After UFC Vegas 34, should Alexandre Pantoja be next for Brandon Moreno?

This past weekend at UFC Vegas 34, we saw a pivotal matchup in the flyweight division. Alexandre Pantoja (23-5) was looking to pick up his second consecutive win while his opponent Brandon Royval (12-5) was looking to bounce back.

Pantoja entered the contest as the third ranked flyweight in the UFC. He’s had a very impressive run so far in his career with the promotion and this fight with Royval was a chance for him to make a statement about where he stands in the division.

The UFC flyweight champion Brandon Moreno (19-5-2) was in attendance as well so it made things even more intriguing. From the opening bell, this fight was all about Alexandre Pantoja.

He was able to control the fight and in the second round, he moved in for the kill. Pantoja was able to secure a dominant position on the back of Royval and locked in a rear naked choke.

Royval was forced to tap and Pantoja got the win at UFC Vegas 34. After the win, Pantoja called for a fight with Moreno and said that having defeated the champion previously, he should be next in line for the title.

Who should be next for the UFC’s flyweight title?

Pantoja does make an interesting argument. He’s ranked in the top three and he’s riding a two-fight win streak that should have him in the conversation for a UFC title shot.

That said, it might be a tough sell considering the two men that stand in front of him. Directly in front of him is Askar Askarov (13-0-1). Askarov and Pantoja just fought last year during the UFC’s first trip to Fight Island.

The Russian was able to defeat Pantoja be decision. Back in March, Askarov dominated Joseph Benavidez to pick up his third straight UFC victory. Like Pantoja, Askarov has also fought the champion. While Pantoja has a win over Moreno, Askarov fought him to a draw.

In front of Askarov is the former UFC flyweight champion Deiveson Figueiredo (20-2-1). It’s crazy to think that if Figueiredo doesn’t land a kick that goes low, the UFC title picture at 125 would look completely different.

On the scorecards, Figueiredo would’ve defeated Brandon Moreno back in December. However, the deduction of a point due to the low kick caused the fight to end in a draw. In the immediate rematch, Moreno dominated and won the title.

Now, Figueiredo is calling for his rematch. The UFC is said to be considering it given how dominate Figueiredo was as champion. However, it’s far from a guarantee with Moreno leaning towards a new matchup after fighting Figueiredo two straight times.

I’m not sure what exactly is next at 125, but the flyweight division is incredibly intriguing right now. While Pantoja did look impressive over the weekend, I don’t believe he’s going to be next in line.

UFC books potential title eliminator between Askar Askarov and Alex Perez

The UFC has booked a potential title eliminator in the flyweight division. First reported by BJPenn.com, top flyweights Askar Askarov (14-0-1) and Alex Perez (24-6) will go head-to-head.

The fight is currently scheduled to be the co-headliner of the UFC‘s Fight Night on July 31st. A middleweight contest between Uriah Hall and Sean Strickland is currently scheduled as the main event for the July Fight Night.

For Alex Perez this will be his first fight since UFC 255. Back in November, Perez got a shot at Deiveson Figueiredo and the flyweight title. Perez got the shot after Cody Garbrandt was pulled from the card due to an injury.

Alex Perez was expected to really push the champion, but the fight didn’t last long. After a decent start, Perez was submitted in just under two minutes by Figueiredo. This fight with Askarov gives Perez a chance to stay right in the hunt for the flyweight title.

Since earning a UFC contract on Dana White’s Contender Series, Perez has been one of the best flyweights in the world. In eight fights inside the octagon, Perez has gone 6-2 with his only losses coming against Figueiredo and Joseph Benavidez.

UFC’s next Dagestani champion?

Standing across from Perez on July 31st will be the native of Dagestan, Askar Askarov. Askarov will be making his fifth appearance for the UFC. So far, Askarov has gone an impressive 3-0-1 in his four fights inside the octagon.

The lone draw came against the current flyweight champion Brandon Moreno. In his three wins, Askarov has shown just how good he is. Askarov has great grappling, but he also has tremendous standup.

