UFC 301: Steve Erceg falls short of history in five-round war with flyweight champion Alexandre Pantoja

Mitchell Woodcock
The Nightly
2 Min Read
Steve Erceg has fallen short of creating history.
Steve Erceg has fallen short of creating history. Credit: Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC via Getty Images

Steve Erceg has fallen short of creating history and becoming the first West Australian to claim a UFC title in a five-round war on enemy soil.

Erceg (12-2) lost to flyweight champion Alexandre Pantoja (28-5) by unanimous decision in a brutal five-round fight at UFC 301 in Rio de Janeiro on Sunday morning.

In only his fourth fight in the UFC, Erceg pushed the world’s best across an incredible five five-minute rounds.

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Erceg did a lot of damage, leaving Pantoja bloodied but couldn’t find a finish with the bout going to the judges’ scorecards, where the champion won 48-47, 48-47, 49-46.

“I was surprised how well he could scramble. I usually beat guys there so it was a shock,” Erceg said post-fight.

“I thought the third (round) was close enough. He got me down a couple of times but there was no real control and I got up and beat him on the feet.

“I thought if I can win the last round at least I give myself a chance and I just blew it.”

Pantoja controlled most of the first round on the mat while an accidental clash of heads opened Erceg up on his hairline.

Erceg wouldn’t give up his back to Pantoja though and got out of the round on his feet, having landed some blows of his own early on.

The West Australian found his feet and some confidence in the second round, landing a series of shots to the chin of the champion.

Erceg was also able to snuff out a few takedowns and use his superior length and strength to win the exchanges on the feet, putting the champion in trouble.

The whole fight changed in the third though when Erceg caught Pantoja with a big elbow to the forehead, busting open the champion and putting him in control of the fight.

Erceg continued to land big blows to Pantoja, but the champion wouldn’t go down despite the best efforts of the challenger.

It went into the championship rounds and Erceg was looking the most composed and calm of the pair.

Erceg was dominating on the feet, but for some reason he went for a series of takedowns in the final round which opened up the fight for Pantoja.

The hometown hero countered on the clinch and got plenty of control time on the map which cost him the round and arguably the championship.

It leaves Erceg now waiting to see if he will fight on his home venue of RAC Arena for UFC 305 later this year.

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