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UFC Mexico City preview: ‘Moreno vs. Royval 2’ predictions


Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) will kick off its International fight campaign this weekend with the UFC Mexico City: “Moreno vs. Royval 2” mixed martial arts (MMA) event, scheduled for this Sat. night (Feb. 24, 2024) inside Arena CDMX in Mexico City, Mexico. UFC Mexico City, which airs exclusively on ESPN+, will be headlined by the flyweight showdown between former division champion Brandon Moreno and longtime 125-pound rival Brandon Royval, ranked two spots behind “Assassin Baby” at No. 3 in the weight class.

Before we dive into the main and co-main events, which includes the featherweight rematch between former title challengers Yair Rodriguez and Brian Ortega, check out Patrick Stumberg’s nifty and thrifty preliminary card breakdowns for UFC Mexico City here and here. In addition, budding free soloist Andrew Richardson did most of the heavy lifting for the rest of the UFC Mexico City main card right here.

For the latest “Moreno vs. Royval 2” odds and betting lines courtesy of our fiscal friends over at Draft Kings go here.

125 lbs.: Brandon Moreno vs. Brandon Royval

Brandon “Assassin Baby” Moreno

Record: 21-7-2 | Age: 30 | Betting line: -270
Wins: 5 KO/TKO, 11 SUB, 5 DEC | Losses: 0 KO/TKO, 0 SUB, 7 DEC
Height: 5’7“ | Reach: 70” | Stance: Orthodox
Significant Strikes Landed Per Minute: 3.80 | Striking accuracy: 43%
Strikes Absorbed Per Minute: 3.40 | Striking Defense: 56%
Takedown Average: 1.73 (45% accuracy) | Takedown Defense: 64%
Current Ranking: No. 1 | Last fight: Split decision loss to Alexandre Pantoja

Brandon “Raw Dog” Royval

Record: 15-7 | Age: 31 | Betting line: +220
Wins: 4 KO/TKO, 9 SUB, 2 DEC | Losses: 1 KO/TKO, 1 SUB, 5 DEC
Height: 5’9“ | Reach: 68” | Stance: Southpaw
Significant Strikes Landed Per Minute: 3.80 | Striking accuracy: 43%
Strikes Absorbed Per Minute: 3.05 | Striking Defense: 45%
Takedown Average: 0.43 (66% accuracy) | Takedown Defense: 40%
Current Ranking: No. 3 | Last fight: Unanimous decision loss to Alexandre Pantoja

Former UFC flyweight champion Brandon Moreno will enter this five-round rematch with a chip on his shoulder, having recently lost the 125-pound title to longtime rival Alexandre Pantoja. In addition, the “Assassin Baby” has yet to score a victory in front of his hometown fans in Mexico, who previously enshrined the ex-champ with his own mural (twice).

“I feel a little bit frustrated, because obviously I want to put that on my legacy,” Moreno said during the UFC Mexico City media day (watch it here). “Raise my hand in front of my people, in front of my Mexican flag. That’s it. It’s something that happened in the past, and I just try to turn the page. It’s frustrating, but I’ve been living with a lot of pressure since 2020, fighting for championships and rematches and the trilogies. I’m just trying to have fun in this one. At the same time, I understand the importance this fight has to my record right now. I’m focusing on Brandon Royval. I’m focusing on the challenge in front, and I’m ready.”

Moreno is a large flyweight who at 5’7” is as tall as most contending bantamweights and in some cases, sports a longer reach at 70 inches. Interestingly enough, opponent Brandon Royval is two inches taller at 5’9” but falls short in reach at 68 inches. “Raw Dog” was submitted by Moreno when they first went to war at UFC 255 back in late 2020, giving him extra motivation for their Mexico City rematch.

Royval is also coming off a loss to Pantoja.

“I just want to show the world what I can do, and I feel like I’ve yet to do that,” Royval said during the UFC Mexico City media day (watch it here). “That Pantoja fight, I’m like, ‘This is it. This time I’m going to show the world what I can actually do and my actual skillset.’ It just did not happen. I feel like this is another great opportunity against a fighter who is going to bring it at all costs. I’m actually not sure what happens with me. I’m pretty sure Brandon Moreno, if he wins, even though we both lost to the same person in our last loss, I’m pretty sure he’s getting a title shot. I’m not sure that’s the same position for me. I know if I go out there and style on him and I go out there and do some cool things, it’s going to be hard to be denied.”

Both fighters have looked outstanding in the three-plus years since they first fought, even with the losses to Pantoja. In order to make a case for the upset, we need to demonstrate that Royval has improved enough to surpass the skills of the “Assassin Baby,” and I’m not sure that’s the case because the former champ has yet to take a step backwards in terms of skills or durability. Moreno was the better fighter at UFC 255 and barring a sloppy, high-chinned defense, he’ll be the better in Mexico City.

Get that “Fight of the Night” bonus check ready.

