Ranked #5 and #7 contenders in the flyweight division clash this Saturday when American Brandon Royval meets Brazil’s Rogerio Bontorin. While the 125-pound belt will be a product of contention between Deiveson Figueiredo and Brandon Moreno for the third time in a row at UFC 270, a group of deserving contenders has been biding their time underneath the two rivals inside the flyweight ranks. Askar Askarov and Alexandre Pantoja both claim next in line for a shot, but being close behind, both Royval and Bontorin may throw their name closer to the title shot picture with a big win this Saturday.
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In just four UFC fights, Royval has already made himself one of the most well-known names inside the flyweight division. After breaking onto the scene with an upset win over UFC veteran Tim Elliot in his promotional debut, Royval already set himself up as a future star. However, it was the barn burner of a fight between him and Kai Kara-France that really put him on the map with one of the most exciting rounds ever seen in the sport. It was unlucky for Royval that he would be then matched up with the rising Brandon Moreno on his way to the belt and then budding contender Alexandre Pantoja but with a record of 2-2, Moreno has only lost to the current champion and #3 ranked fighter in his UFC career. Although still young in his UFC tenure, Royval has the opportunity to bounce back and put himself back on the fast track with a big win on Saturday.
Rogerio Bontorin will ultimately be the one riding momentum as he makes the walk at UFC Fight Night 200. This past May, Bontorin put on a unanimous decision performance against Matt Schnell, earning his third UFC victory after winning his way into the promotion via Dana White’s contender series. While those wins come along with two defeats, like Royval, Bontorin has only lost to some of the best in the UFC in #6 Kai Kara-France and former title challenger Ray Borg.
Royval vs. Bontorin betting odds
Royval comes in the favorite at -170, with experience over just slightly higher-ranked talent.
Royval vs. Bontorin breakdown
Royval is a well-rounded fighter but where he shines most is in his exciting and dynamic grappling system. He is extremely active, not accepting compromising positions for a second and always finding openings to scramble and keep the action moving. One of Royval’s best assets is that he is often able to threaten limbs or the neck in a very wide variety of compromised positions, making it very difficult for opponents to commit to attacks, and by doing so Royval is able to use his submission offense as his best means of defense. Particularly being on Royval’s back can be dangerous as he escapes he is quick to attack the legs as he rolls out.
On the feet, Royval fights as a southpaw. He has a great left round kick and good boxing that is even more effective with his reach. He has an aggressive volume style, and his ability to use short lean backs and shoulder rolls out of range allow him to re-enter and continue the pressure without giving much time for his opponents to breathe or reset. Royval’s pace is like catching someone in a storm or a tornado, the latter being an even better metaphor as he favors spinning attacks allowing him to blend his strikes using momentum. In particular, his left high kick is chained into the right spinning backfist seamlessly, often catching his opponent quickly with the second strike should the first glance or miss.
The only major flaw in this style is because Royval’s movement is often dictated by momentum, he can lean and dip deep into space sometimes leaving him in awkward, unbalanced positions should he take a clean hit. This leaves him vulnerable at times, it’s difficult to predict where he will be, but when one can, the impact can be accentuated.
Bontorin has a very dissimilar approach to fighting than Royval. Whereas Royval depends on reach, volume and creativity, Bontorin is textbook, tight and powerful. Bontorin will be at a disadvantage in both reach and height but that doesn’t mean he’s the smaller man, in actuality, he has come in slightly heavier before and performed extremely well. This is largely due to his style being built on how strong a grappler he is and how powerful a puncher he is.
Bontorin prefers a softer pace because he excels in big moments. With heavy punches, he only throws a couple at a time unless he thinks his opponent is hurt at which point he will rush them with triple the amount. However for the most part he moves, feints and picks his moments to throw heavy. Being typically shorter, he has had to stretch long to try to find the target, especially with a lunging right hand, however been caught coming in if his opponent can time it, slip the punch and counter with their own right. Bontorin does better when his aggressive movement forward can draw out an attack from his opponent so that he can roll underneath punches to land his own attacks. Bontorin also has a very powerful low calf kick and a left straight from the southpaw stance should he feel the need to switch.
Bontorin is also a very good grappler, but unlike Royval, it’s a tight pressure and fundamentally driven style. On top Bontorin is great at minimizing any space given to his opponent to scramble, especially because he has a very tight body lock, which he uses both in the clinch and on the ground to advance position. On the bottom, Bontorin will attack triangles, and even if unsuccessful try to use them to create enough space to shift to the fence and stand up. At UFC Fight Night 167, Ray Borg was able to control the grappling exchanges but in a fight dominated by grappling positions, Bontorin did not give up a serious submission threat nor did Borg fully pass his guard.
The way Borg did win is telling though. The slide by double leg was a constant success for Borg and a hole in Bontorin’s game. He fights for the underhook because he is best with the body lock himself, but if unable to secure it leaves an opening for his opponent to drop under because Bontorin doesn’t entertain any high body grips very often. Other potential issues for Bontorin are that it may take him a feeling out process to figure out the range as the shorter fighter, and against someone who starts a high pace early like Royval, could leave him playing catch up by the end of round 1.
Royval vs. Bontorin prediction
I think that the fight is a very close match-up, however, Royval has shown a higher ability to adapt to mid-fight situations. This fight will be based on a couple of questions. I think that Bontorin will end up on top at some point, and we will see a battle of his tight top pressure with Royval’s unprecedented ability to create awkward and chaotic scrambles for space. Who wins out will be telling in terms of the ultimate outcome. On the feet, it will be volume vs. power and whether Bontorin will be able to create large enough impacts to make up for activity will also have to be answered, although Royval always has the ability to pull out big moments of his own with his unorthodox movement.
Prediction: Brandon Royval to win
Braeden Arbour is an aspiring journalist out of Ontario, Canada. He is a recent graduate of Trent University, with a black belt in Karate and a blue belt in Judo. He has also been an avid fan of MMA for the last decade.