Brandon Royval not only views his upcoming UFC Vegas 34 matchup with Alexandre Pantoja as a bout with title contender ramifications but also a battle between the two most dangerous fighters at flyweight.
The event’s featured flyweight bout between Royval and Pantoja is a showcase between two of the best finishers in the division. In 12 victories, “Raw Dawg” has finished an outstanding 92% of his opponents, while Pantoja has ended 16 of his 25 wins early. As he spread his night-ending love evenly between eight knockouts and submissions each.
Brandon Royval: ‘Besides myself, Pantoja is the most dangerous person in the division’
The Brazilians ability to put opponents away at a serious clip has earned the respect of Royval, 28, in a big way. It’s why he’s so excited about his fight on August 21 inside the UFC Apex. Because it’s against a foe he’s admittedly is a fan of, and one with a similar action style to his.
“In my eyes, and how I think of things, Pantoja — besides myself — is the most dangerous person in the division,” Royval told MixedMartialArts.com. “Everything he does is to put an end to you. He doesn’t throw any light jabs, he doesn’t throw any feeler punches. His whole entire ground game is built just to submit you. He’s not trying to hold you down. He’s trying to get you out of there as soon as possible.”
The sixth-ranked flyweight holds his third-ranked counterpart’s style, and resume, in such high regard that he actually considers him a more difficult challenge than his most recent opponent: New division king Brandon Moreno.
“I think I’m fighting the better fighter right now. Pantoja, [who] already has two wins over Moreno, is a harder matchup than Moreno is to me. I also think he’s a more dangerous fighter too,” he said.
Despite his admiration for The Ultimate Fighter Season 24 alum’s fighting style, when it comes to ranking danger in the division, he believes is still the top “Dawg.” And on fight night, he expects to make Pantoja switch from being a willing brawler to a Brazilian wrestler.
“He’s definitely going to be f*cking shooting that whole entire fight. I promise you that. He’s definitely going to grappling,” Royval says.
If Royval doesn’t get a title fight, he wants Garbrandt of Figueiredo next
In November, a shoulder injury led to Royval’s demise during his pivotal UFC 255 fight against Moreno. The victory would catapult Moreno into a title opportunity against then-champion Deiveson Figueiredo and then dethroned the titleholder in their rematch. However, despite the tough luck, Royval finds himself once again on the doorstep of serious title contention. With a win, he expects to jump from his rankings spot at six and right into title contention. The reason being is unlike another top contender in Askar Askarov, he brings a fan-friendly fear factor to the Octagon that he feels UFC brass needs a in title fight.
“I’ve never thought of myself as a competitor. I’ve never thought to go out there and compete. I’m a fighter. I want to go out there and finish everybody. I think I have like, a 92% finish rate. I’ve only not finished one fight in my career. Same thing with Pantoja, he’s going for finishes the whole entire time. How do you want to base the judgment of [the next contender]? Are they winning decisions? Askar Askarov is the least scary person in the division,” Royval said. “Yea, he’s 10-0 but who has he finished. Nobody. That’s not a scary fighter. That’s a competitor. He does a good job at what he does, but I’m not afraid to fight that guy. I’ll fight that guy tomorrow.”
Title fight booking in the UFC is always unpredictable. Even with hopes and expectations, a win guarantee’s little when it comes to championship fights. In the event Royval is victorious but blocked for a shot at the belt, he only has two opponents in mind after a win in Las Vegas.
“I want [Cody] Garbrandt or I want [Figueiredo],” he said. “I want dangerous fights. Fights that fans want to see. I’m trying to make money. I’m trying to get these bonuses. I want to show these mother f*ckers I’m the most dangerous person in the division. Askarov’s cool, and I definitely want to fight him too, but it’s just like; I want to fight a big name [that’s] a big star attraction.”
UFC Vegas 34 takes place on August 21, from inside the UFC Apex in Las Vegas, Nevada. The main card kicks off at 7 pm ET and will air on ESPN+.