Back at UFC 259, Askarov took on former multiple-time title challenger Joseph Benavidez. Askarov completely controlled Benavidez in a performance that could have earned him a title shot. However, Askarov didn’t make weight and the promotion likely wanted him to get one more fight in while making the weight before giving him a shot.

No doubt about it, Askarov will be taking on Brandon Moreno for the UFC flyweight title should he defeat Alex Perez next month.

After becoming flyweight champion at UFC 263, what’s next for Brandon Moreno?

This past Saturday in the co-main event of UFC 263, we saw the rematch between Deiveson Figueiredo (20-2-1) and Brandon Moreno (19-5-2). These two first met back in December and they fought to a draw. With that result, the UFC decided to run things back on Saturday night.

The first fight between these two was an instant classic. UFC 256’s main event was on the short-list for fight of the year. That night Deiveson Figueiredo should have walked away with the win, but due to a low blow, he was docked a point and the fight was declared a draw.

Had Figueiredo not been docked that point, we wouldn’t have seen this rematch at UFC 263. With getting this new opportunity, Moreno had a second chance to become the first Mexican-Born UFC champion and he didn’t want to waste it.

It was apparent from the opening moments that this fight would be different. Moreno was the one pushing forward and starting all the action. In the first round, Moreno actually dropped the flyweight champion.

After a good opening round, the second round was razor close with both men securing takedowns and top position. However, the third round at UFC 263 is where Moreno made history. After getting a takedown and taking the back of Figueiredo, Moreno locked in the rear-naked choke and became flyweight champion of the UFC.

What’s next after UFC 263?

With a couple of taps from Figueiredo at UFC 263, Brandon Moreno became a huge star. The promotion’s first champion that was born on Mexican soil. His journey is also what makes Brandon Moreno so special.

Moreno appeared on The Ultimate Fighter and he was the lowest seed. He lost very early in the tournament. After having some success to start his UFC career, Moreno was cut from the promotion and had to work his way back.

After dispatching some tough challenges, Moreno got his first shot in December. He came so close to losing the fight, but the draw gave him one more chance that he wasn’t going to let go to waste. Moreno took full advantage and became the UFC’s flyweight champion.

So, what’s next for Moreno? Well, the promotion could always do the trilogy with Figueiredo. Currently, the series is 1-0-1 and there is a market for the third fight. However, I’m not convinced that’s the direction the promotion will go in.

What I could see is the UFC giving the shot to Askar Askarov (14-0-1). The unbeated Dagestani flyweight has gone 3-0-1 since joining the UFC. That one draw is with Brandon Moreno. The two men have history and I could see that being next. Either way, Moreno’s first title defense is going to be massive.

After dominating Joseph Benavidez at UFC 259, what’s next for Askar Askarov?

This past Saturday at UFC 259, we saw a pivotal flyweight matchup on the prelims. Former title challenger, Joseph Benavidez (28-8), took on rising contender, Askar Askarov (14-0-1). The fight was supposed to be a key test for Askarov.

Saturday night was the fourth fight inside the octagon for Askarov. The native of Dagestan had already been in there with some of the division’s elites. He fought to a draw with Brandon Moreno before defeating Tim Elliot and Alexandre Pantoja.

Benavidez is looked at as one of the best fighters in the history of the UFC to have never captured a title. Despite never becoming champion, Benavidez has fought for the flyweight title four times and was the second ranked contender in the division.

Going into UFC 259, I was expecting a good back-and-forth battle. However, it was anything but. From the opening bell, the fight was all Askar Askarov. From the striking to the grappling, the native of Dagestan dominated Joseph Benavidez.

I was very impressed with Askarov’s ability to control the distance on Saturday. Askarov is long so when he was striking, he did a great job of working his straight punches and jabs. When he wanted to grapple, he closed the distance beautifully. Askarov won all three rounds on all three scorecards at UFC 259.

What’s next for Askarov after UFC 259?

When the updated UFC rankings come out tomorrow, the only men in front of Askarov will be the champion Deiveson Figueiredo and Brandon Moreno. As mentioned, Askarov has already fought Moreno to a very close draw back in 2019.

