On Saturday, Dec. 16, UFC welterweight champion Leon Edwards will face off against Colby Covington in the main event of UFC 296 – the last UFC event of 2023. However, before those two can end the year for the UFC, in the co-main event of the evening, UFC flyweight champion Alexandre Pantoja will face No. 2 ranked flyweight Brandon Royval for the gold in a five-round fight.
Pantoja enters the bout as the newly minted champion, as he took the belt from former champion Brandon Moreno via split decision in July. Pantoja is riding a four-fight winning streak entering this fight and holds a professional record of 26-5 and is 10-3 in the UFC.
Royval is coming into this match-up on a three-fight win streak, and this will be his first time fighting for a UFC title. Royval has a career record of 15-6 and is 5-2 in the UFC. Those two losses coming at the hands Moreno and the man he fights this weekend – Alexandre Pantoja.
Alexandre Pantoja vs. Brandon Royval 2 has Fight of the Night implications
Pantoja and Royval fought for the first time in August 2021, in the first fight of the main card of UFC Vegas 34 in the UFC APEX. At the time, Pantoja was ranked No. 3 in the world, while Royval was ranked No. 6. The bout showcased the fighters’ high-level grappling, with both fighters attacking submissions and engaging in wrestling exchanges, until ultimately Pantoja locked in a rear naked choke in the second round, winning the fight via submission. Two fights later, Pantoja would be crowned UFC champion, and looks to make his first title defense against the man he beat in 2021. Royval has not lost a fight since his loss to Pantoja, and is seeking to avenge his loss.
The pair will meet again, this time in front of an estimated 20,000 fans at Nevada’s T-Mobile Arena, with one of the sport's most coveted prizes on the line, the UFC flyweight championship.