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UFC Fight Night: Moreno v Royval 2 Predictions

Former flyweight champion Brandon Moreno battles recent title challenger Brandon Royval as the UFC returns to Mexico on Saturday night (Sunday morning SA time), writes Quintin van Jaarsveld.

UFC Fight Night

Former flyweight champion Brandon Moreno battles recent title challenger Brandon Royval as the UFC returns to Mexico on Saturday night (Sunday morning SA time), writes Quintin van Jaarsveld.

The event will mark the promotion’s sixth visit to Mexico City and first since Yair Rodríguez and Jeremy Stephens headlined a Fight Night card in September 2019. This time, Rodriguez is in the co-main event slot as he takes on Brian Ortega in a pivotal featherweight fight.

Aside from Moreno and Rodriguez, the main card features four other exciting Mexican fighters in Daniel Zellhuber, Raul Rosas Jr, Yazmin Jauregui and Manuel Torres.

MAIN CARD (from 5 AM Sunday SA time): 

Brandon Moreno (1.37) v Brandon Royval (3.15) (Flyweight)

The action will be fast and furious in the high-stakes headliner.

Moreno (21-7-2) was originally scheduled to face Amir Albazi but with Albazi forced out of the fight because to a neck injury, he will run it back with Royval (15-6) instead.

Both men lost to Alexandre Pantoja in their last fights, with Pantoja dethroning Moreno before making a successful first title defence against Royval (15-6). However, the winner of this battle at Arena CDMX could find himself fighting for the title next.

The pair first fought in November 2020 with “The Assassin Baby” stopping Royval with one second left in the first round via TKO. Moreno seeks to repeat the feat in his much-anticipated homecoming while “Raw Dawg” is determined to exact revenge and play spoiler.  

No. 1-ranked Moreno is a super nippy striker (five knockouts) and slick grappler (11 submissions). On top of that, the first-ever Mexican-born UFC champion is as tough as they come.

His warrior spirit and iron jaw played crucial parts in him winning the historic four-fight series against Deiveson Figueiredo, one of the hardest punchers ever at 125 pounds, so he should be able to take whatever Royval dishes out.

Third-ranked Royval is a brawler who fights at a breakneck pace. Always moving and constantly feinting, he bases his striking behind a solid jab and has four knockouts to his name. Grappling is where he really shines, though, as he creates explosive entries and boasts nine submissions.

Royval has improved a lot since the last meeting, but Moreno is still the better fighter across the board. Aided by a two-inch reach advantage, Moreno will be the more efficient striker and should also be able to secure a few takedowns en route to a decision victory.  

Prediction: Moreno by decision.

Best Bet: Moreno by decision.

Alternative Bet: Moreno outright.

Yair Rodriguez (1.57) v Brian Ortega (2.45) (Featherweight)

Top-five featherweights face off in the co-headliner in what’s a classic striker versus grappler battle.

The pair have unfinished business after their first fight back in July 2022 ended in freakish fashion with Ortega (15-3) suffering a shoulder injury, which handed Rodriguez (18-4) an unsatisfactory TKO win.

Former interim champion Rodriguez is a sensational striker. A taekwondo black belt, he’s highly technical, flashy, unpredictable and absolutely potent – a wicked mix that’s incredibly tough to prepare for and has earned him eight wins by knockout.

With five submissions under his belt, “El Pantera” is far from clueless on the ground, however, he’ll look to keep the fight standing at all costs. He’s looking to bounce back after losing to then-champion Alexander Volkanovski last July.

Ortega hasn’t fought since that first fight against Rodriquez. Still fourth in the rankings, two places below his opponent, one has to wonder whether he’ll be rusty.

“T-City” is a tremendous grappler. The Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt has seven wins by submissions and almost forced Volkanovski to tap twice in their title bout in 2021, while his ever-improving striking has earned him three knockouts.

Rodriquez has shored up his takedown defence over the years and should be able to stuff most of Ortega’s shots and get back up to his feet fast if he’s taken down.

His vast array of strikes and two-inch reach advantage should see him pick Ortega apart on the feet and with Ortega being ultra-durable, I see Rodriguez winning on the scorecards.

Prediction: Rodriguez by decision.

Best Bet: Rodriguez outright.

