Saturday July 18th
UFC Fight Night: Figueiredo vs. Benavidez 2
Fight Island – Yas Island, Abu Dhabi, UAE
The main card kicks off this Saturday with a huge fight at flyweight as Askar Askarov puts his unbeaten record on the line against Alexandre Pantoja. Which man will put themselves firmly in contention to be the next title challenger?
Alexandre Pantoja (22–4) is the former Resurrection Fighting Alliance (RFA) champion, and also emerged victorious from the AXS TV: RFA vs. Legacy FC flyweight super-fight and Watch Out Combat Show tournament. “The Cannibal” was a participant in The Ultimate Fighter series 24 and although he did not win the tournament he made his UFC debut soon after, in January 2017, with a 15–2 record.
Pantoja has kept himself busy, fighting three times a year for the last two years, but this will be his first octagon appearance of 2020. His last fight was a Performance of the Night (POTN) KO win against Matt Schnell in the final minute of round 1 last December.
All of Pantoja’s last three wins have come in the first round, two by KO/TKO and the other via submission, and his 6–2 UFC record only includes one defeat in his last five. This loss was against this weekend’s title challenger, Deiveson Figueiredo, a unanimous decision going against Pantoja in the Fight of the Night at UFC 240 one year ago.
In his career, Pantoja has eight KO/TKO wins and another eight by submission showing that he is happy wherever the fight goes. The Brazilian’s versatility can be seen by the method of his UFC victories — two each by KO/TKO, submission, and decision — and in a professional career spanning thirteen years he has never been finished.
Askar Askarov (11–0–1) made his UFC debut last September against Brandon Moreno, in Moreno’s native Mexico, and came away with a draw. The result spoiled the Russian’s perfect record but meant he stayed unbeaten.
His last fight was at UFC 246 in January when he faced Tim Elliott in his opponent’s training base of Nevada, and Askarov emerged with a unanimous decision win.
Askarov is the former Absolute Championship Berkut flyweight champion and, before joining the UFC, “Bullet” had finished all of his wins. His victories comprised three TKO and seven submission finishes, including six in round 2.
Askarov has a great range of submissions, five of his seven submission wins have been with different holds, and against Pantoja I expect him to try and take his adversary down and work on the floor, aiming to open up the chance to sink in another one.
Both fighters know that a new flyweight champion will be crowned shortly after they meet, and a win for either man puts them in a strong position to be considered as the next title challenger. This fight should be explosive!
Prediction: Pantoja by KO/TKO in a POTN.
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