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UFC 301 Predictions – MMA Fights

Alexandre Pantoja has the privilege of defending his title in his hometown, but will it be a tragedy or a triumph for the flyweight champion?

The Rio de Janeiro native is fighting in Brazil for the first time in over a decade and on paper he has been given a tailor-made opponent to impress against. With Pantoja having already dismissed several top prospects, it is the unassuming Australian Steve Erceg who received the call for the UFC 301 main event and with it a chance to shock the world.

As talented as Erceg is, he only has three UFC fights under his belt and most fans are still getting to know him. Is he a hidden gem who is being unfairly overlooked or is he simply the beneficiary of good timing? One thing is certain: a win in Erceg will blow the flyweight division wide open.

In the co-main event – ​​​​and we may have buried the lede here – Jose Aldo is back! “The King of Rio” is fighting in the octagon for the first time since 2022, pausing his boxing career to grace us all with his presence one more time (and to finish out his UFC contract so he can return to boxing, but that does not matter). Aldo has all but been given an edge in the silent but deadly Jonathan Martinez, but if he can summon some of that vintage ‘Scarface’ magic, he might get the proper send-off he’s always deserved.

In other main card action, former light heavyweight title challenger Anthony Smith answers the call to fight undefeated Vitor Petrino, Michel Pereira meets Brazilian nemesis Ihor Potieria in a middleweight bout, and Paul Craig looks to give dormant middleweight contender Caio Borralho his first shot. UFC defeat.

What: UFC301

Where: Farmasi Arena in Rio de Janeiro

When: Saturday May 4. The card kicks off with a five-fight early prelims portion on ESPN+ at 6:00 PM ET, with continued coverage of the four-fight prelim card also on ESPN and ESPN+ starting at 8:00 PM ET. The five-fight main card kicks off at 10:00 PM ET and is available exclusively on ESPN+ pay-per-view.


(Numbers in brackets indicate that you are inside MMA Fighting’s global rankings And Pound-for-Pound Rankingings)

Alexandre Pantoja (1, P4P-6) vs. Steve Erceg (14)

Since this matchup was first announced, it’s been tempting to jump on the Steve Erceg underdog bandwagon. He’s hugely impressed with his three UFC wins, has the affable Australian character we all love, and is clearly riding a wave of ‘nobody believes in me’ energy. Anyone who has followed Erceg’s story should not be at all surprised if he topples Alexandre Pantoja on Saturday.

Pantoja finds himself in a precarious position, having already built an impressive resume against the division’s best, to the point that his next few title defenses will likely face newcomers with no name value. It’s up to him, of course, to take the championship to the next level with his performances, but it’s hard to shake the feeling that he’s always going there with more to lose than to gain.

If anyone thinks this is just a showcase match for the Brazilian star, they will be disappointed to see the problems Erceg brings. He is excellent at controlling distances and his patience often leads to his opponents making mistakes. Even Pantoja could overextend himself against Erceg if the pace isn’t to his liking.

That said, Pantoja is a master of controlled chaos and while there have been moments lately where it seems like he’s throwing caution to the wind, his foundations are so solid that he’s rarely in danger of completely letting go of the reins. It may take a round for him to figure out Erceg’s style, but eventually he will persevere and make it a dogfight. He will also add a lot of takedowns to test Erceg’s ground game.

Both headliners are incredibly durable and will take some damage as they mount their attack. Pantoja has proven that he excels in wars of attrition and while Erceg will have his moments, the decision goes the way of the champion.

Choose: Pantoya

Jose Aldo vs. Jonathan Martinez (14)

It’s time to say goodbye.

Okay, it’s entirely possible that Jose Aldo won’t just fight out his contract and actually return to the UFC, but that’s doubtful. So instead of breaking the thread and connecting the dots with an Aldo-Sean O’Malley title fight, let’s look at this booking in the most positive light and see it as our opportunity to properly say goodbye to a legend.

