Having fought twice before, Brandon Moreno may be a familiar name to Alexandre Pantoja, but the Brazilian title challenger is expecting both of them to be completely different fighters when they face off for a third time at UFC 290.
Pantoja has faced Moreno twice before – once in an exhibition bout as part of The Ultimate Fighter, and once in the Octagon – and won both contests. But this weekend in Las Vegas, the pair will do battle for the undisputed flyweight title.
Five years have passed since their last meeting, and Pantoja said he’s excited to see how both of them have evolved, and discover whose style will prevail.
“That’s a different opponent for me,” Pantoja told reporters during media day ahead of fight night in Las Vegas.
“One thing is, I’m excited to see how much me and Moreno evolved. Everyone’s talking about much he evolved (since) his last fight with me. That’s what I want to see, you know?”
Pantoja also made sure to point out that evolution wasn’t exclusive to the champion, with his own game coming along nicely since their meeting at UFC Fight Night in Santiago, Chile in 2018.
“I’ve been training at American Top Team for five years. I never leave out of the gym. I’m training a lot, and I’ve evolved a lot. I want to see how much I’ve evolved with the one guy I fought before.”
The matchup offers plenty of intrigue, with the defending champion having been defeated twice by the incoming challenger, and Pantoja recognizes the narrative that underpins their co-main event title bout.
“That’s a good thing for me, and maybe that’s more energy for Moreno, because he lost to me twice,” he said.
“Maybe he’s keeping this in his head. But for me, this is good because I know if I lose to someone twice, I’m going to make a difference. This makes me very alert with that and so prepared for that fight.”
Pantoja heads into the bout riding a three-fight win streak, with a decision victory over Manel Kape followed by back-to-back submission victories over Brandon Royval and Alex Perez putting him in line for a shot at the title.
“I deserve to fight for the belt. That’s nice fighting with Moreno, one guy that I respect a lot. One of the guys who learns a lot when he loses.
“I’m expecting the best Moreno. I’m here for that, to fight with the best. I really want to fight with the prime Moreno, with his best skills, his mindset different.”
And, while he knows he’s set to face the best version of Brandon Moreno he’s ever fought, Pantoja said he is looking forward to reasserting his superiority over “The Assassin Baby” on fight night.
“I want that belt, he wants to keep that belt,” Pantoja said.
“Five rounds, that’s going to be a big show for all the fans. I can say that’s going to be the Fight of the Night.
“I just come to prove to everybody, especially to Moreno, (that) when I fight with him, he can’t beat me.”