Moreno and Figueiredo will be rematching in June after they fought to a draw in December at UFC 256. In reality, Askarov should be next for the title, but he might have to take a fight in between if he wants to say active.

The matchup I would look at is the upcoming matchup between Alex Perez and Matt Schnell. Both are ranked inside the top seven and Perez is coming off of a title shot. Whoever wins that matchup would be a great next fight for Askarov.

If you’re looking at the rankings, Alexandre Pantoja (23-5) could be an option. However, as mentioned above, Askarov just defeated Pantoja last year. Hard to imagine the UFC would book that again. So the options for Askarov are wait for a title shot or meet the winner of Perez and Schnell if you ask me.

Is it time for Joseph Benavidez to retire after UFC 259?

Joseph Benavidez, UFC

On the prelims this past Saturday at UFC 259, we saw a big matchup in the flyweight division. Top three contenders went head-to-head as Joseph Benavidez (28-8) took on the unbeaten Askar Askarov (14-0-1).

For Benavidez, he was looking to turn things around after a very rough 2020. Benavidez had two shots at the UFC flyweight title in 2020, but he was destroyed by Deiveson Figueiredo in both fights. This fight was supposed to be a bounce back opportunity.

On the flip side, Askar Askarov was looking to show that he’s worth all the hype. The Russian is being looked at as a potential future UFC champion, and he’s been sensational since making his octagon debut a couple of years ago.

I was expecting this fight to be extremely close, however, it was anything but. It was clear from the opening bell at UFC 259 that Askarov was the better fighter in there. From the striking exchanges to the grappling exchanges, Askarov was in full control.

I thought Benavidez would have a big speed advantage in this one, but the speed wasn’t there. Benavidez was swinging wild and didn’t seem to have that same explosion. Ultimately he lost all three rounds on all three scorecards at UFC 259.

Benavidez’s UFC future

After UFC 259, Dana White was asked if he needs to have a conversation with Benavidez about hanging it up. White quickly said that there was no need for that conversation yet, but many in the industry have wondered about Benavidez’s future.

At the end of the day, Joseph Benavidez will go down in history as one of the greatest fighters of all time to never win a title. He’s had several opportunities, but he’s always come up shot. Benavidez is 0-4 in the UFC alone in title fights.

He does look like he’s lost a step or at least he looked that way on Saturday night. However, I think it’s important to take a step back and look at his competition. While Benavidez has lost three fights in a row, it’s important to remember who his losses are to.

In his entire career, here are the losses for Benavidez: Dominick Cruz (Twice), Demetrious Johnson (Twice), Sergio Pettis, Deiveson Figueiredo (Twice), and Askar Askarov. All of those fighters have either been world champions or they’re at the top of the sport.

I don’t believe it’s time for Benavidez to retire from the UFC just yet. I think the promotion should give him someone lower in the rankings next to see if he can get back on the winning track. Maybe someone like a Tim Elliot. If he can’t win that kind of fight, it might be time for Joey B to hang it up for good.

Askar Askarov outclasses Joseph Benavidez at UFC 259

The second fight on the ESPN prelims for UFC 259 was the flyweight contest between Joseph Benavidez (28-7) and Askar Askarov (13-0-1). Askarov missed weight by one pound which forced him to forfeit a portion of his fight purse to Benavidez.

For Benavidez, he was looking to turn things around after a rough 2020. 2020 started with Benavidez getting a shot at the UFC flyweight title. Benavidez was stopped in the second round, but Deiveson Figueiredo missed weight so the title was still up for grabs.

The UFC decided to have the two rematch in July and Benavidez was dominated even more by the now champion. Having lost two in a row, Benavidez needed a win to get back on the right track. He is still the second ranked flyweight contender in the world.

Coming in at number three in the rankings was his opponent, Askar Askarov. As mentioned, Askarov missed weight for UFC 259. This is the fourth time Askarov is making the walk to the octagon. So far, he’s 2-0-1 with wins over Alexandre Pantoja and Tim Elliot.

