This past Saturday night in the co-main event of UFC 296, the flyweight title was on the line. Flyweight champion Alexandre Pantoja (27-5) was looking to successfully defend his title while picking up his second win over top contender Brandon Royval (15-7).
These two fought just a couple of years ago with Pantoja getting the second round submission. Royval felt that he had that fight in his hands prior to making some mistakes that Pantoja capitalized on. Both men entered the bout extremely confident that they’d get the job done.
For Royval, I felt that he needed to keep things on the outside and use his creative striking. One thing he had to do was keep the fight standing and ultimately, he wasn’t able to. Throughout the five rounds, both men had some entertaining exchanges on the feet. However, it was the takedowns of Pantoja that told the story.
Whenever he needed to, Pantoja was able to take the fight to the ground and largely control Royval. Royval just couldn’t build any serious momentum and was behind the eight-ball all night long. After five rounds, the scorecards were read and Alexandre Pantoja retained his title at UFC 296.
What’s next after UFC 296?
With a second win over Royval, Pantoja finds himself in a very interesting spot at flyweight. He holds wins over most of the top contenders in the division. So, who will the UFC target next for his next title defense? You don’t have to look to far into the future to find that answer.
The UFC is returning to Mexico in February. On that card, former champion Brandon Moreno and Amir Albazi are fighting in a five-round co-main event. The winner of that fight is going to be the next challenger for Pantoja’s title. Albazi is a fresh opponent while Moreno and Pantoja have fought twice now officially.
Pantoja won both fights against Moreno, but the second fight was razor close and it was a split decision for the title. I think the UFC will have no issues in making that trilogy happen if Moreno is able to pickup the win next month.