Alternative Bet: Rodriguez by decision.

Daniel Zellhuber (1.35) v Francisco Prado (3.25) (Lightweight)

Lethal lightweights’ cross swords in the featured bout. Zellhuber (14-1) has 10 finishes (seven knockouts and three submissions), while Prado (12-1) has a 100% finish rate (six knockouts and six submissions), so expect fireworks.

Zellhuber is looking for his third win in a row after outpointing Lando Vannata and submitting Christos Giagos last September. An exciting prospect, “Golden Boy” is a high-volume puncher, much more so than his opponent, landing 5.26 significant strikes per minute compared to Prado’s 3.46.  

Argentina’s Prado is 1-1 in the UFC, having recovered from a decision loss to Jamie Mullarkey in his promotional debut with a knockout win over Ottman Azaitar last July. With 94% takedown defence, Zellhuber should keep it on the feet where his massive eight-inch reach advantage will lead him to victory.

Prediction: Zellhuber by decision.

Best Bet: Zellhuber by decision.

Raul Rosas Jr (1.35) v Ricky Turcios (3.25) (Bantamweight)

The crowd will reserve one of its loudest pops for Rosas Jr (8-1), who at 19, is the youngest fighter on the UFC roster.

Signed when he was just 17, the prodigy rebounded from his first loss with a 54-second TKO of Terrence Mitchell last September and seeks to build on that momentum.

“El Nino Problema” has power for a bantamweight but it’s his high-level grappling, which has earned him five wins by submission, that’s his bread and butter. 

Turcios (12-3) is more technical than he is a threat with two-thirds of his wins coming by decision. The Ultimate Fighter Season 29 winner has been hot and cold inside the Octagon and is coming off a career-long layoff with his last fight, a split decision win over Kevin Natividad, dating back to November 2022.

Expect a much sharper Rosas Jr to put “Pretty Ricky” on his back and force him to tap out, much to the crowd’s delight.

Prediction: Rosas Jr by submission.

Best Bet: Rosas Jr by submission.

Yazmin Jauregui (1.20) v Sam Hughes (4.70) (Strawweight)

The story of this fight is seeing how Jauregui (10-1) responds to adversity. The 24-year-old blue-chipper was a perfect 10-0 with seven knockouts going into her last fight and got caught by a big shot by Denise Gomes that snapped her undefeated streak.

Taking on the promising young gun is a veteran in Hughes (8-5). “Sampage” isn’t the most exciting or successful fighter, holding just a 3-4 record in the UFC, but she is coming off a decision victory against Jaqueline Amorim in her last fight.

The discrepancy in both skill and speed is just too much for the 31-year-old to overcome, which is why she’s the biggest underdog on the main card. She has only been knocked out once, so Jauregui is most likely to return to winning ways by decision.

Prediction: Jauregui by decision.

Best Bet: Jauregui by decision. 

Manuel Torres (1.74) v Chris Duncan (2.14) (Lightweight)

Lightweights who are yet to taste defeat inside the Octagon promise to get the main card off to an exciting start.

While both men are 2-0 in the UFC, it’s Torres (14-2) who’s made the biggest impression with back-to-back first-round knockouts of Frank Camacho and Nikolas Motta.

Aggressive by nature, “El Loco” has only gone to the scorecards once in his 16-fight career and with seven knockouts and six submissions to his name, he’s dangerous wherever the fight goes. 

Duncan (11-1), who won both of his UFC fights by decision, is solid rather than spectacular when it comes to stand-up and isn’t a submission threat, which is where Torres has had issues. 

Thus, the explosive Torres is poised to get the ball rolling for the Mexican fighters on the main card, and he’ll likely get his Scottish foe out of there.

Prediction: Torres by knockout.

Best Bet: Torres outright.

Alternative Bet: Torres by KO/TKO/DQ.

Quintin Van Jaarsveld is a former MDDA-Sanlam SA Local Sports Journalist of the Year and a former three-time Vodacom KwaZulu-Natal Sports Journalist of the Year. Formerly the sports editor and Outstanding Journalist of the Year award winner at The Fever Media Group, deputy editor at eHowzit, editor at and senior staff writer at, he boasts over 15 years’ experience and is currently a freelance sports writer.

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