The Flyweights delivered once again at UFC 290, which took place tonight (Sat., July 8, 2023) inside T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada, with Brandon Moreno and Alexandre Pantoja engaging in a brutal back-and-forth war for an action-packed 25 minutes. It was world-class competition ... but once again, we didn’t get world-class judging to go along with it.
First, the decision: Pantoja was awarded a split decision win with two judges giving him the fight 48-47 and another giving Brandon Moreno the fight 49-46.
Let’s say this first before continuing: Moreno vs. Pantoja is not an easy fight to score. The two men fought at such a pace and there was so much going on that it was almost a given that there’d be some controversy. But, there’s limits to how much leeway we’re willing to give a judge, and Ben Cartlidge exceeded them with his very questionable 49-46 card in Moreno’s favor.
Here’s UFC 290’s co-main event scorecard in full:
All three judges agreed that Pantoja took the first round, while Moreno took the second. According to Cartlidge, Moreno won all the rounds after round one, while Derek Cleary and Junichiro Kamijo had the rounds going back-and-forth between fighters: Pantoja took rounds three and five on their cards, while Moreno took round four.
While we can complain about some of the specifics of the judging, it’s hard to argue that the wrong guy won. Moreno looked like he was poised to run away with the fight after the second round, but Pantoja rallied and turned it into a dogfight on the ground. Moreno was never able to establish himself enough on the feet, with Pantoja constantly threatening from both areas. While “The Assassin Baby” scrambled well and escaped impressively, he was still forced onto defense during the grappling exchanges.
But, isn’t it damage above all else? Didn’t Moreno bloody Pantoja with strikes, and continue to bloody him throughout the fight?
Pantoja supporters will point to some pretty effective elbow and upkick work from the new Flyweight kingpin. Even at 3-0 against Moreno, we have a feeling this won’t be the last time these two guys fight each other.
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