Because win or lose, this is a great way to end Aldo’s MMA career. As beautiful as Salt Lake City is, it’s not his home, and the King of Rio always intended to call it a career in front of a sea of ​​adoring Brazilian fans. Will he now go out on a high note or will Jonathan Martinez continue his strong streak?

Martinez has established himself as the master of the leg kick – a title Aldo once proudly held – so “The Silence Behind the Violence” won’t hesitate to trade places with Aldo in this area. That could also be his path to victory, as Aldo’s long layoff likely means it could take some time for him to get going again. A few chopping kicks to the lead leg will stop Aldo before he gets started.

However, we cannot ignore the fact that Aldo has been busy with boxing and since this fight will be contested mainly on the feet, that experience can only help him. It’s rare for Aldo to be completely outclassed in a high-profile battle, and just because he’s long in the tooth doesn’t mean he’s forgotten what makes him great.

Yes, I choose Aldo, and what!

Choose: Aldo

Anthony Smith (13) vs. Vitor Petrino

I’m torn about this.

Theoretically, this should be a choice in favor of Vitor Petrino. He’s younger, faster, stronger, and if he wanted to name a name in the top 15 to boost his profile, Anthony Smith was the way to go. Add in some home cooking and the stage is set for him to get Smith’s number.

Then you look at the strength of their schedule and – in regards to Tyson Pedro and company – suddenly that 0 in Petrino’s loss column doesn’t look so good. Smith may be in a slump, but considering his slump has involved a bevy of heavy hitters, you can’t blame him for having some red on his ledger.

Smith’s best bet is to take this fight to the ground, which is easier said than done when you consider the gap in athleticism. Without proper setup, he’s asking for an uppercut or knee to the dome.

I still think Smith is too much for Petrino at this point in his career and I’m confident he can win this fight with his wrestling. I mean, I had almost the exact same analysis for Smith’s most recent fight and it turned out to be just dandy.

Wait, no, that didn’t happen. What am I doing? Petrino by knockout.

Choose: Petrino

Ihor Potieria vs. Michel Pereira

Ihor Potieria, it’s time to pay the whistler.

It was in January 2023 that Potieria tempted fate when he was picked from obscurity as the final opponent of the legendary Mauricio “Shogun” Rua. Not only did he finish Rua via strikes, he also had the audacity to pose and preen in celebration, which went as well as you’d expect with the Rio crowd. Now he returns to the scene of the crime.

Waiting for him is Brazilian wild man Michel Pereira. It’s true that we’ve seen a kinder, gentler and more stable Pereira in recent years, but ‘Demolidor’ is still brimming with energy and charisma, which he will undoubtedly channel into his performance on Saturday. Pereira will not be satisfied with one decision, not with a legion of vengeful fans asking for Potieria’s blood.

Pereira is simply too dynamic for Potieria. He plays with his food for a few minutes before delivering a show-stealing knockout strike and sending the fans home happy no matter what happens the rest of the night.

Choose: Pereira

Paul Craig vs. Caio Borralho

Can you say…BRAZIL SWEEP???

Caio Borralho, you got this. His karate style will be difficult for Paul Craig to deal with and his ground game is strong enough to fend off Craig’s submission attempts. Don’t be surprised if it’s Craig who defends against Borralho’s dangerous wrestling.

Craig needs to find a way to take Borralho down and maintain control if he wants to have a chance of winning this one. Otherwise, he’ll be picked off his feet and relegated to vomiting Hail Mary submissions off his back (not that he can’t remove one, just ask Magomed Ankalaev). This is Borralho’s fight to lose.

Trust Borralho to dominate with his methodical, if not so exciting, style en route to a unanimous decision.

Choose: Borralho

Preliminaries

Joanderson Brito def. Jack Coast

Karolina Kowalkiewicz def. Iasmin Lucindo

Myktybek Orolbai def. Elves Brener

Drakkar Klose def. Joaquim Silva

Mauricio Ruffy def. Jamie Mullarkey

Dione Barbosa def. Ernesta Kareckaite

Ismael Bonfim def. Vinc Pichel

Alessandro Costa def. Kevin Borjas