UFC 259 Recap

Round 1

The UFC 259 flyweight kicked off with a touch of the gloves. Both men started flat footed just trying to gauge the time. Askarov starts the striking with a strong front kick. Benavidez looks for a 1-2 but he was a bit out of range.

Benavidez pushes forward with a big left that misses. Askarov pops Benavidez with a big right cross. Another powerful front kick lands for Askarov. Benavidez was winding up looking for big shots, but he was throwing a little too far away.

Askarov pushes forward and Benavidez lands a beautiful counter right hand. Benavidez then lands a nice 1-2, but Askarov counters with a massive right hand. That right hand looked like it hurt Benavidez.

Both men then exchanged calf kicks. Benavidez closes the distance and lands a couple of shots. Askarov then lands a couple of big counter shots. A couple of jabs from Askarov land and he uses that to chain into a clinch.

Benavidez forced a scramble, but the two ended up back against the fence. Askarov slams Benavidez to the ground just before the round ends. It’s 1-0 Askar Askov at UFC 259 after round 1.

Round 2

The two top UFC flyweights went right back at it to start the second round. Benavidez was using more feints to start the second and he starts his striking with a big low kick. Another big calf kick lands for Benavidez.

A couple of massive shots land for Benavidez against the fence. He starts swinging for the fences, but a massive counter shot lands for Askarov. Benavidez is wobbled, but stays on his feet. A couple of additional big shots land for Askar Askarov.

The two then clinched and Askarov slammed Benavidez to the ground. Benavidez used the fence to work his way back up to his feet, but Askarov put him right back down. Again, Benavidez worked his way back up along the fence.

Askarov was looking for the rear-naked choke while the two were against the fence. However, Benavidez was showing off great submission defense. Every scramble that Benavidez tried didn’t work and Askarov stayed on top of him. Second round comes to a close at it’s 2-0 Askarov at UFC 259.

Round 3

Entering the final round at UFC 259 and Joseph Benavidez needed a finish. Benavidez starts the striking with a low kick. A clean head kick lands for Askarov, but he didn’t throw a ton of power behind it.

Another calf kick lands for Benavidez. Benavidez was looking for an entry, but couldn’t find one. Askarov lands a clean left straight and he started showing off a bit. A nice jab lands for Askar Askarov.

Benavidez throws a big power shot, but it doesn’t land. Askarov makes him eat a 1-2 for his troubles. Halfway through the round and Benavidez needs to get something going. Another headkick lands for Askarov.

Benavidez was looking very frustrated in the cage, but he lands another calf kick. He steps forward and lands a big right hand. Askarov pops him with a jab as they get back to distance. One minute left in the fight and Benavidez was struggling with the distance.

Benavidez was pushing forward trying to find a finishing shot. The two come together and Benavidez lands a big right hand, but it didn’t phase Askarov. Nothing significant lands in the final thirty seconds. The final round could go either way, but this is a clear win for Askar Askarov at UFC 259.

Askar Askarov def. Joseph Benavidez by Unanimous Decision (30-27, 30-27, 30-26)

UFC 259 Preview: Joseph Benavidez – Askar Askarov

Joseph Benavidez, UFC

On Saturday night, we will see arguably the most stacked PPV card in history. Words cannot express how deep and talented the card is for UFC 259. If you need any proof, just take a look at the prelims.

One of the prelims that I’m the most excited about is this contest in the UFC‘s flyweight division. The second ranked contender in the division and former title challenger, Joseph Benavidez (28-7) will be taking on the native of Dagestan, Askar Askarov (12-0-1).

Askarov is ranked third so this is a matchup of two of the UFC‘s top three at flyweight. It’s not even the featured prelim which tells you a lot about this stacked card. For Benavidez, he will be looking to bounce back after a rough 2020.

When 2020 started, it looked like Benavidez finally had his best chance to capture UFC gold. With Henry Cejudo vacating the flyweight title, Benavidez was booked to take on Deiveson Figueiredo (20-1-1) in February.

