Sergio Pettis and Brandon Moreno are fighting for a title shot, but the UFC Mexico City main event may be more about a glimpse into the next generation of MMA.
The UFC flyweight division has had plenty of attention outside of the Octagon, for plenty of the wrong reasons. However, there are several flyweights who are eager to demonstrate that the 125 weight class is not merely about Demetrious Johnson. Two of those men collide in the main event of UFC Mexico City as Sergio Pettis and Brandon Moreno will face off to see who can stake a claim for a future flyweight title bout.
At 125, proximity to a title shot is determined by factors much different to the rest of the roster. Such is the case when there’s a champion who has virtually cleaned out the division. Pettis is 6-2 in the flyweight division and has had to work to distinguish himself from his older brother to become a standout in his own right. Moreno is only 3-0 by comparison, but with two finishes has already propelled himself to a top-ten ranking.
Pettis is the higher ranked of the two at fifth in the UFC rankings while Moreno is sixth. Normally this bout would not be grounds for a title shot, but Johnson has defeated the five fighters ahead of them in convincing fashion. That puts higher stakes on this bout as Johnson has his next title defense scheduled for September.
Moreno has had plenty of ground to cover since his run on The Ultimate Fighter last year. Losing his only fight in the house, he was granted a fight on short notice before the finale, a first round finish against Louis Smolka. He followed it up with a win over Ryan Benoit at the end of the season. It wasn’t until his finish of Dustin Ortiz, however, that he started entering talks for title contention.
Pettis has had high expectations for him since his debut in the UFC in 2013, a consequence of entering the promotion when his older brother Anthony was at the height of his powers. While “Showtime” accelerated his run with electrifying performances, the younger Sergio developed under the bright lights slowly.
“The Phenom” started his UFC career at bantamweight where he went 3-2. At flyweight, his frame is better suited for the weight class and he has gone 3-0. His recent run includes victories over former title challengers Chris Cariaso and John Moraga. While he has yet to notch a career-defining win, he could propel himself into such an opportunity if he gets by Moreno for a shot at the belt.
Stylistically, it’s really about finesse vs. aggression. Pettis is known for using his versatile striking to outwork opponents, mixing in a multitude of kicks to prevent the opposition from finding their rhythm. Moreno’s game is not as dazzling, but he’s shown an excellent ability to create openings in the stand-up and looks to be the more comfortable of the two should the fight go to the ground.
With both men riding an excellent win-streak, it’s truly anyone’s fight to win. Moreno would certainly like to get a victory in front of his home country, but Pettis’ longer ledger of UFC experience could give him the advantage in his first five-round fight.
Notably, both men are only 23 years old and have plenty of time to continue growing and developing as mixed martial artists. While tonight’s bout has big implications in the short term, we could very well see the beginning of a new rivalry as they continue their UFC careers. Tonight’s headliner may not be between the best flyweights in the world (yet) but it could be a glimpse into the next generation of fighters who could take the mantle after Johnson and the current guard.
For the UFC’s return to Mexico City, there is plenty to be excited about. With names like Moreno and Alexa Grasso scheduled, fans will have several fighters to give local support. The only thing left is to see is if the next generation is ready to shine under the lights.