Alexandre Pantoja vs Askar Askarov
Alexandre Pantoja (-190) (22-4-0)
Pantoja is 6-2 in the UFC with his only losses coming via decisions to Deiveson Figueiredo and Dustin Ortiz. He was actually very competitive against Figueiredo, matching him with two takedowns and nearly the same amount of strikes. Pantoja should take a lot of confidence in that result and while it never came to fruition, he should have even more confident knowing the UFC had him slated as the back-up fighter for this vacant title bout. Pantoja is a very well-rounded fighter and has a good submission game to go along with his striking. With a win over Askar Askarov, he should find himself in line for a title shot and a potential rematch with Deiveson Figueiredo.
Askar Askarov (+155) (11-0-1)
Askarov is an undefeated, highly touted grappler out of Russia. He managed a tough draw against Brandon Moreno in his UFC debut and followed it up with a decision win over Tim Elliott at UFC 246 in January of this year. Askarov has an impressive 7 submissions and 3 knockouts in his 11 victories. His gameplan will be to get this fight to the ground early and often wear his opponent into a submission. He’s got a complex submission arsenal and the Twisters and Anaconda chokes on his resume are proof. This will be his toughest test yet but with a win, Askarov can find himself on a shortlist of title contenders at flyweight.
Prediction: Alexandre Pantoja via Decision
Pantoja is the more dynamic fighter and should be able to win this fight both on the feet and the ground. Askarov’s striking is decent and Pantoja can be reckless at times, but he’s got a solid chin and going the distance in a Fight of the Night with Figueiredo is proof of that. Pantoja’s power should be the difference at striking range and I expect his grappling to be close, if not just as good. Askarov won’t go away easy and I don’t expect him to get finished but Pantoja should be able to out point him on the scorecards. Take Pantoja to get it done.