UFC 301 Main Event Recap: Alexandre Pantoja retains after winning a close decision over Steve Erceg

MMA: UFC 290 - Moreno vs Pantoja
Stephen R. Sylvanie-USA TODAY Sports

In the main event of UFC 301, the flyweight title was on the line. The champion Alexandre Pantoja (27-5) was fighting in front of his home country as he took on the surprising challenger in tenth ranked Steve Erceg (12-1).

It’s not often you see someone ranked tenth in a division get a title shot, but here we are. Erceg gets this title shot on the heels of his big time knockout win over Matt Schnell two months ago. It was just his third fight inside the octagon but thus far he’s been perfect and tonight he was going for gold.

Last July, Alexandre Pantoja defeated Moreno by decision to become the champion and then he had a rematch with Brandon Royval at UFC 296 for his first title defense. Pantoja won a lopsided decision that night and tonight he was trying to make it two successful title defenses.

UFC 301 Recap

Round 1

The UFC 301 main event kicks off with a touch of the gloves. Powerful leg kick from Pantoja and a big combination. He’s right in the face of Erceg and the champion is starting out very fast. Takedown attempt from Pantoja but Erceg defends well. Pressure from Pantoja and Erceg lands a short left hook.

Nice jab from Erceg. Pantoja lands a big shot but Erceg lands a big counter combination. The hands of Erceg looked very crisp there. Right over the top from Pantoja. Long jab from Erceg lands. Big knee up the middle from Pantoja. Erceg upping his own pressure here. Pantoja rushes with a combination.

Beautiful right straight lands for Erceg. Right over the top from Pantoja and he chains that into a takedown. Erceg tries to work his way back to the fence. He scrambles but Pantoja lands a big knee to the body and Pantoja gets the top position. Erceg works his way back up but Pantoja takes his back.

A scramble by Erceg but Pantoja maintains top position. Big shots from Pantoja but that allows Erceg to get back to his feet. Pantoja is holding him against the fence and he drags him back down but a scramble from Erceg gets him back on his feet. The round ends and it’s 1-0 for the champion at UFC 301.

Round 2

Round two is underway and Erceg takes the center. Pantoja rushes and he immediately tries for a takedown. Erceg defends well and gets a little space. Immediate takedown attempt again but Erceg breaks away. Combination from Pantoja but nothing lands clean there.

Jab from Erceg and now he doubles up on it. Right over the top from Pantoja. Erceg lands a counter and a takedown from Pantoja. Immediate mount transition for Pantoja. Erceg is trying to scramble and he’s able to get it back to half guard. Another scramble and Erceg gets back to his feet.

Big left hand lands for Erceg. Combination from Erceg and now he tries to initiate the grappling. They separate and they’re striking again. Big left counter from Erceg. The challenger is having success here. Big elbow from Erceg and another big shot. Pantoja throws a combination and he’s desperate for a takedown. Erceg defends well and gets space. Right hand from Erceg.

Beautiful right counter from Erceg. Body kick from Pantoja and an elbow from Erceg. Takedown from Pantoja ends the round. Personally I give the round to Erceg with the way he was able to land. 1-1 on my scorecard at UFC 301.

Round 3

Third round underway and again Erceg takes the center. Pantoja tries to rush and Erceg lands a big counter elbow. Grappling initiated by Pantoja and he lands a knee. Erceg breaks away and lands a left. Another left from Erceg and Pantoja rips a combination to the body. Jab from Erceg.

Jab from Erceg and Pantoja comes over the top with a combination. Both men land well and now Erceg is just popping the jab. Long straight shots land from the champion and he’s back on the takedown attempt. Erceg defends well and breaks free from the champion. Both men land huge shots with two minutes to go.

Pantoja blitzes but can’t land much. 1-2 lands clean from Pantoja and he blitzes. Massive elbow from Erceg and that completely splits Pantoja up with a minute left. Takedown from Pantoja and he’s holding onto to Erceg here. Scramble from Erceg but Pantoja gets his back. Erceg gets back up and the round ends. Because of the damage I give the round to Steve Erceg and I have him up 2-1 at UFC 301.

Round 4

The fourth round starts and Erceg immediately lands a nice counter right as Pantoja comes forward. Crisp shots from Erceg and he seems to have a little more urgency to start the fourth. Takedown attempt from Erceg and Pantoja shakes him off. Right over the top from Erceg.

Step in elbow lands for Erceg and Pantoja immediately tries to take him down. Erceg breaks free and lands a nasty combination. Jab from Erceg and now Pantoja lands a right over the top. Knee from Erceg lands. Head kick from Erceg and another combination. Long jab from Erceg and now a right. Left hand from Erceg.

Pantoja pushes forward but nothing behind it. The blood is flowing on Pantoja and Erceg lands a combination. Pantoja fires back and lands. Right straight from Erceg and now another big combination. Jab from Erceg lands with one minute left in the round. Big liver shot from Erceg. Jab from Erceg and Pantoja lands a shot. Right straight from Erceg and a big uppercut. The round ends and it’s Erceg’s round. I have him up 3-1 at UFC 301.

Round 5

Entering the final round and it could be anyone’s fight right now. Big counter left from Erceg starts the striking. Pantoja pushes forward and Erceg lands a takedown. However, Pantoja reverses the position and gets on top. Pantoja immediately gets his back and Erceg made a horrible mistake forcing the grappling here in the fifth.

Erceg is trying to break and he’s able to with three minutes left to work. Erceg goes right back on the pressure and he lands an uppercut. Jab now from Erceg and a right over the top. Head kick from Erceg lands and Pantoja lands a left. Jab from Erceg and he lands a big elbow on Pantoja.

Leg kick from Pantoja and a left over the top. Erceg lands a nice jab and another elbow. Erceg goes for an odd takedown and Pantoja gets on top. Erceg tries to scramble but Pantoja just stays on top. The round is going to come to a close with Pantoja on top. He’ll take the final round and I have it 48-47 Erceg, but I’d bet money that Pantoja retains at UFC 301.

Alexandre Pantoja def. Steve Erceg by Unanimous Decision (48-47, 48-47, 49-46)

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