Brandon Royval spoils Moreno’s homecoming at UFC Mexico City

Brandon Royval was not the favorite Saturday night. Not in the betting odds, nor in the eyes of the fans in the building.

Across the cage from him was Brandon Moreno, the first Mexican-born UFC champion who had yet to win a UFC fight in his home country. With those cards stacked against him, Royval rose to the occasion, coming back from an early deficit to beat Moreno via split decision (48-47, 46-49, 48-47) in the flyweight main event of UFC Mexico City.

The fight was very close, and when the scorecards were read, the sold-out crowd fell silent. Royval, though, had picked up the biggest win of his career in front of onlookers he felt kinship with.

“I’m a third-generation Mexican,” Royval said in his postfight interview. “I know that doesn’t count, but the only reason I get through this s— is because I got that Mexican heart like all you guys. … I love you people. I love Mexico. Hey, I’m one of you guys as much as I can be. The best part of me is you.”

Coming in, ESPN had Moreno ranked as the No. 2 flyweight in the world, with Royval No. 7. Moreno entered as the biggest favorite of his career, at -310 odds, according to ESPN Bet.

Judge Mike Bell had Royval winning the second, third and fourth rounds. Judge Chris Lee had Royval winning the first, second and fourth. Judge Junichiro Kamijo, the lone dissenter, had Moreno winning the first, second, third and fifth rounds.

Moreno looked good early, landing big overhand rights in the first and second rounds. Royval appeared to injure his left leg throwing a kick in the first round, but he kept throwing it to solid effect. By the middle rounds, Royval got into a nice rhythm with punching combinations out of the southpaw stance plus knees and hard kicks to the body.

“I’m a f—ing gangster,” Royval said. “I’m the realest one in this f—ing flyweight division.”

Royval called out UFC flyweight champion Alexandre Pantoja, who was in attendance, for a rematch, telling him, “Let’s run that s— back.”

“I’m going to people’s houses and taking their s—,” Royval said.

Moreno’s original opponent was Amir Albazi, who withdrew last month because of a serious neck injury that required surgery. Moreno had beaten Royval once before, via first-round TKO in November 2020.

Royval (16-7) fell to Pantoja via unanimous decision on Dec. 16 at UFC 296. Before that, the Colorado native had won three straight. Royval, 31, has lost to only two men in the UFC: Moreno and Pantoja (twice).

Moreno (21-8-2), a two-time former champion, has dropped two straight, his first losing streak in five years. The Tijuana-born fighter lost the flyweight title to Pantoja last July at UFC 290.

Moreno, 30, is now 0-2 (1 NC) in Mexico. This was his first nontitle fight since the 2020 matchup against Royval.

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