Muhammad Mokaev Claims Impressive Win Over Alex Perez, Eyes Alexandre Pantoja Matchup

Flyweight contender Muhammad Mokaev is one win away from a potential UFC title challenge, with his upcoming match against Alex Perez seen as the final step towards a championship opportunity.

Muhammad Mokaev is on the brink of a big break. He’s just a stone’s throw away from vying for UFC gold. At 23, this flyweight contender is set to square off against Alex Perez in UFC Vegas 87. The stakes? Higher than you’d expect, especially after a key UFC Mexico City clash.

Just last weekend, Alexandre Pantoja, the reigning 125-pound champ, saw Brandon Royval clinch a tough split decision win over Brandon Moreno. Theoretically, this bout was meant to determine Pantoja’s next challenger for UFC 301 in Rio de Janeiro. But here’s the twist: Pantoja had already defended his title against Royval a mere two months ago. This opens up a golden opportunity for a new face to challenge Pantoja in the May 4 main event.

Mokaev’s done the math. A win over Perez could be the final piece of the puzzle that lands him a shot at the championship. “My DMs were blowing up after Brandon Royval vs. Brandon Moreno,” Mokaev shared at the UFC Vegas 87 media day. The message was clear: “Go after a fight with Pantoja.”

Mokaev’s trained with Pantoja post-debut and didn’t find anything particularly impressive about him. In fact, Pantoja expressed a preference to fight Mokaev over Royval this week.

“Brandon Royval’s probably injured,” Mokaev speculated. “Brandon Moreno’s record against Pantoja? 0-3. Royval? 0-2. [Manel] Kape might have one more fight since he didn’t make weight last time. [Amir] Albazi’s injured. Kai Kara-France‘s got a concussion. When I asked to fight him, [UFC matchmaker] Mick [Maynard] said, ‘He’s concussed, can’t fight you.’ So, it’s down to me. But I gotta beat Alex Perez, and it’s gotta be impressive.”

Mokaev joined the UFC in 2022, bringing a wealth of pro and amateur experience. He’s undefeated in his first five UFC fights. His wrestling-heavy style hasn’t always been flashy, but “The Punisher” has managed to submit four opponents inside the octagon.

His game plan against Perez? Knock him out before the final bell if that’s what it takes to wow the fans and matchmakers. “If it’s a decision or something, people don’t like it,” Mokaev admitted. “I wasn’t happy with myself when I had a decision against Charles Johnson. I know I can finish these guys. I’m young, hungry, crazy. I need to finish these guys, then I can fight for the belt.”

Four months shy of his 24th birthday, Mokaev will miss the UFC record for youngest champion by a whisker, even if he secures the Pantoja fight and wins at UFC 301. Jon Jones holds the record, having won his first UFC title at 23 years and 242 days.

Mokaev had his sights set on that record earlier in his career. But now? He’s not losing sleep over it as his dream of becoming champion inches closer to reality. “Listen, if UFC wanted me to become UFC champion, they would have done that earlier,” Mokaev said. “They want to keep Jon Jones [with the record], it’s OK, if that’s their plans what can I do about it?

“I called out everyone. I got a big injury in March and was ready to fight in August in Boston, but I couldn’t get a ranked opponent. Mick said, ‘I can get you a debutant,’ I said, ‘No, I want a ranked opponent.’ So I had to wait until October for Tim Elliott. If they wanted to do this, they would make it, because I was ready to fight anytime.”


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