Benavidez fell short in that one, but since Figueiredo missed weight, the UFC ran the fight back. Unfortunately, Benavidez was dominated in the rematch. Now, he’s looking to reset. Benavidez is one of the greatest fighters in history to have never captured a world title.

He’s one of the best, but he’s going to have his hands full on Saturday. Askar Askarov is one of the more exciting prospects at flyweight. You already know how talented the pool of fighters from Dagestan is. Askarov is no different.

Askarov will be making the walk to the octagon for the fourth time. In his debut, he fought to a draw with top contender, Brandon Moreno. After that draw he’s defeated Tim Elliot and Alexandre Pantoja to earn this shot at UFC 259 against Benavidez.

UFC 259 Prediction

When it comes to this flyweight matchup at UFC 259, I’m very curious to see how Benavidez looks. When you look at the skillsets of both men, Benavidez is going to have the speed advantage on the feet.

For Benavidez to be successful, he’s going to have to jump in and out and have his footwork on point. He needs to use his speed to try and fluster Askarov. For Askarov, he cannot get impatient in this fight.

He needs to be deliberate and he needs to be focused. Askarov is really good at counter striking and he’s going to have the power advantage. If he plots forward due to frustration, I see Benavidez getting the better of the striking while catching Askarov coming in.

However, if Benavidez has to come in all night and Askarov remains patient, I could see him landing a big shot that ends the fight. The grappling should be fun to watch and I’d give the slight advantage to Askarov.

A lot of money is coming in on the undefeated Russian and I understand it. However, it’s still worth noting that Benavidez has only lost to some of the best in the world. I think his speed is going to be enough and I think he just barely edges out a decision on Saturday night.

Prediction: Joseph Benavidez by Split Decision

What’s next for Alexandre Pantoja after big win at UFC Vegas 18?

This past weekend at UFC Vegas 18, we saw a big matchup in the flyweight division. The fifth ranked flyweight in the world, Alexandre Pantoja (23-5), welcomed former RIZIN champion, Manel Kape (15-5), to the UFC.

There was a ton of hype surrounding Kape and many were looking at him as a potential challenger for the title. However, the UFC gave him no layup in his first fight with him taking on the dangerous Pantoja.

Pantoja has been in there with some of the best in the UFC including the flyweight champion, Deiveson Figueiredo (20-1-1). The fight was promised to deliver and I have to say that it was a little underwhelming.

I was expecting more of a barnburner, but Kape’s cautious approach stalled the action at times. Pantoja didn’t land amazing shots at UFC Vegas 18, however, he was the much more active fighter on Saturday night.

For that reason, the judges unanimously gave the decision win to Alexandre Pantoja. While it wasn’t the sexiest win in the world, it was still a win at the end of the day and a big win at that.

What’s next after UFC Vegas 18?

After the fight was over, Pantoja stated that he wanted a rematch with the UFC’s flyweight champion. However, the odds of Pantoja fighting for the title in his next fight are slim to none.

Figueiredo will have his rematch against Brandon Moreno (18-5-2) next. After that fight, it’s been said that the winner will take on former UFC bantamweight champion, Cody Garbrandt (12-3). With that in mind, the title is booked for most of 2021.

Of course, that means Pantoja will need to take another fight. There are a couple of options for Pantoja out there. One option could be a matchup with Alex Perez (24-6). Perez is coming off of a title loss at UFC 255.

Another option could be the winner of the Joseph Benavidez – Askar Askarov matchup that takes place next month. However, I’m not sure that fight would get made should Askarov win considering Askerov just beat Pantoja in July.

UFC: State of the men’s flyweight division entering 2021

2020 was a transition year for the UFC‘s flyweight division. When the year got started, Henry Cejudo (16-2) had just vacated the flyweight title. The promotion setup a fight in February to crown a new champion after Cejudo moved to bantamweight.

That fight put Deiveson Figueiredo (20-1-1) against Joseph Benavidez (28-7). Benavidez was always looked at as one of the best fighters in the UFC, but he just could never quite climb the mountain to become a champion.

