Brandon Moreno (Mike Sloan/Sherdog)

UFC Fight Night: Moreno vs. Royval 2 Preview and Predictions

It is full steam ahead for the UFC, as they continue their jam-packed February and head South of the Border to Mexico City for UFC Fight Night: Moreno vs. Royval 2. The main event is a highly anticipated rematch between a pair of Brandons, who fought just over three years ago. The first fight ended with Moreno scoring a TKO victory that was helped along by a shoulder injury that Royval suffered. Since that showdown, Moreno went on to become UFC flyweight champion and get the better of his rival Deiveson Figueiredo in their tetralogy. Royval came up short in his most recent outing, his first ever crack at gold when he was defeated by Alexandre Pantoja via a lopsided unanimous decision.

Featherweight standouts Yair Rodriguez and Brian Ortega lock horns in the co-main event as the pair of fighters with Mexican roots clash in a fight that is sure to have the capacity crowd in Mexico City on the edge of their seats. Rodriguez secured the interim featherweight crown by submitting Josh Emmett, but came up short in a unification fight against now-former champion Alexander Volkanovski. Ortega has fought for featherweight gold twice in his career, getting battered like the least favorite child in his fights against Max Holloway and Volkanovski.

Also on the main card is 19-year-old phenom Raul Rosas Jr. who will square off against The Ultimate Fighter Season 29 champion Ricky Turcios. After a hiccup in his sophomore appearance in the promotion, Rosas rebounded nicely by stopping Terrence Mitchell inside of one minute. Turcios is also looking to make it two consecutive wins after defeating Kevin Natividad in his most recent fight.


UFC Fight Night: Moreno vs. Royval 2 takes place inside the Arena CDMX in Mexico City. The event airs live in its entirety on ESPN+ starting at 7 p.m. ET. Combat Press writers Dan Kuhl and Matt Petela preview the action in this week’s edition of Toe-to-Toe.

The first time Brandon Moreno and Brandon Royval met, a shoulder injury caused the bout to end prematurely; how does it play out this time?

Kuhl: In a way, one could say the first meeting between Brandon Moreno and Brandon Royval was a bit of a bummer. While Moreno officially won a TKO by strikes, the fight was ultimately stopped due to a shoulder injury, as Royval was defending an onslaught from Moreno on the ground. However, that fight was very lopsided with Moreno landing more accurately, scoring two takedowns, and controlling most of the round. Historically, both men have had issues with now-champion Alexandre Pantoja, with both men losing to him twice, in addition to Moreno losing to him on The Ultimate Fighter. So what’s the difference?

On TUF 24, Moreno lost to Pantoja by submission. Two years later, the two met in their first official match-up in the Octagon, and Moreno looked better, but he still dropped that one by unanimous decision. In Jul. 2023, they met up again, and Pantoja won a third time, capturing the UFC flyweight strap from Moreno, but that was a split decision that Moreno could have won. The point is that he showed progression against a tough opponent, and he was adjusting his game accordingly.

When Royal first lost to Pantoja in Aug. 2021, he too lost by a second-round rear-naked choke. However, when Royval challenged Pantoja in his first title defense two years later, he got worked for five rounds, and it wasn’t even close. Pantoja dominated the entire fight, making Royval look like he wasn’t even championship material. While this is not the case, this story is very telling.

Moreno is constantly approving and adapting, and he is good at figuring out his opponents to get a little better each time. This was not just evident in his Pantoja bouts, but we saw something similar in his four-fight saga with Deiveson Figueiredo, which ultimately ended with Moreno winning by TKO to unify the flyweight title. With Royval, I don’t feel like his game has developed as much. He obviously belongs at the top of the UFC heap, and he has shown to have a dangerous submission game, and, while he was able to knock out Matheus Nicolau to earn the title shot, that was his first true knockout in seven years.

On paper, Moreno and Royval have similar metrics in both the striking department and the ground game, and the two are nearly identical in size with Royval giving up two inches in reach where Moreno gives up two inches in height. Overall, this one comes down to intangibles. Moreno is a tough, strong, ever-improving fighter who is growing in the areas where he is weak while exploiting his strengths. Royval is also a tough, highly skilled athlete, but I don’t feel like he is developing and adapting as well to get better. It’s only been two months since Pantoja completely outclassed Royval, and two months is not long enough to make those much-needed adjustments.

