Alexandre Pantoja needed to battle till the ultimate second to make sure he thwarted a valiant problem from Steve Erceg within the UFC 301 fundamental occasion.

It was a back-and-forth battle over 5 rounds, with every competitor successful sufficient moments to really feel just like the combat can be determined within the last 5 minutes. Ultimately, Pantoja’s capability to manage Erceg on the bottom helped him safe the win, and he retained his title in entrance of a raucous crowd in Rio de Janeiro.

The last scorecards learn 48-47, 48-47, and 49-46, with Pantoja getting the nod by unanimous choice.

“I’m in here to fight the best in the world and this guy’s one of them,” Pantoja mentioned. “What a tough opponent to have in here. I think I need to move my head, these guys are hitting me too much. What an incredible guy, an incredible opponent.”

Aggressive as all the time, Pantoja regarded to overwhelm Erceg firstly of the combat, however the Australian confirmed persistence and good counters to maintain him sincere. Following some hanging exchanges on the ft, Pantoja scored his first takedown with simply over two minutes remaining within the opening spherical as he regarded to showcase his grappling dominance.

Pantoja stayed methodical, seeking to take a extra dominant place, however Erceg defended nicely till he lastly scrambled again to his ft once more.

When the challenger was capable of lead along with his jab, Erceg backed Pantoja off, however he nonetheless needed to discover a technique to break away from the fixed takedown makes an attempt. Erceg did handle to clip Pantoja with a number of stiff punches and a slick inside elbow that allowed him to start out mounting a greater offense.

Erceg did his finest work at distance, however he was additionally cautious to not overextend himself with Pantoja firing again with massive, looping punches and heavy handed combos. As Pantoja rushed ahead with a blitz of punches, Erceg countered with a superbly timed elbow that sliced proper throughout the champion’s head.

Blood instantly started pouring down Pantoja’s face, so he fought to pull Erceg to the canvas and work from there.

As the combat moved into the championship rounds, Erceg continued working behind straight punches and his jab, with Pantoja firing again excessive to take care of the taller, longer fighter. Erceg landed with extra regularity, but additionally stayed affected person to make sure he saved Pantoja in entrance of his punches.

It additionally regarded like Pantoja was slowing down barely, however that didn’t cease him from reversing a takedown and placing Erceg on the defensive as an alternative. Unfortunately for Pantoja, his makes an attempt to pull Erceg again to the canvas had been blocked by a fence seize that the referee didn’t name earlier than the fighters separated again to the ft once more.

With lower than two minutes remaining, Erceg went for an additional takedown, however Pantoja shortly reversed to land on high to take care of management. Pantoja closed the combat with some ground-and-pound to cement his victory and thwart the potential upset from the unlikely challenger.

Understandably upset with the result, Erceg took full possession for the errors he made within the last spherical that possible price him the combat.

“I thought that if I could win the last round at least, I’d give myself a chance,” Erceg mentioned. “I just blew it.”

Despite the result, Erceg proved in simply his fourth UFC combat that he completely belongs close to the highest of the flyweight division. Considering his efficiency, it in all probability gained’t take lengthy for him to earn his approach again to a different shot on the belt.

As for Pantoja, it was one other grueling night time on the workplace, however that’s turn out to be his inventory and commerce as he maintains his spot as the highest 125-pounder within the UFC.

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