UFC 290 Staff Predictions: Brandon Moreno vs. Alexandre Pantoja 1

Brandon Moreno will defend the UFC Flyweight Championship this weekend at UFC 290 when he faces Alexandre Pantoja in an intriguing co-main event bout.

In this article, we’ll dive into the Moreno vs. Pantoja co-main event, providing a comprehensive breakdown, predictions, and top betting tips. However, if you’re keen to explore predictions for the remaining fights scheduled for this weekend, including Alexander Volkanovski vs. Yair Rodriguez simply navigate through the links below to access our other content.

Main Card Predictions

Prelim Predictions

UFC 290 will exclusively be streamed on ESPN+ PPV in the United States. Fans can thus order the official PPV here to catch the prelims at 6 p.m. ET, advancing to the prelims at 8 p.m. ET, and finally, leading up to the main card at 10 p.m. ET this Saturday, July 8.

Don’t miss out on the action. Place your order for the UFC 290 PPV now on ESPN+.

Betting Odds

The odds from BetUS suggest Moreno as a substantial favorite at -210, while Pantoja is considered the underdog at +165.

  • Alexandre Pantoja: +165 (BetUS)
  • Brandon Moreno: -210 (BetUS)

But what do these numbers signify? A negative (-) symbol refers to the favorite, in this instance, Moreno. The -210 implies that you’d have to bet $210 on Moreno to secure a $100 return. In contrast, a positive (+) symbol is indicative of the underdog. In this case, the +165 for Pantoja suggests if you wager $100 on him and he emerges victorious, you’d reap a profit of $165.

Read ahead for our staff predictions that dive deep into the fighters’ strengths, strategies, and potential game plans, empowering you to make a well-informed betting decision. And if you’re planning to place a wager, consider using our exclusive BetUS link for a juicy sign-up bonus.

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Fight Predictions

Braeden Arbour

Moreno and Pantoja have already fought in MMA twice, professionally once. In their most recent fight, Pantoja largely played the matador, staying inside Brandon Moreno’s wider looping punches and intercepting with harder short shots when Moreno missed. Both men have developed in strides since this last meeting. Brandon Moreno largely still throws wider than Pantoja. What he has done, however, is implement tactics to set up his combinations better. He utilizes a slicker jab, counters off of improved head movement, and uses feints and stance switches to set up his kicks. That being said, Pantoja was able to quickly get a read on Moreno’s distance and timing before, and if he can do so again, there are inconsistencies in Moreno from the last time they met. Moreno would go to a naked right low that Pantoja did an excellent job of sliding away from, switching stance and countering with a left cross, step right low kick of his own. Moreno now tends to switch off and throw the left low kick more, but still loads up on it, so watch for Pantoja to adjust and counter here.

Pantoja is very good at maintaining his range when he is the one leading, he will box, frame off, and knee if his opponent bridges the gap and pushes them back into boxing range. His combinations and tools are a bit more limited in terms of variety than Moreno, but he is sharper and extremely well-timed. In his last few performances, we saw a more aggressive approach from Pantoja, which he attributed to making a statement in terms of earning a title shot. However, he will have to pace himself over a five-round fight, especially because Moreno is a cardio machine. I expect Pantoja to have early success, but the longer the fight time runs, the better Moreno will do.

The other area that Moreno has greatly improved is in his wrestling. He has always been a great scrambler, but his ability to time his double leg entry and run the pipe to finish is very solid, as is his submission defense. Pantoja is a jiu jitsu wizard himself, and although I give Moreno the advantage in takedowns, Pantoja is very difficult to hold down. Furthermore, in a scramble, if Pantoja finds the back, he is a specialist, adjusting hooks constantly and finding the body triangle and a choke finish. If he cannot find a finishing position, that constant adjusting and riding the back can wear on his cardio as the fight goes on. Moreno is such a problem because he is extremely hard to finish, and even if Pantoja has early success, the question remains how much does winning exchanges wear on him if Moreno is still there later on.

