UFC 301 odds, predictions, start time, Rio de Janeiro fight card: Pantoja vs. Erceg picks by proven MMA expert

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Alexandre Pantoja makes the second defense of his flyweight crown Saturday against upstart contender Steve Erceg in the main event of UFC 301: Pantoja vs. Erceg. Their five-round showdown anchors the main UFC 301 fight card (10 p.m. ET) from Farmasi Arena in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Pantoja is a seven-year UFC veteran who will be headlining in his home country for the first time. He brings a five-fight winning streak into the octagon Saturday against the No. 10-ranked Erceg, who is competing for a UFC title in just his fourth fight with the promotion. 

Pantoja is a -190 favorite (risk $190 to win $100), while Erceg comes back at +160 in the latest UFC 301 odds. In the co-main event, Jonathan Martinez (-160) takes on former champion Jose Aldo (+135) in a bantamweight showdown. Before locking in any UFC 301: Pantoja vs. Erceg picks, make sure you see the MMA predictions and betting advice from SportsLine expert Daniel Vithlani. 

From breaking down film and following fighters and their camps closely, to tracking sharp action and betting market signals, Vithlani covers the breadth of the MMA betting landscape top to bottom. He also trains amateur boxers and speaks regularly with MMA fighters to understand the sport’s nuances. 

Vithlani made his SportsLine debut in January 2023 and swept the main card for UFC 283 with a 5-0 record and has been a consistent winner ever since. Over the past 10 UFC pay-per-view events, Vithlani has gone 7-3 on main-event picks and his main-card selections in that span have netted his followers a profit of more than $1,200. 

His highlights include calling an upset for Sean O’Malley (+210) against Aljamain Sterling (-250) at UFC 292 as part of a 4-1 main card and his UFC 299 winners included underdog selections on Dustin Poirier (+190) against Benoit Saint Denis (-230) and Michael Page (+110) against Kevin Holland (-130). Anyone who has followed him has seen massive returns. 

Now, with UFC 301 on deck, Vithlani has studied the card from top to bottom and released his top picks. You can only see his picks and analysis at SportsLine. 

UFC 301: Pantoja vs. Erceg preview 

Pantoja (27-5) is arguably the most decorated fighter on the UFC roster to have never headlined an event for the promotion until now. For comparison’s sake, light heavyweight journeyman Anthony Smith, a one-time title challenger who is also on the UFC 301 main card despite going 1-3 in his past four outings, has appeared in eight UFC main events. 

Pantoja is 11-3 in 14 UFC appearances since his January 2017 debut. Moreover, he is 5-0 combined against top-ranked contender Brandon Royval and No. 2-ranked Brandon Moreno, who is perhaps the most popular flyweight in the history of the division. 

The 34-year-old Brazilian’s struggle for recognition can be chalked up to a low-key demeanor that is nearly absent of any self-promotion, and an effective but workmanlike style that has led to few highlight-reel finishes that fans prefer. What’s more, the flyweight division has long been the least popular among UFC observers. 

However, an impressive win in a title defense before an adoring hometown crowd could provide Pantoja with some long overdue recognition. But he’ll have to get past an inspired prospect who is looking to make the most of a fortunate opportunity. 

Although Erceg (12-1) has just three UFC fights under his belt and is ranked No. 10, he benefits from the lack of depth at flyweight and the promotion’s recent trend of fast-tracking dynamic prospects into title shots, especially those who have shown their wares in other promotions. 

Seeing as the top two flyweight contenders are already 0-5 combined against Pantoja and no other fighters in the top 10 have a title-shot-worthy resume, the promotion turned to Erceg, a power puncher who is also a former champion in the Eternal MMA promotion. 

The 28-year-old Australian has earned performance bonuses in two of his three outings and is coming off a second-round knockout of battle-tested journeyman Matt Schnell. You can see more UFC 301 picks at SportsLine.

UFC 301 predictions

We’ll share one of Vithlani’s UFC 301 selections here: He is siding with Joaquim Silva (+135) to pull the slight upset of Drakkar Klose (-160) in a battle of lightweight veterans on the preliminary card. 

Klose (14-2-1) is a seven-year UFC veteran known for his brawling style and action-packed fights. The 35-year-old Michigan native is on a three-fight winning streak, receiving two performance bonuses in that span. 

Silva (13-4) is a nine-year UFC veteran who has a versatile skill set but has struggled to gain traction against upper-tier competition. The 35-year-old Brazilian has lost three of his past five but is coming off a decision win over stalwart Clay Guida. 

“Klose may be the better technical fighter, but Silva could make this one ugly. Klose tends to be in close decisions, and Silva’s big moments could be the difference,” Vithlani told SportsLine. You can see more UFC 301 picks at SportsLine.

How to make UFC 301 picks 

Vithlani has strong picks for Pantoja vs. Erceg and other bouts on the UFC 301 card. He’s also backing a fighter who “is younger and more dangerous” to emerge with a dominant victory. Those picks are only available at SportsLine. 

Who wins UFC 301: Pantoja vs. Erceg, and how exactly does each fight end? Visit SportsLine now to get detailed picks on UFC 301, all from the MMA expert who profited more than $1,500 on his UFC main-card picks in 2023, and find out. 

UFC 301 odds, fight card:

See full UFC 301 picks, predictions and best bets here.
Alexandre Pantoja (-190) vs. Steve Erceg (+160)
Jonathan Martinez (-160) vs. Jose Aldo (+135)
Anthony Smith (+390) vs. Vitor Petrino (-520)
Michel Pereira (-535) vs. Ihor Potieria (+400)
Paul Craig (+410) vs. Caio Borralho (-550)
Joanderson Brito (-165) vs. Jack Shore (+140)
Elves Brener (+230) vs. Myktybek Orolobai (-285)
Karolina Kowalkiewicz (+345) vs. Iasmin Lucindo (-425)
Alessandro Costa (-125) vs. Kevin Borjas (+105)
Maurico Ruffy (-165) vs. Jamie Mullarkey (+140)

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