Midnight Mania: Title Shot On The Line?

Welcome to Midnight Mania!

Undefeated Flyweight prospect Muhammad Mokaev has lofty aspirations. Namely, he’s chasing Jon Jones’ record as the youngest champion in UFC history, a feat “Bones” achieved at 23 years of age, about four months prior to turning 24, by smashing Mauricio Rua in 2011.

Mokaev, whose own 24th birthday is in July, has just over a month to surpass Jones … which feels impossible given the simple fact that Pantoja isn’t booked to fight one month from now! However, the 23-year-old wrestler has won five straight fights to start his UFC career, steadily advancing into the Flyweight Top 10, and if it’s any silver lining, he may be closer to a title shot than many expect.

Mostly because Flyweight is a mess and there’s nobody else. However, as a result of that chaos, his match up this weekend (Sat. March 2, 2024) at UFC Vegas 87 against former title challenger Alex Perez is suddenly a lot more interesting.

“Brandon Royval, I think he has (a torn) ACL,” Mokaev explained (via MMAJunkie). “Brandon Moreno is 0-3 against Pantoja. (Brandon) Royval is 0-2 against Pantoja. (Manel) Kape is probably going to have one more fight because he didn’t make weight last time. (Amir) Albazi is injured. Kai Kara-France has a concussion because when I asked to fight him, Mick (Maynard) said he’s got a concussion, and he won’t be able to fight.

“Now, I’m the only challenger, but I have to beat Alex Perez in an impressive way.”

Alexandre Pantoja is targeting his second title defense at UFC 301 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil on May 4, 2024. Though that’s technically too late to break Jones’ record, Mokaev is more than willing to step up on a fairly quick rebound from this weekend to fight for the belt at UFC 301.

“That’s 10 weeks from March 2, I already counted,” Mokaev said. “I’m ready. Like I said, I have big experience in amateur career, so I can fight every weekend.”

According to a recent interview with Guilherme Cruz, Pantoja is open to the match up as well. Of course, Alex Perez may have something to say about these plans, so the first victory on Saturday night remains fully necessary if this unexpected title shot is to materialize.

Insomnia

Ricky Turcios says that Raul Rosas Jr. declined to have their bout rebooked for this weekend at UFC Vegas 87.

Rare MMA trash talk that actually made me chuckle.

Where the head goes, the body will follow.

Pantoja doesn’t get the respect he deserves for his body of work.

Congratulations to Sodiq Yusuff on a very cool opportunity!

I have been backstage at fights, acting as the sparring partner (read: punching bag) for a warming up fighter, and Aljamain Sterling describes it perfectly here.

An awkward moment from UFC Mexico City explained …

Slips, rips, and KO clips

Mid-punch is a really bad time to get kicked in the body.

For my money, this 2014 bout still ranks highly as one of the best and most technical fights in MMA history.

Centrifugal force on display!

Random Land

A disaster in more ways than one … but a neat video close to 40 years later.

Midnight Music: Jazz, 1962

Sleep well Maniacs! More martial arts madness is always on the way.

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