The Severe Spotlight: Alexandre Pantoja

Alexandre Pantoja didn’t just have a chip on his shoulder. He went out in the blistering cold of a winter’s night, wrapped his scarf around his neck, and trudged through sludge and sleet to the local chip shop to get 2 of the largest bags of chips, extra salt, extra vinegar and chucked them on his shoulder as he bounded into the cage on Saturday to fight Alex Perez.

The flyweight title picture over the last couple of years has been tricky. Trilogies and quadrillages are great fun for the fans, but for the prospects chewing at the bit to get a crack at their lifelong goal, its not so much fun. Pantoja had a cage side verbal agreement with now Interim Champion, Brandon Moreno to fight for the belt, having two wins already over the Mexican. However, injury side-lined Pantoja and Moreno entered the episode we have now.

91 seconds was all that it took for Kerry Hatley to announce the beginning of the fight, to Alex Perez being forced to tap from the neck crank that was slowly breaking his jaw. During fight week, Pantoja was hellbent on getting into the cage and dispatching of Alex Perez with ease. Jumping on the mic and calling back to both the co-main event fighters in their locker rooms, and the current champion sitting cage side, that after this debacle was sorted, he was next. It was his turn.

He did just that.

A Pantoja fight can go one of two ways. He can maraud over the octagon floor, followed by a conjured army chaos, and unleash it into the space between himself and his opponent, muddle through that chaos and find a finish. Or he can play the technical, gameplan vs gameplan, civilised chess match. (Manel Kape).

The chaos was chosen for Alex Perez. Pantoja waltzed over to Perez with the same lack of interest as he did when picking up his chips, with an outstretched hand. Bumped the fist of Alex Perez and then switched on. From the fist bump he stepped immediately into the pocket in his orthodox stance, throwing a continuous stream of shots.

A double jab, to a hard overhand right that connected. An angle change, another double jab and a right hand. Two uppercuts, a right hook, eats a big right hand from Perez, having now switched to southpaw. Two right hands and a big left hook, all whilst eating jabs from Perez. The initiation for the clinch came from Pantoja closing the space with a right uppercut, stepping through that strike as he ducked under a Perez overhand right. For reference, we are 9 seconds into the fight.

Perez disengages well from the attempted bodylock, Pantoja shoving him back for good measure. The difference in body language is gargantuan. Pantoja’s hands are by his hips, his shoulders open, his eyes transfixed on the prize. Perez is shelled up, peeking through his glove-binoculars, retreating.

A slight cage cut off to Pantoja’s right, sticks Perez against the fence, who tries to find some space for an exit the only angle that’s available: onward. He looks for his space with a right low kick, combining that with a single leg. Pantoja sprawls to front headlock, only disengaging for a moment before the pair compared the damage a knee could land from a clinch.

From that same clinch, Perez had decided he wanted to angle off, Pantoja had other ideas. He hit a throw by to expose Perez’s back.

A throw by is a common wrestling transition to get to the back, usually from a double collar-tie situation. The throw by is usually a combination of three movements, it is an opening of the elbow that is monitoring your opponents collar tie in a skyward motion, with the aid of your shoulder, removing the collar tie and off balancing the opponent toward your own collar tie. Secondly your feet make a pivot toward the outside space, on the same side as you have just raised your elbow skyward. this creates space to drag your opponent into. Thirdly, your collar tie pulls your opponent into the space you have just created with your pivot and removal of their collar tie, thus back exposure.

Pantoja hits a variation of this, he does the same mechanics but all from the same side, the collar tie side. He drives into Perez, who was trying to angle already, that drive weakens the collar tie of Perez, Pantoja allows his stance to go square, as he opens his collar tie elbow, and both steps to his right and drives Perez to his left with the remaining purchase of the collar tie. He has already controlled what was Perez’ collar tie hand with a bicep tie and now, is working toward turning the corner for a full bodylock.

Perez is doing a good job of keeping the whizzer and using that to square himself up. However, due to the lack of restriction on Pantoja’s hips, he can move them faster, and hits an outside trip. He loses his connection to Perez during the trip, but builds his hips faster, and jumps on the exposed back of Perez, who was scrambling up. You might ask why Perez gave his back to get up, and that’s due to having only three options, accept bottom position, turn to face Pantoja, and try to race up almost certainly ending up in option 1, or giving his back to scramble up/to the cage.

Pantoja the backpack grabs both hooks, and transitions quickly to a body triangle. The nice detail Pantoja uses for the standing body triangle is to tuck his anchoring leg, his locking leg behind the knee of Perez. Not only does this disrupt the base of Perez, because its difficult for him to move his leg freely with a wedge behind it, it also anchors Pantoja to Perez, taking a small portion of the weight off Pantoja’s legs.

The hand fight begins with Perez having an overwrap on the left arm of Pantoja, and his right arm in a position like if he was talking on the phone. Pantoja working to punch a hole in that phone and drag his arm under the chin. Pantoja goes to a seatbelt and just has a reassessment of his plans. Perez choosing not to move, Pantoja begins to initiate a few small movements, he attempts to inside pummel his left arm, he gives a short attempt to strip the overwrap on that left arm, with his right. He momentarily sits his weight into the hips to see if there was any give, seeing none he uses that momentum to vault himself up higher, over the shoulders of Perez, and causing Perez’s back to bend.

He manages to strip the overwrap by going under the telephone arm with his own right arm and driving the left arm of Perez away from his body. Here, Perez opts for a double telephone position with his arms. This is not effective at escaping the position but is effective at stopping a choke.

Pantoja decides he doesn’t care about chokes. He wraps up a gable grip with the bone of his forearm driving into the eyes and nose of Perez. This is going to create two reactions. Perez is either going to gut the pain and discomfort out, or he is going to raise his arms to release the pressure. Perez opts to gut it out. Tough dude.

Mindful that he doesn’t want to burn his arms out squeezing something that won’t get the tap, and understanding that we are still only a 1:08 into this fight, and should this position fail, the legs of Pantoja would be full of lactic acid, he smartly switches. He strips the telephone defence from the left side of Perez, and immediately punches his hand across the jaw. As the hand is coming across the jaw this is another anchor point, so simultaneously he is stripping the right hand off with the intention to lock up his gable grip, this time across the jaw.

Perez, to his credit does a good job of occupying the gable grip hand and trying to strip the hand across his jaw, but after some pummelling exchanges, Pantoja managed to get the crank hand into the bicep, and the commitment to the torque begins.

It’s etched across the face of Pantoja.

No more than two or three seconds of squeeze and Perez is forced to tap.

1:31 of absolute chaos.