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UFC 301: Five Things We Learned

UFC 301
UFC 301 had important fights that impacted a champion, legend, veteran, and pair of prospects. Let’s discuss what we learned from each. (Jason Silva-USA TODAY Sports)

UFC 301: Five Things We Learned

UFC 301 featured some important fights. The flyweight title was on the line, Jose Aldo made his MMA return, a few prospects shined, and some veterans proved they had gas left in the tank. That gives us a handful of important lessons to recap from UFC 301.

Alexandre Pantoja finds a way to win

The UFC 301 main event featured a flyweight title fight between Alexandre Pantoja and Steve Erceg. It was a close bout but Pantoja’s hand was raised when the decision was read.

The fascinating part of Pantoja’s game is that he has a mix of elite skills and serious flaws. The grappling skills are sensational, but he gets hit a ton and slows down considerably. Still, he manages to win fights with those flaws. In the fifth round when the fight is tied two rounds each, Pantoja is the fighter that wins a scramble, gets top position, and wins the round.

This has become a trend throughout Pantoja’s championship run. A five-round fight is not ideal for him, but he finds a way to get the job done. That deserves a lot of respect. Few fighters have the sense to understand what they need to do to win a close round or close fight. That will be crucial in upcoming bouts.

Steve Erceg earns respect in defeat

Steve Erceg lost the UFC 301 main event, but he deserves respect for his performance.

Erceg entered this bout with 13 professional fights and three UFC fights. At the same time, it was his first five-round UFC fight and he was taking a massive step up in competition.

This fight was seriously competitive. Obviously, Erceg wanted to win this fight and nearly did; however, he showed elite skills. It seems like Erceg will be elite for years to come. The boxing skills look strong from the outside and his grappling was on point. I understand that Erceg lost a lot of grappling exchanges, but not many could have done what he did on the ground. A lot of other fighters would have been submitted in those grappling exchanges.

Erceg is only 28 years old. This is not the end of the road. Erceg is capable of competing at the top of the division and has the potential to become the champion eventually.

Jose Aldo is still sensational at MMA

The UFC 301 co-main event was Jose Aldo’s return to MMA. At 37, Aldo came back from a two-year layoff and looked great against Jonathan Martinez.

This fight went as well as it could for Aldo. Defensively, Aldo shut down Martinez’s kicks and outboxed him. That was the goal heading into the fight. The fact that his MMA defense did not regress during his time out of the octagon is impressive. Furthermore, his hand speed was on point and he landed damaging shots.

Aldo is still one of the best bantamweights on the planet. That is an insane thing to say when he years out of his prime. The longevity of Aldo’s career will go down in history. As for right now, that is benefitting the bantamweight division with another great talent. Aldo does not look fazed after his previous retirement.

Anthony Smith continues to extend his career

At UFC 301 Anthony Smith picked up yet another win. This time it came against Vitor Petrino when he landed a guillotine choke in the first round.

In recent years, Smith has had several poor performances that sparked conversations about retirement. He never agreed with those assessments. Once again, Smith bounced back from a bad loss with a win. This time it came against a top prospect.

This fight was a strong performance from Smith. It started with his leg kicks. Petrino’s leg was compromised and shot a sloppy takedown. Smith took advantage of that and jumped for a guillotine.

I am not sure if this win translates to a run of UFC wins. Still, he deserves credit for picking up wins while everyone was telling him to retire.

Caio Borralho passes the Paul Craig test

At UFC 301 Caio Borralho passed the Paul Craig test. The rising prospect had the skills to get the job done and approached the fight intelligently.

It is not a secret that Craig is looking to land submissions. Borralho defended takedowns and did not engage when Craig pulled guard. On the feet, he stayed calm, avoided Craig’s big strikes, and answered with his big shots. That led to Borralho eventually landing a series of punches that ended the fight in the second round.

A win over Craig does not solidify that Borralho will be a sensational ranked fighter for years to come. What’s more important is that he did not lose. This win is a step in the right direction that provides optimism he can continue to rise up the ranks.


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