Many believed that February would be his best chance. However, Figueiredo proved to be too much for Benavidez. Benavidez was completely dominated and stopped in the second round by Figueiredo.

However, Figueiredo missed weight so he didn’t capture the title. The UFC decided to have the two men run things back on Fight Island. This time, Figueiredo made weight and he ended up finishing Benavidez quicker than he did the first time.

Figueiredo has become a star in the UFC‘s flyweight division. After he choked out Benavidez, he defended his title against Alex Perez (24-6) at UFC 255. Figueiredo forced Perez to tap within the first two minutes of the fight.

With taking such little damage, the UFC turned Figueiredo right around to fight Brandon Moreno (18-5-2) at UFC 256. The two men had a war and the fight was ultimately ruled a majority draw.

UFC flyweight in 2021

Dana White said shortly after UFC 256 that the promotion would have Figueiredo and Moreno run things back. The fight was a fight of the year candidate and with no winner declared, he said it make sense to do the rematch.

With that, the odd man out becomes Cody Garbrandt (12-3). The former UFC bantamweight champion decided to drop to flyweight to pursue another title. He was originally supposed to get the title shot at UFC 255.

However, he had to pull out of the fight. He was hoping to face the Figueiredo – Moreno winner in March, however, that’s not likely now. Garbrandt and his team have discussed taking an interim fight at bantamweight while he waits, but that’s not settled.

A very compelling matchup to watch at flyweight is Manel Kape (15-4) and Alexandre Pantoja (22-5). Kape is the former RIZIN champion at 135 pounds and he will be making his UFC debut against Pantoja on February 6th.

Whoever wins that fight will be in excellent position in the flyweight division. Another matchup to watch is Benavidez taking on Askar Askarov (12-0-1). Askarov trains under Khabib Nurmagomedov and he looks like he can be a future champion.

At one point, the UFC’s flyweight division looked like it was going to be closed for business. However, business is booming at the moment with a number of intriguing matchups. Should be a fun year for the promotion at 125 pounds.

UFC books Joseph Benavidez – Askar Askarov

Joseph Benavidez, UFC

The UFC is finalizing a fantastic flyweight matchup for their March 6th card. MMA Junkie was first to report that the promotion is finalizing a matchup between former title challenger Joseph Benavidez (28-7), and Askar Askarov (12-0-1).

The fight is expected to take place on the main card of the UFC 259 PPV. Both men will enter the cage ranked inside the top 3 of the UFC‘s flyweight rankings. From a matchmaking perspective, it doesn’t get much better than this.

For Benavidez, he’s going to be looking to bounce back after back-to-back losses to the champion, Deiveson Figueiredo. The two first fought back in February where Benavidez was finished in the second round.

However, Figueiredo didn’t make weight so the UFC decided to run the fight back for the flyweight title. The second fight was even more dominating for Figueiredo who put Benavidez to sleep in the first round.

Despite being dominated twice by the champion, it should be known that Benavidez is still one of the very best in the world. He’s only lost to four men in his professional career: Figueiredo, Demetrious Johnson, Dominick Cruz, and Sergio Pettis.

The knock on Benavidez is that he’s always failed to win the big one. While consistently being one of the UFC‘s best, he’s 0-5 in title opportunities. With this fight on March 6th, he will look to climb the latter once again.

UFC 259’s Flyweight Clash

Standing in the way of Benavidez will be Askar Askarov. The Russian flyweight trains under Fighting Eagle in Dagestan which of course is the gym of UFC lightweight champion, Khabib Nurmagomedov.

Askarov is looked at as the potential next UFC champion to hail from Dagestan. So far, he’s made three appearances inside the octagon. He fought to a split draw against number one contender, Brandon Moreno. After that he defeated Tim Elliot and Alexandre Pantoja.

Askarov is the real deal and he’s very talented. This is not going to be an easy fight for either man. Either Benavidez will show everyone that he still has enough in the tank for one more UFC title run or Dagestan will flex it’s muscles once again.