Alexandre Pantoja defends Flyweight title at UFC 301

Jason Silva, USA TODAY Sports
UFC Flyweight Champion Alexandre Pantoja secures his second title defense against challenger, Steve Erceg.

RIO DE JANEIRO — “And still!” UFC Flyweight Champion Alexandre Pantoja retains his title this Saturday night at UFC 301 in a championship fight against #10 ranked, Steve Erceg.

Pantoja displayed an experienced, well-rounded performance to claim a unanimous decision win over the Australian, receiving a 48-47, 48-47, and 49-46 on the judges’ scorecards. By relying on his experienced ground game, Pantoja was able to overcome both the height and reach advantage of Erceg — as well as his display of sharp boxing fundamentals — which found their mark on the champion multiple times throughout the five-round fight. Utilizing a takedown-heavy approach, Pantoja found great success on the ground where he displayed a clear advantage over Erceg with a control time of 5:44, a statistic that was an important component of his win.

In his post-fight interview, Pantoja thanked his team and the crowd at Farmasi Arena and expressed his respect for Erceg.

“I’m in here to fight the best in the world, and this guy’s one of them. What a tough guy, what a tough division…”

When asked about his next title defense, Pantoja did not mention any names, expressing the need to take some time to rest before jumping back into a training camp. The Flyweight division has no shortage of challengers, such as the undefeated, #6 ranked Muhammad Mokaev, who many MMA fans feel was in line for tonight’s title shot. Whoever his next opponent may be, Pantoja has proved himself a dominant champion — and a force to be reckoned with.

Pantoja reacts to decision win over Erceg, Jason Silva – USA TODAY Sports

In the co-main event, Hall of Famer and former Featherweight Champion, José Aldo, delivered an incredible upset performance over Jonathan Martinez, claiming a unanimous decision win and receiving a 30-27 on all three judges’ scorecards. Having taken an almost two-year hiatus from MMA, many fans felt that Aldo would be overwhelmed by the ferocity of the younger, faster Martinez, but in his fight showed that experience can be worth more than age alone. Tonight, that experience was on full display in one of the most spectacular performances of UFC 301. During his post-fight interview, Aldo expressed his gratitude to have been a part of this historic card and discussed his future fighting in the UFC.

“I couldn’t imagine this in my wildest dreams — it’s amazing to be back here in the city I live in, the city I love… My next step is sitting with Dana, Sean, and Hunter, and seeing where this goes. I said that this wasn’t going to be my last fight, I think I [have] the physique, I’m still at the age where I can still fight, I see that I can still go for it so maybe we can come back in here and become the champion.”

José Aldo celebrates his win at UFC 301, Jason Silva – USA TODAY Sports

Other fights on tonight’s main card were riddled with early-round finishes, including two standing guillotine submissions from Anthony Smith and Michel Pereira, and a left-hook knockout from Caio Borralho.

Often thought of as the spiritual home of mixed martial arts, Rio once again proved itself to be one of the most electric locations for a UFC PPV event. Fans can expect a return from the UFC soon.