook later in the round. Moreno roared back in the second round behind arguably one of the best jabs in MMA. He doubled and tripled up the jab on Pantoja, occasionally ripping in left hooks to the body and head.

Moreno’s shots bloodied Pantoja’s forehead and nose by the third round, but Pantoja’s takedowns, work in the clinch and body shots of his own all made for strong answers to Moreno’s offense. The pace of the fight finally slowed a little in the fourth and fifth rounds when Pantoja worked his way into threatening grappling positions and Moreno was forced into a bit of caution.

The victory snaps a two-fight streak in title fights for Moreno, who is from Tijuana, Mexico.

Earlier this year, he closed out a very rare four-fight rivalry against another Brazilian in Deiveson Figueiredo. Moreno unified the flyweight belt by finishing Figueiredo in the third round of their final meeting in January, but now surrenders the belt in his first attempted defense.