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.
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.