So we are going to Rio de Janeiro with the UFC 301. After some 13 months, the best MMA organization in the world is back in this city, with one championship bout on the card: the flyweight battle between Alexandre Pantoja and Seve Erceg. 

But that won’t be the main event of the night, as the home crowd favorite and one of the legends of this sport, Jose Aldo, returns to the octagon to fight Jonathan Martinez in the bantamweight division.

There are several more sounding names on the card, Anthony Smith, Michel Pereira, and Paul Craig, though we will focus only on the two top fights. 

Alexandre Pantoja vs. Steve Erceg Preview

The 34-year-old champ will defend his title for the second time. He won it against Brandon Moreno via split decision at the UFC 290, and after that, he beat Brandon Royval after a unanimous decision. Right now, Pantoja has five straight wins, and his previous defeat was in 2020 when Askar Askarov notched a unanimous decision win over him.

The Brazilian is a very energetic fighter whose game in the octagon is versatile. He had 32 battles so far, with 27 wins and five losses. Eight came via KO, 10 by submission, and nine via decision. Tactics and relentless work are his main weapons, and those two aspects have brought him the title in the first place. 

Steve Erceg is one of the fastest-rising stars in the flyweight division and the organization as well. He made his debut in the UFC some year ago, posting three wins since and looking magnificent. His rivals were David Dvorak, Alessandro Costa, and Matt Schnell, whom he knocked out.

Eight of his 12 wins came via stoppage, two knockouts, and six submissions. Erceg’s takedown defense has been impregnable in the opening three UFC evets. His chin was tested on several occasions, though, not as intense as Pantoja’s. 

That’s why we can’t bet on the challenger’s win in this case. He has little or no experience against top guys in the division, and we strongly believe that this fight came way too early for Erceg. Pantoja is an animal, and we’ve seen him in the past, how he works, how he adapts and recovers. Erceg is an enigma.

Our verdict: Pantoja wins

Jonathan Martinez vs. Jose Aldo Preview

Martinez had a hard time adjusting to the UFC, but since 2021, this guy has been steadily improving and expanding his arsenal. He currently rides a six-bout winning streak, which includes the names like Vince Morales, Cub Swanson, Said Nurmagomedov and Adrian Yanez, whom he beat in October 2023. 

The 30-year-old is a very good Muay Thai striker, but he also knows how to perform well on the mat, particularly in defense. However, Martinez’s primary weapon is heavy striking, and nine of 19 victories were following a KO and eight via decision. 

Aldo’s big comeback could be problematic for the legendary fighter because his reputation is at stake. He had a terrible run in 2019 and 2020 but came back and won three in a row before losing to Merab Dvalishvilli. In that August 2022, he decided to step down and retire. 

We don’t know what state he is in, but it was definitely obvious that he had certain problems with cardio and fitness in the past. That is, compared to others, he looked just fine, but compared to old Aldo, the one who was mauling the entire division, he was way from that level. 

Unlike the previous case, we won’t be giving any picks here. To check out the offer, here is the link for betXchange odds.


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