Moreno is going to put on the show in front of the Mexico City crowd, and he is going to take this one by unanimous decision.

Petela: It is hard to believe that not that long ago the fate of the flyweight division was in jeopardy. It has blossomed into one of the most exciting in the sport and this weekend’s main event is a perfect example of that.

The first meeting of these two was fun while it lasted, and it would be foolish for Brandon Moreno to think that just because he got an early stoppage the first time around that he won’t be tested in the rematch. This fight is one that might need to be watched in slow motion for most people to fully comprehend how talented these two fighters have become. Both on the feet and on the ground they move effortlessly at such a high pace that it is exhausting just to watch.

I agree with Dan that Moreno will come away with the win, and, in large part, it will be because he is buoyed by the rabid Mexico City crowd. I expect Moreno to jump out to an early lead by outstriking Royval, specifically with his educated left hand that will land before Royval has a chance to get out of its way. By the later rounds, Royval will be frustrated and level change out of desperation, and he will wind up underneath Moreno who will flow on top of him until he finds the opening to take his back and sink in a rear-naked choke.

A pair of former featherweight title challengers meet in the co-main event; will it be Yair Rodriguez or Brian Ortega who emerges victorious?

Petela: This fight is a showdown between arguably the most exciting striker in the featherweight division and the most exciting grappler in the featherweight division. This has the makings for an exciting fight, or an extremely boring fight. If Brian Ortega is smart, he will try to keep the pace of this fight slow and not allow Rodriguez to get rolling downhill with his striking. We have seen in past fights that Ortega can be drawn into a brawl, most notably in his failed title bid against Max Holloway. If that is the case this weekend, it won’t end well for “T-City.”

What Ortega should do is make sure that he is all the way out or all the way in. Stay out of range of Rodriguez’s kickboxing unless he is actively trying to close the distance to get the fight to the mat. His timing will have to be on point, as Rodriguez is exceptionally fast, but if Ortega can get chest to chest he will be able to secure the takedown and get the fight into his world. Rodriguez is no slouch on the ground but he is nowhere near the level of Ortega. I don’t expect this fight to end instantly if it becomes a grappling battle but if Ortega can remain patient and control position he will be able to win rounds early and force Rodriguez to get even more aggressive which will open up more takedown opportunities and eventually that will lead to a submission. Brian Ortega will slow this fight down early, nullify the dynamic striking of Rodriguez, and earn a third-round submission victory to get back into the mix of best featherweights in the world.

Kuhl: Yair Rodriguez was one of the three Mexican champions who all wore straps at the same time last year. Wel, two of them on this card, Brandon Moreno and Yair Rodriguez have since lost their belts, but they are clearly top-three fighters in their respective divisions. Rodriguez In Jul. 2022, Rodriguez won a TKO over Brian Ortega due to a shoulder injury. He followed that up with a rear-naked choke of Josh Emmett for the interim featherweight title in Feb. 2023, setting up a title unification bout with Alexander Volkanovski in last summer. Per usual, Volk dominated Rodriguez, picking up a third-round TKO.

Ortega has actually not fought since he lost to Rodriguez. This weekend, he will be welcomed back from a 19-month layoff by the man he lost saw int he Octagon. The BJJ black belt has seven of his 10 career stoppage wins by submission, but he holds sizable height and reach disadvantages to Rodriguez, a Taekwondo black belt. Rodriguez is one of the most flashy and creative strikers on the UFC roster, and he holds eight knockout victories. Styles make fights, and, in my opinion, this one is a bad match-up for Ortega.

Whether or not he is a familiar foe, who has also been trained for once before, While I appreciate Matt’s thoughts on Ortega’s game plan and path to victory, I do not see this one going that way. Rodriguez is not the guy you want to come off the bench to face after over a year and a half on the sidelines. He will be a step or two ahead of Ortega throughout the striking exchanges, and he will handily stuff any takedown attempts. I see Rodriguez picking Ortega apart en route to a knockout victory, and, if it does go the distance, he will take all three round.