Prediction: Moreno def. Royval by decision

145 lbs.: Yair Rodriguez vs. Brian Ortega

Yair “El Pantera” Rodriguez

Record: 19-4, 1 NC | Age: 31 | Betting line: -180
Wins: 8 KO/TKO, 5 SUB, 6 DEC | Losses: 3 KO/TKO, 0 SUB, 1 DEC
Height: 5’11“ | Reach: 71” | Stance: Orthodox
Significant Strikes Landed Per Minute: 4.63 | Striking accuracy: 46%
Strikes Absorbed Per Minute: 4.07 | Striking Defense: 51%
Takedown Average: 0.73 (28% accuracy) | Takedown Defense: 59%
Current Ranking: No. 2 | Last fight: Technical knockout loss to Alexander Volkanovski

Brian “T-City” Ortega

Record: 15-3, 1 NC | Age: 32 | Betting line: +150
Wins: 3 KO/TKO, 7 SUB, 5 DEC | Losses: 2 KO/TKO, 0 SUB, 1 DEC
Height: 5’8“ | Reach: 69” | Stance: Switch
Significant Strikes Landed Per Minute: 4.19 | Striking accuracy: 38%
Strikes Absorbed Per Minute: 6.66 | Striking Defense: 49%
Takedown Average: 0.95 (23% accuracy) | Takedown Defense: 56%
Current Ranking: No. 4 | Last fight: Technical knockout loss to Yair Rodriguez

Yair Rodriguez stopped Brian Ortega in the first round of their UFC Long Island main event back in summer 2022 and most of the credit has gone to Ortega’s bum shoulder, which took a coffee break somewhere in the opening frame and rendered “T-City” combat ineffective. That was the last time we saw Ortega inside the cage but Rodriguez has appeared twice in the months that followed, scoring a bonus-winning submission over Josh Emmett before falling to Alex Volkanovski in their UFC 290 title fight.

Doesn’t sound like “El Pantera” is jazzed about this rematch.

“It’s always weird, I never wanted to fight the guy,” Rodriguez said during the UFC Mexico City media day (watch it here). “This time is no different. I like his family, I like him. He’s Mexican, so it’s not the same feeling. It’s a job we have to do. Not something that I really wanted to do.”

Ortega remains ranked in the Top 5 of the division which is puzzling when you consider his inactivity, as well as his strength of competition. “T-City” has just one victory over the last six years and that came against a shopworn “Korean Zombie,” who was basically playing fish inside Ortega’s barrel. I think fans have also forgotten that Ortega has a reputation of getting lit up in his fights before scoring a Hail Mary comeback.

Nearly seven strikes absorbed per minute is a troubling statistic.

“My perspective on it is just a continuation of that first fight,” Ortega said during the UFC Mexico City media day (watch it here). “But it depends who you are, how you view the sport, incident, the fight – it’s either a rematch or a continuation. For me, it’s a continuation. We just started getting warmed up. We were very dry. We were still trying to feel each other out, got a hold of each other, hit each other a little bit, felt each other’s strength. It was still partially in that feel-out session. It’s gonna be just two rounds now of that feel-out session.”

Outside of the “Zombie” massacre, I haven’t seen anything from Ortega that would suggest a case for the upset and I don’t make it a habit of picking fighters coming off a two-year layoff. Trying to sell me on a Volkanovski submission that didn’t win the fight is akin to bragging that Nate Diaz wobbled Leon Edwards in a losing effort at UFC 263. To be fair, there’s a tendency to overvalue Rodriguez based on some of his highlight-reel finishes, but I’ve got him pegged as the superior fighter at UFC Mexico City.

Prediction: Rodriguez def. Ortega by technical knockout

Remember, the rest of the UFC Mexico City main card predictions are RIGHT HERE.


LIVE! Stream UFC Mexico City On ESPN+

PIVOTAL FLYWEIGHT FRACAS! Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) returns to Arena CDMX in Mexico City, Mexico, on Feb. 24, 2024, with a pivotal Flyweight fracas between former 125-pound kingpin, Brandon Moreno, and most recent title challenger, Brandon Royval, who replaces the red-hot (and injured) Iraqi “Prince,” Amir Albazi. In UFC Mexico City’s ESPN+-streamed co-main event, top-ranked Featherweight contenders, Yair Rodriguez (No. 3) and Brian Ortega (No. 4), will run it back after their initial encounter ended prematurely via gross injury.

Don’t miss a single second of face-punching action!


MMAmania.com will deliver LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the entire UFC Mexico City fight card RIGHT HERE, starting with the ESPN+ preliminary card bouts at 7 p.m. ET, followed by the ESPN+ main card start time at 10 p.m. ET.

To check out the latest and greatest UFC Mexico City news and notes be sure to hit up our comprehensive news archive here. For the updated and finalized “Moreno vs. Royval 2” fight card and ESPN+ lineup click here.



This story originally appeared on MMA Mania

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