Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) Flyweight rivals Brandon Moreno and Alexandre Pantoja will collide this weekend (Sat., July 8, 2023) at UFC 290 inside T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada.
It may have taken four fights, but Moreno eventually proved himself the better man to former division kingpin, Deiveson Figueiredo. He’s built up a pretty tremendous resume over the years, but Pantoja remains the missing link. If we consider their first bout on The Ultimate Fighter (TUF), Pantoja has a 2-0 lead over the Mexican champion. That history alone wasn’t what earned the Brazilian this title shot, however, as he’s won three straight fights over top-notch competition.
The Flyweight title picture has been craving a new match up ... and this is a great one. Let’s take a closer look at the keys to victory for each man:
Key Wins: Deiveson Figueiredo (UFC 283, UFC 263), Kai Kara-France (UFC 277), Jussier Formiga (UFC Fight Night 170), Dustin Ortiz (UFC Fight Night 108), Brandon Royval (UFC 255), Kai Kara-France (UFC 245)
Key Losses: Deiveson Figueiredo (UFC 270), Sergio Pettis (UFC Fight Night 114), Alexandre Pantoja (UFC Fight Night 129)
Keys to Victory: Moreno has always been a really good grounder player with excellent scrambling, but it’s his boxing development that has really allowed him to turn a corner and become champion. He’s got the best jab at 125 pounds, and Moreno’s conditioning and grit are also world-class.
In the first two fights, Pantoja was able to bully Moreno. This was because of several factors, like the Brazilian’s naturally aggressive striking, his physicality, jiu-jitsu prowess, and the relative level of experience of both men. It’s been five years since the most recent fight, and a lot has changed. Moreno is no longer uncomfortable in a firefight ... nor is he a 24-year-old still developing muscle. He should be able to hold his ground far more effectively, which will really change the dynamic.
In particular, Moreno’s new and improved jab can drastically affect Pantoja’s ability to push forward. If he’s jamming Pantoja’s nose down his throat every time the Brazilian tries to step forward, it will majorly impede his forward progress. Once that happens, Moreno can start to advance himself and really make Pantoja uncomfortable.
Key Wins: Brandon Moreno (UFC Fight Night 129), Brandon Royval (UFC Vegas 34), Manel Kape (UFC Vegas 18), Alex Perez (UFC 277), Matt Schnell (UFC Fight Night 165)
Key Losses: Askar Askarov (UFC Fight Island 2), Deiveson Figueiredo (UFC 240), Dustin Ortiz (UFC 220)
Keys to Victory: Pantoja is an all offense athlete. He’s got absolutely elite jiu-jitsu that ensures he’s always a finishing threat on the canvas, but he’s an underrated brawler with powerful kicks on the feet.
Pantoja’s technical kickboxing game impressed against Manel Kape, who admittedly made it easier for Pantoja by maintaining a low level of activity. Even considering that improvement, I don’t know that Pantoja wins a kickboxing match against Moreno.
His odds in a scrap are much better. He’s got the power to hurt Moreno, as well as the durability to take some shots as needed. Better yet, Pantoja’s best chance of landing takedowns is hiding his attempts amidst the chaos. If he can crack Moreno a couple times and drag him to the ground, it should help hurt his confidence in exchanges and build Pantoja’s momentum.
The Flyweight title picture is finally moving forward.
Moreno has quietly already beaten three members of the Flyweight Top 5. Turning away Pantoja would be the fourth, with only Amir Albazi remaining. Hopefully, if Moreno can continue performing at such a high-level opposite someone other than Figueiredo, he’ll start to really get respect as a top-notch champion with elite skills.
Meanwhile, Pantoja has been circling a title shot for a long time now. He’s been a highly ranked Flyweight since joining the roster, and though he’s not a flawless fighter, he’s great at what he does and has been performing at a really high level. At 33, it’s now-or-never for the Brazilian, who couldn’t have picked a more appropriate foe for his first title shot.
At UFC 290, Brandon Moreno and Alexandre Pantoja will face off for the third time with a title on the line. Who leaves the cage strapped with gold?
Remember that MMAmania.com will deliver LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the entire UFC 290 fight card right here, starting with the early ESPN+ “Prelims” matches online, which are scheduled to begin at 6 p.m. ET, then the remaining undercard on ESPN/ESPN+/ABC at 8 p.m. ET, before the PPV main card start time at 10 p.m. ET on ESPN+ PPV.
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