Exclusive: Steve Erceg Confident He Could ‘Pick Alexandre Pantoja Apart’, Talks About His ‘Deceptive’ Striking Skills

"Astro Boy" thinks he could expose "The Cannibal" at UFC 301.

Steve Erceg
Steve Erceg - Image credit @ercegstephen Instagram
  • Steve Erceg is positive about stopping Alexandre Pantoja at UFC 301
  • “Astro Boy” sees his deadly striking technique could be his key to finishing “The Cannibal”

Steve Erceg is brimming with confidence ahead of his title fight with Alexandre Pantoja at UFC 301.

Mixed emotions

In an exclusive interview with Middle Easy,  “Astro Boy” admitted that there has been a mixed of emotions on his part, knowing that he is competing for the UFC flyweight title for the fist time.

“It’s obviously nerve-wracking, exciting, there’s a lot of emotions that go along with it but yeah I’m ready to go. Pushing hard in training, and can’t wait for the opportunity… I didn’t expect it to be this fast but if I told myself the way it happened I’d probably believe me,” Erceg said.

Steve didn’t want Royval and Moreno to get it

Though Erceg is convinced that he could fight for the title, he also knew that there were other flyweight contenders who also deserved to get a shot. Aside from him, “Astro Boy” said Amir Albazi would’ve been a good candidate as well but he didn’t want to see Brandon Moreno and Brandon Royval getting another crack at it.

“Who do I think was next? I thought [Amir] Albazi would be next,” Erceg said. “Obviously he is injured at the moment so he can’t take any fights so I think that’s one of the reasons why I got the opportunity.”

“I was really hoping that neither of them [Moreno and Royval] would get to fight for the title again just because exactly you said Moreno, if he won, he’d already fought Pantoja very recently and has fought him three times in the past. Royval was Pantoja’s last defense and had fought him again before that as well so that, he’d already lost twice and not only me, a lot of fans don’t like to see the same fights playing over and over and over again… We want to see different matchups different, different things happening in progression,” he explained.

Pantoja got holes in his game

Erceg thinks Pantoja put on an impressive performance in his last title defense against Royval. However, he is certain that the reigning champ has evident weaknesses in his arsenal, specifically on the feet which he could confidently took advantage of.

“I thought Pantoja looked really good [against Royval]. His grappling was on full display, he’s got an amazing heart so he’s always looking like he always walking forward, he looks tired early but he just finds a way to keep going the whole time and keep outworking his opponent so I was very impressed with him,” Erceg said of Pantoja.

“I like the way he carried himself. He’s carried himself respectfully. He had a great heart, super tough obviously, great grappling. He looks very strong. I just think there’s a lot of holes especially on the feet,” he added.

“I don’t think that’s going to work against me. I think I’m going to pick him apart and that being said it’s not like I’m going to be able to stand on the outside the whole time, I fully expect him to find ways to get to the grapple and that sort of thing but I’m no jump there, I’m also a black belt before people started [seeing] me as a knockout guy… I’m fully confident in my skills on the ground and in the grapple and I think I separate myself with the striking technique,” he continued.

A deceptive style on the feet

As for his strengths over Pantoja, “Astro Boy” boasted about having a highly “deceptive” style in striking. Erceg pointed out that most of his opponents weren’t able to figure him out on the feet and he plans to capitalize on it against “The Cannibal” at UFC 301.

“I wouldn’t call myself super complex. Although it looks like I don’t have any head movement, it looks like I’m not super defensively sound, I am actually harder to hit than it is perceived. I hold distance well, I’m feinting, I’m giving people different looks when there’s no strikes going on and I’m good at countering as people do overextend and that sort of thing. So I think that’s deceptive in itself,” Erceg said of his style.

“I put punches together. I feel like I almost lull people into thinking that I’m not there and then all a sudden I crack him with a shot I crack them with a shot and that gets them frustrated,” he continued.

Feeling lucky

Erceg also shared his thoughts on Pantoja calling him “lucky” to be rewarded with a title shot, considering he is far back at No. 10 in the official rankings. For Erceg, the champ is right as he indeed is feeling lucky at this point.

“I am lucky. I mean how often do you get a guy that’s number 10-ranked getting a shot at the title so I understand it’s like sort of right place at the right time,” Erceg said.

Erceg has gone undefeated in his first three fights under the UFC banner. His latest win came by way of knockout as he stopped Matt Schnell at UFC Vegas 87.

Pantoja vs. Erceg will take place on May 4th at the Rio Arena in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

Watch Erceg’s full interview below:

Published on March 29, 2024 at 12:30 pm
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