UFC 301 Main Event Breakdown

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The final act of a huge Saturday in sports sees the MMA world tour make a stop in Rio de Janeiro. While fight fans are torn between boxing and the UFC, Dana White‘s promotion offers up a flyweight championship as the capper of UFC 301.

For the first time in more than a full year, Farmasi Arena (formerly Jeunesse Arena) plays host to a UFC pay-per-view. Live coverage of UFC 301 kicks off with the early prelims at 6 pm ET/ 3 pm PT on UFC Fight Pass and ESPN+. Late prelims immediately follow at 8 pm ET/ 5 pm PT on ESPN proper and ESPN+.

The evening’s activities build up to the five-fight main card at 10 pm ET/ 7 pm PT on ESPN+ pay-per-view. For those of you in Canada, UFC 301’s main card is streamed over Sportsnet+.

Flyweight Supremacy at Stake in UFC 301 Main Event

All told, barring any late postponements or cancellations between now and Saturday night, the final version of UFC 301 features a full 14-fight card. At the top of the bill is the contest for the UFC Flyweight Championship in the UFC 301 main event.

Incumbent UFC Flyweight Champion Alexandre Pantoja (27-5 MMA, 11-3 UFC) takes on challenger and No. 10 contender Steve Erceg (12-1 MMA, 3-0 UFC). As with all UFC title fights, this main event is an advertised maximum of five rounds at five minutes per round to close the show.

UFC 301 Main Event Fighter Comparison and Betting Odds

Heading into the UFC 301 main event on Saturday evening, challenger Steve Erceg stands as the taller man at 5-foot-8, compared to the 5-foot-5 frame of Alexandre Pantoja. Erceg owns a one-inch reach advantage (68 inches to 67 inches) and a 1 1/2-inch leg reach advantage (38 inches even to 36 1/2 inches) over Pantoja.

Currently, the oddsmakers have Alexandre Pantoja installed as a -180 favorite on the money line, while Steve Erceg counters as a +150 underdog, If you plan on betting on this or any other fight happening this weekend, please wager responsibly.

Alexandre Pantoja Had to Take Second Job Earlier in UFC Career

Champion Alexandre Pantoja has posted a 5-0 record in his last five fights. Right before the Christmas holiday on Dec. 16, he scored a unanimous decision victory over Brandon Royval (16-7 MMA,  6-3 UFC) in a rematch of a fight from August of 2021 during the UFC 296 co-main event.

Recently, Pantoja was interviewed by UK-based TalkSport, where he mentioned that he was employed by UberEats a few years back to pick up extra income. His win over Royval in their original fight garnered him the Performance of the Night Award at the post-fight press conference.

Pantoja has focused solely on fighting ever since and is prepared to put on a show against Erceg.

“You know, this is a fight I need, somebody fresh,” Pantoja mentioned. “Somebody that I will go to the gym and train a lot for. I like to feel a little scared about my opponent. I like to feel that because then I work so much more. I don’t like to go to the gym and feel like I can beat him very easily. I don’t think like that with Steve Erceg, he’s a strong guy.”

The UFC 301 main event will be a “home game” for Alexandre Pantoja, so can he give his countrymen a reason to celebrate? Tune in and find out.

Erceg’s Biggest Test Ever Happens Saturday

In the other corner, challenger Steve Erceg has posted a record of 5-0 in his last five fights. He’s currently on a seven-fight winning streak dating back to July of 2018.

Most recently, he needed just 26 seconds of the second round to stop Matt Schnell (16-8, 1 NC MMA, 6-6, 1 NC UFC) by knockout (straight right followed by left hook) on March 2 during UFC Vegas 87 at the UFC Apex. Impressively, Saturday’s UFC 301 main event is only Steve Erceg’s fourth appearance under the UFC’s promotional banner.

The stakes are at their highest for him this weekend. This is a man who was fighting on the opening fight of the main card just two months ago and had yet to make his UFC promotional debut this time last year.

Steve Erceg has already won 125-lb. gold in his native Australia in Eternal MMA, but will he win gold in the UFC in the biggest test of his career? Only time will tell.

Analysis, Film Study, and Prediction

The UFC 301 main event is another one of those strength vs. strength matchups. Who will win the day on Saturday night?

Watch Out For Pantoja’s Strikes

Alexandre Pantoja is known to go for the stoppage when he gets inside the cage. A textbook example happened at UFC 236 five years ago vs. Wilson Reis. 

During the first round of a scheduled three, he stalked Reis before connecting on a right-handed punch to send him down. Smelling blood in the water, Pantoja pounced on Reis with ground and pound shots, with the referee instructing Reis to move out of harm’s way. The barrage of punches made this impossible and Pantoja recorded the TKO.

All it takes for Alexandre Pantoja to defend his title is one crisp punch to knock Steve Erceg down.

Steve Erceg Can Work Quickly

In the other corner, Steve Erceg isn’t one to waste time in the Octagon. One need look no further than his last fight against Matt Schnell. 

Not long after the command to fight was given in round two, Erceg uncorked with a two-punch combination to knock him out straightaway.  Look for Steve Erceg to come out like a house on fire in the UFC 301 main event. If he can disrupt Pantoja’s gameplan, he’ll be headed back to Australia as the new champion.

Final Thoughts

This fight is projected to begin roughly one hour after the Canelo Alvarez vs. Jaime Munguia fight. You can expect fireworks here in the UFC 301 main event, too.

Prediction: Alexandre Pantoja by First-Round Knockout. 

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Drew Zuhosky has been writing about combat sports since May of 2018, coming to MMASucka after stints at Overtime Heroics and Armchair All-Americans. A graduate of Youngstown State University in Youngstown, OH, Drew is a charter member of the Youngstown Press Club. Prior to beginning his professional career, Drew was a sportswriter for YSU's student-run newspaper, The Jambar, where he supplied Press Box Perspective columns every week.

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