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USA Today Sports Media Group
USA Today Sports Media Group
MMA Junkie Staff

MMA Junkie’s Fight of the Month for July: New champion crowned in five-round thriller

With another action-packed month of MMA in the books, MMA Junkie looks at the best fights from July 2023: Here are the five nominees, listed in chronological order, and winner of MMA Junkie’s Fight of the Month award for July.

At the bottom of the post, let us know if we got it right by voting on your choice.


Nominee: Elves Brener def. Guram Kutateladze at UFC on ESPN 48

Betting odds and real life are two different things. Elves Brener (15-3 MMA, 2-0 UFC) proved as much when he rallied to finish Guram Kutateladze (12-3 MMA, 1-2 UFC) in their lightweight bout.

Bloody but not beaten after a strong start from his opponent, Brener remained confident and focused as he landed a left hand directly to the right temple of Kutateladze. While the blow didn’t seem to connect square on the target, Kutateladze immediately retreated, crumpled, and stuck up his hand. Brener pounced with a few more punches before referee Chris Tognoni intervened.

Nominee: Dan Hooker def. Jalin Turner via at UFC 290

When the dust settled and the blood was cleaned, Dan Hooker (22-12 MMA, 12-8 UFC) defeated Jalin Turner (13-6 MMA, 6-3 UFC) in an epic battle.

Technical striking that was seen in Round 1 slowly turned into brawling mayhem in Round 2. Turner was first to land a series of significant blows as he head kicked Hooker before he landed brutal standing elbows. In Round 3, Turner was visibly tired and potentially still dazed from the Round 2 flurry. Hooker continued to push the action as he chucked bombs at Turner. In a potential desperation move, Turner took Hooker down. Hooker rose back up, however, and went on to get a split decision nod.

Nominee: Alexandre Pantoja def. Brandon Moreno at UFC 290

Alexandre Pantoja’s (25-6 MMA, 10-3 UFC) long journey to gold came to a conclusion when he captured the UFC flyweight belt from Brandon Moreno (21-7-2 MMA, 9-3-2 UFC) in a memorable battle.

Pantoja made it 3-0 in head-to-head competition with Moreno when he secured a split decision over his rival. It was a back-and-forth fight throughout, but Pantoja’s ability to maintain position on the group and more than hold his own on the feet swayed the judges in his favor.

Nominee: Jack Della Maddalena def. Bassil Hafez at UFC on ESPN 49

Bassil Hafez (8-4-1 MMA, 0-1 UFC) performed way beyond expectations in his short-notice promotional debut against Jack Della Maddalena (15-2 MMA, 5-0 UFC), but ultimately didn’t have enough in the tank to secure the upset.

After Hafez had a strong start to the welterweight fight after stepping up on five days’ notice, Della Maddalena closed the fight with some heavy damage and convinced the judges to avoid him with a split decision win. The scores were 29-28, 28-29 and 29-28.

Nominee: Nathaniel Wood def. Andre Fili at UFC Fight Night 224

Momentum swung back and forth in the featherweight bout between Nathaniel Wood (20-5 MMA, 7-2 UFC) and Andre Fili (22-10 MMA, 10-9 UFC) until the end of three thrilling round.

Both fighters were stunned and nearly finished during the fight. The final round was less frantic and more technical. Fili and Wood both landed hard shots. While it was a closely contested final round, the judges all agreed Wood had done enough for the unanimous decision win.

The winner

The winner: Pantoja vs. Moreno

Pantoja seems to have Moreno’s number – and now he has the UFC flyweight title.

In the UFC 290 co-main event at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, Pantoja defeated Moreno for the third time. Only this time, the flyweight championship belt came with it. After 25 minutes of action, Pantoja was awarded a split decision (46-49, 48-47, 48-47).

Pantoja found success early and late in the fight, with Moreno’s best moments coming in the middle. Pantoja dropped Moreno with a punch in the opening minutes. In Round 2, Moreno turned the tables with crisp boxing and slick counters. Pantoja’s face was busted and bloodied, so much so that he awkwardly held it at one point mid-fight.

Moreno found success on the ground, as he worked for a submission he could not find. With it potentially anyone’s fight entering the final round, Pantoja appeared to gain an edge with his striking and a late takedown.

When the scorecards were read, “And new,” rolled from Bruce Buffer’s tongue. Pantoja defeated Moreno in what many fans online called one of the best flyweight fights ever.

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