UFC 296 Recap: Alexandre Pantoja retains his title against Brandon Royval

MMA: UFC 290 - Moreno vs Pantoja
Credit: Stephen R. Sylvanie-USA TODAY Sports

In the co-main event of UFC 296, the flyweight title was on the line. Champion Alexandre Pantoja (26-5) was making the first defense of his flyweight title in a rematch as he took on “Raw Dog” Brandon Royval (15-6).

These two first fought back in 2021 with Alexandre Pantoja scoring the second round submission. Since that fight, neither man has tasted defeat. Royval has won four straight including back-to-back first round finishes entering tonight’s battle for the flyweight title.

Pantoja last fought against Brandon Moreno back in July for the title. The two men went to war and Pantoja won a very close decision. It was a massive statement win for Pantoja who proved he was the best flyweight in the UFC. Tonight, he was looking to retain that title.

UFC 296 Recap

Round 1

The UFC flyweight title fight kicks off with a touch of the gloves. Immediate pressure from Pantoja who is throwing big hooks. Royval throwing big shots back. Takedown attempt from Pantoja and Royval defends well. They are back to striking and Royval lands a nice jab.

Big leg kick from Pantoja and now a right hand. Clinch from Pantoja who again looks for a takedown attempt. 1-2 from Royval and a huge body kick from Pantoja. Another big body kick from Pantoja. Head kick attempt from Royval just misses. Leg kick from Pantoja and Royval lands a combination.

Knee from Pantoja and now he gets a takedown. Half guard for Pantoja who is trying to advance here. Halfway through the round and it’s been frantic thus far. Royval forces a scramble but Pantoja stays on top. Pantoja backs away and Royval is getting close with some upkicks.

Big shot from Pantoja and he gets right back on top as soon as Royval tries to get back to his feet. Half guard here for the champion and Royval forces another scramble. Pantoja ends up in side control here and goes right to mount. Royval works it back to half guard. Royval scrambles and they are back to striking. Big shots from Royval. The round ends and it’s 1-0 Pantoja at UFC 296.

Round 2

Second round starts with another touch of the gloves. Big right hand from Pantoja and that wobbled Royval briefly. Big body kick now from Pantoja. Huge knee to the body from Royval who seems to be just fine. Long jab from Royval and a right hand lands for Pantoja. Combination finished with a knee by Royval but Pantoja lands a takedown.

Royval is very active off his back here as Pantoja looks to advance. Half guard for Pantoja with three minutes left in the round. Royval is way more active off the back as Pantoja is just trying to hold position here. The crowd is becoming a little restless and they get a warning from the referee.

Pantoja starts working for the mount and he gets side control. Two minutes left in the round and Pantoja is trying to work to a crucifix. However, Royval hip escapes and gets back to half guard. One minute left and they get another warning from the referee. Big shots from Pantoja as soon as they get a warning. Scramble and they are back to striking.

Right hand from Pantoja and it stumbles Royval. Head kick from Royval and Pantoja takes him right back down. The round comes to a close and the champion is up 2-0 at UFC 296.

Round 3

Entering the third and Royval needs to keep this fight standing. They touch gloves and here we go. Royval trying to stay long with his jab. Pantoja lands another big right hand that again looks like it buckles. Pantoja ups the pressure and lands a body kick. Big takedown from the champion.

Immediate mount for Pantoja and he’s attacking a choke. He’s too high and Royval shakes him off. A scramble and they are back to striking. Royval looks like the fresher fighter on the feet. Long jab from Royval and a right hand from Pantoja. Royval moves forward and Pantoja gets a body lock.

Halfway through the round and the champion is trying hard for a takedown here. Royval breaks free and Pantoja lands a calf kick. Long jab from Royval and now a 1-2. Leg kick and body kick now from Pantoja. Both men land combinations in tight. Big body kick now from Royval and he stuffs a takedown attempt from Pantoja.

Long jab from Royval. Royval lands a big combination and his boxing is looking crisp. Big knee from Royval but Pantoja gets in close and lands a big takedown. 30 seconds left and Pantoja is landing some nice shots here. The significant strikes are even so far, but this is Pantoja’s second takedown of the round. The round ends and because of those takedowns, I have it 3-0 at UFC 296.

Round 4

The championship rounds are here and it’s either 3-0 or 2-1. They touch gloves and Pantoja immediately pressures Royval. Two right hands from Pantoja and he shoots for a takedown. Huge takedown from the champion and that has to be discouraging for Royval. Pantoja works his way to the mount with four minutes to work.

Royval forces a scramble but Pantoja spins quickly and he gets the back of the challenger. Body triangle now for the champion with three minutes left to work. Royval continuously trying to scramble but the back control of the champion is dominant here.

Pantoja is starting to work towards a choke. He doesn’t have his arm completely under the chin but he’s working a neck crank. This is nasty and Royval starts fighting the hands. He gets out of that position, but Pantoja still has full control with four minutes gone in the fourth round.

Royval trying to punch but he can’t get anything going. Pantoja has completely dominated the grappling this evening. Just when I say that, a scramble from Royval and he ends up on top. Royval going to town with big elbows. The round ends with Royval on top but it’s a little too late. 4-0 Pantoja on my scorecard.

Round 5

Entering the final round at UFC 296 and Royval needs a finish. They touch gloves and here we go. Royval right on the pressure and he lands a combination. Right hand now from Royval. He’s going all out here and he lands a left. Another big left from Royval and Pantoja looks exhausted. Right uppercut from Royval. Combination from Royval.

Royval is going all out right now. Four minutes to work and Pantoja lands a leg kick. Uppercut from Royval and another combination. He’s going for it here. Leg kick from Pantoja and another combination from Royval. Clinch from Pantoja and this could be just what the doctor ordered.

However, Royval breaks away with an elbow. Two straight calf kicks from Pantoja and a right hand. Combination from Royval. Long jab from Royval and Pantoja lands a right. These two are just swinging. Big combination from Royval and Pantoja gets a takedown. However, Royval gets back his feet briefly. Pantoja switches the angle and gets him down.

Two minutes left and Royval is trying to force a scramble. Royval continuously trying to scramble but Pantoja’s top pressure is really heavy here. Royval is trying everything he can but it’s not enough. One minute left and Royval looks defeated right now. He cannot get Pantoja off of him. The fight comes to an end and I have Royval winning this round, but the champion will retain at UFC 296.

Alexandre Pantoja def. Brandon Royval by Unanimous Decision (50-45, 50-45, 49-46)

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