What one fighter’s UFC career is on the ropes at this event?

Kuhl: Andrea Lee. She looked like she might have something when she won her first three UFC fights. But, she lost three in a row, won two in a row, and is now on her second three-fight losing streak in only four-and-a-half years. If she loses to Miranda MAverick, which I suspect she will, her UFC days are numbered.

Petela: Daniel Lacerda. He has lost four of his five outings since joining the UFC, and the one he didn’t lose is only because of a premature stoppage by referee Chris Tognoni. Lacerda was stuck in a standing guillotine, and it looked like he was unconscious when Tognoni stepped in and pulled Edgar Chairez away from him. That might have been the luckiest thing that happened to Lacerda, because, if the choke was applied much longer, he probably would have been forced to tap or actually put to sleep. If the rematch doesn’t go his way, it is hard to imagine that the UFC will keep him on the roster.

Which fight is the sleeper match-up on this card?

Petela: Manuel Torres vs. Chris Duncan. Both of these fighters have yet to taste defeat inside the Octagon, each winning their first two fights in the promotion as well as their Dana White’s Contender Series contests. Unfortunately, someone’s winning streak is going to come to an end, and it probably ends in dramatic fashion. These guys are knockout artists, as they both have seven knockouts on their resume. This one could go either way, but I’m confident that the judges can take some time off for this one, because it ends in a knockout.

Kuhl: Claudio Puelles vs. Fares Ziam. Both men have won some fights over some big names since joining the UFC, and their promotional records are 4-2 and 5-2, respectively. Look for these two lightweights to come out banging, ready to put on a fantastic show.

Who takes home the “Performance of the Night” honors?

Kuhl: Yair Rodriguez. His opponent Brian Ortega has not fought since Jul. 2022, and he will display ring rust. Rodriguez may have lost the title unification bout to Alexander Volkanovski last summer, but he is still the fresher fighter, having stayed active with one win and one loss in 2023. He will put away Ortega and take home some extra cash.

Petela: Chris Duncan. He will spoil Manuel Torres’ fight in front of a hometown crowd and probably be booed out of the arena. But, he will make some extra cash along the way. Duncan will score his eighth professional knockout and grab that $50,000 bonus that he can use towards a Jeep, motorcycle, or a Mercedes-Benz – a real one, not just a battery operated kid’s toy.

Pair this card with…

Petela: This one is easy, the fights are in Mexico City so naturally it calls for Mexican food. Whether that means a home cooked meal or ordering takeout from Chipotle, set up a nice spread of tacos and burritos for you and your buddies to enjoy. If you do end up getting Chipotle, be sure to snag a couple orders of their chips which are top notch and always perfectly salted.

Kuhl: Chipotle? C’mon, Matt. We’re going authentic with this one being in Mexico City. Assorted street tacos all the way around. Soft corn tortillas, onions, cilantro and lime with assorted meats like lengua, cabeza, al pastor, tripa, birria, and asada. Of course, throw in a few salsa for good measure. Viva Mexico!



Fight Kuhl’s Pick Petela’s Pick
Main Card (ESPN+, 10 p.m. ET)
FlyW: Brandon Moreno vs. Brandon Royval Moreno Moreno
FW: Yair Rodriguez vs. Brian Ortega Rodriguez Ortega
Women’s StrawW: Yazmin Jauregui vs. Sam Hughes Jauregui Jauregui
LW: Manuel Torres vs. Chris Duncan Torres Duncan
BW: Raul Rosas Jr. vs. Ricky Turcios Rosas Turcios
LW: Daniel Zellhuber vs. Francisco Prado Zellhuber Zellhuber
Preliminary Card (ESPN+, 7 p.m. ET)
FlyW: Edgar Chairez vs. Daniel Lacerda Chairez Lacerda
FkyW: Victor Altamirano vs. Felipe dos Santos dos Santos Altamirano
FlyW: Jesus Aguilar vs. Mateus Mendonca Aguilar Mendonca
FlyW: Luis Rodriguez vs. Denys Bondar Rodriguez Bondar
FW: Muhammad Naimov vs. Erik Silva Naimov Naimov