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Alexander Pantoja defeats Steve Erceg by decision at UFC 301 to retain the flyweight title

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Alexandre Pantoja remained champion of the UFC flyweight division with a unanimous decision victory over Steve Erceg to close out the main card of UFC 301 from Rio de Janeiro.

Pantoja got off to a good start in the first round. Erceg landed a few clean shots but Cannibal wisely switched to grappling him. He took the Australian to the mat and the fight theme was born.

Any doubt that Erceg could hold his own in a championship fight despite his inexperience was erased in the second round. He stung Pantoja with his hands several times in the round before the champion took him down and used his wrestling again.

The third round was where things got really interesting. Erceg landed a standing elbow that landed cleanly and opened up Pantoja’s face.

The cut wasn’t enough to end the fight, but it was still a bad development for Pantoja:

The first three rounds were close, but it went downhill for Pantoja. However, Erceg clearly won the fourth round with a varied boxing attack.

The fight was a toss-up heading into the fifth round and Erceg was trying to win it. However, his inexperience caught up with him when he made an ill-advised takedown.

Pantoja found his way to the top in the ensuing scramble and was knocked out the rest of the fifth round.

Either way, Erceg has earned a lot of respect as a big part of the future of this division.

No matter how long Pantoja can hold the belt, this will always be the most important moment of his reign. The opportunity to defend the belt in a fighter’s hometown doesn’t always come around.

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However, the Rio native rose to the occasion. Eliminate a competitor who has shown a lot of promise in a short time with the UFC. The 28-year-old Erceg had only three fights in the UFC before earning his title shot, but he has already proven that he is likely to re-climb the mountain at some point.

However, tonight was a full-circle moment for Pantoja.

“I left Brazil with nothing, and now I return with the crown, as a king, with the belt, world champion in the most important mixed martial arts promotion, to my country, my city,” Pantoja said before the fight. for every E. Spencer Kite From UFC.com.

For now, Pantoja can focus on other challenges. For starters, he will attempt to become just the second champion ever to defend the belt three times.

The flyweight belt has been difficult to hold onto since the departure of Demetrius Johnson in 2017. He has defended the belt 11 times in a championship run of 2,142 days.

Since then, Deiveson Figueiredo is the only one to have retained it twice, one of which was due to a draw with Brandon Moreno in December 2020.

Pantoja is the first since Johnson was the inaugural two-time defending champion with victories in both bouts.

There is still a lot of work for Pantoja to do in the department. Naysayers will be quick to point out that Erceg was Tenth place In the UFC rankings. While he has wins over No. 1 and No. 2, Brandon Royval and Brandon Moreno respectively, there are still two challengers remaining.

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Royval is already working on the case for a rematch after his win over Moreno in February. Amir Al Bazi would make sense. Moreno was supposed to fight on that card but was forced out due to injury.

Either way, Pantoja has established himself as the man to beat at 125 years old.

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