I think we see Moreno come out from the opening bell hard, and I think we see Pantoja sit back and try to slow the pace down as best he can. He has tremendous timing and power so he can definitely earn Moreno’s respect if the champion is careless, but Moreno may lean on his switch left body kick and feints to get Pantoja moving. The conundrum for Pantoja is he has his best shot at dominating early in the fight but he has to balance how much energy he is willing to expend doing so. Therefore, if Moreno wins, it could start with him outworking a reserved Pantoja, or it could be coming back from early adversity with a better five-round style. Either way, unless Pantoja is able to bank the first three rounds clearly or stop Moreno for the first time in his career, I do lean towards Moreno as a good favorite.

Pick: Brandon Moreno to win (-210 at BetUS)

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Michael Pounders

Unbelievably, in the last 3 years, flyweight champion, Brandon “The Assassin Baby” Moreno has only fought fighters whom he has previously fought before. He has not faced a new opponent since his 2020 win over Brandon Royval. Instead, in the last 3 years, Moreno has faced Figueiredo 4 times, and Kara-France for the 2nd time. Now, he again has a rematch where he is facing Alexander “The Cannibal” Pantoja who Moreno has previously lost to twice.

This fight reminds me a lot of Joseph Benavidez vs Deiveson Figueiredo. For a long time, “Joey B” was considered the best forgotten fighter in the flyweight division, someone who just wasn’t active enough to earn a shot at the belt but most people agreed was championship caliber. Then, when he finally got his shot, later in his career, he lost. Pantoja is similar to “Joey B.” For years, Pantoja has been the man waiting in the corridor for Moreno and Figgy to settle their string of rematches so he can get his long-earned shot at the gold. In that time, though, Pantoja only fought 3 times, averaging only 1 fight a year. Still, among most pundits, Pantoja is undoubtedly championship caliber, the question is simply, like with Benavidez, if he is striving for the belt too late in his career.

In this fight, the primary angle to analyze is Pantoja’s 2-0 record over Moreno. In their first matchup, when Moreno was only 22, making his pro debut, Pantoja showed simply that there are levels to this game and it was too much too soon for Moreno. In their rematch 2 years later, Pantoja out-volumed and scrambled his way to a dominant victory and showcased his complete skillset. While having someone’s number is a legitimate mental edge, stylistically, Moreno is a much different fighter, while Pantoja is very similar to who he has been for years. Early in his career, Moreno would cement his feet in the pocket and throw down against anyone foolish enough to test their speed, power, and chin. In those striking exchanges, Moreno almost always had the advantage. However, when he faced Pantoja, Pantoja’s patented blitz hooks and bull-rush style proved problematic for the young Moreno, and his lack of footwork made for an easy target. Additionally, Moreno used to be very binary in the cage; he would either strike or wrestle, very rarely did he combine the two or transition from one to the other without first resetting. Pantoja, again, had the advantage here. Pantoja’s blitz striking, more refined and calculated than it appears at times, leads perfectly into his preferred body lock takedowns. Once again, Moreno’s stationary feet made him an easy target, and his inability to transition without resetting from striking to grappling made Pantoja’s job of timing his shots all that more achievable.

Since their last meeting, Pantoja tends to follow the same game plan in the cage: fight aggressively with powerful hooks that typically come from both sides as he rushes into the pocket. Pantoja’s goal is to hurt his opponent on the feet or get chest-to-chest with them so he can out-grapple them against the cage or on the mat. His speed, power, and grappling game are all high level. His striking style, though, does leave his chin open for straight counter shots and his tendency to headhunt leaves his midsection and lead leg exposed. Meanwhile, Moreno’s game has significantly evolved since 2018. He now has a stiff jab which he uses to keep space and pace, deadly leg kicks which he often uses to initiate or conclude a combination, and truly special wrestling and scrambling ability which he can now transition smoothly to and from his striking.

Outside of Pantoja having Moreno’s number, I think this is Moreno’s fight all the way. Moreno should have the striking advantage in speed, variety, and accuracy, while Pantoja likely still has the edge in power. More importantly, though, is Moreno’s improved footwork, jab, and calf kick. I expect Pantoja to try and blitz like he normally does; but, instead of Moreno planting his feet in cement, I expect him to circle out, land his own counter combination, and use his jab and calf kick to keep range until the next Pantoja blitz. As for the wrestling and grappling, both fighters’ abilities are so high level that I expect the scrambles to be fun but cancel each other out. I think it will be a close fight, possibly the fight of the night, but I like Moreno to win with more volume and precision on the feet.

Pick: Brandon Moreno to win by decision (+175 at BetUS)

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