According to a poster created by Instagram user BOZEDD, which was subsequently posted to Twitter by Askarov himself, UFC flyweights Askar Askarov and Alexandre Pantoja are set to clash on July 18 at an as-yet-undisclosed location.
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Askarov, 27, is undefeated in twelve professional fights. The 11-0-1 Russian signed with the UFC in 2019 and has gone 1-0-1 with the promotion, fighting to a draw in his debut against Brandon Moreno and picking up a win against Tim Elliott in his most recent Octagon appearance.
A former champion in top Russian promotion Absolute Championship Berkut (which has since merged with World Fighting Championship Akhmat (WFCA) to become Absolute Championship Akhmat (ACA)), Askarov is viewed by many as the top prospect in the flyweight division.
Clearly, the UFC also thinks highly of Askarov, putting him up against third-ranked Moreno in his debut and former title challenger Elliott in his second outing, respectively. Now, the sixth-ranked Askarov will purportedly face another former regional champion and top contender in Pantoja.
Alexandre Pantoja, 30, signed with the UFC in 2017 following a 2-1 semifinals run on The Ultimate Fighter Season 24: Tournament of Champions.
A former champion in Ressurection Fighting Alliance (RFA) – now merged with Legacy Fighting Championship (LFC) to become Legacy Fighting Alliance (LFA) – Pantoja has been electric inside the Octagon.
Since joining the promotion, Pantoja has gone a whopping 6-2, with wins over the likes of Moreno, Eric Shelton, Wilson Reis, Matt Schnell, and others. His only losses came at the hands of Dustin Ortiz and Deiveson Figueiredo, who was recently a successful weigh-in away from capturing the promotion’s vacant flyweight title after stopping perennial contender Joseph Benavidez in the pair’s two-round affair.
Both Pantoja and Askarov are on the cusp of title contention, ranked fifth and sixth, respectively. A victory against the other would prove a resume boost of significant magnitude, perhaps propelling the winner to a title eliminator against Moreno (a rematch for both fighters) or against Brazil’s Jussier Formiga, should the fourth-ranked contender defeat Alex Perez at UFC 250.
The UFC has not announced a venue for its July 18th event, in large part due to developing restrictions and openings amid the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. According to reports, a title rematch between Benavidez and Figueiredo is set to headline the July 18th card, however, likely magnifying the Askarov-Pantoja fight’s implications.
Michael Fiedel is The Body Lock's deputy editor, a staff writer for FloCombat, and a Russell-Rice scholarship recipient at Vanderbilt University.