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UFC 301 predictions, odds, best bets: Jose Aldo, Michel Pereira among top picks to consider on the main card

After a massive and thrilling UFC 300, many fans were left feeling underwhelmed by the card the promotion put together for UFC 301. Still, the UFC’s return to Brazil isn’t without some intrigue, including Jose Aldo returning to the Octagon after a brief retirement and Alexandre Pantoja defending his flyweight championship against Steve Erceg.

Pantoja took a split decision over Brandon Moreno at UFC 290 to win the championship and has already made one successful defense, beating Brandon Royval by decision at UFC 296. Erceg has only fought in the UFC three times to date but has shown good skills in his career.

Aldo is a true mixed martial arts legend with a lengthy list of accomplishments. After losing a competitive fight with Merab Dvalishvili at UFC 278 in August 2022, Aldo announced he was retiring from the sport. After boxing a handful of times during his retirement, Aldo made the decision to return to the UFC and now will face Jonathan Martinez, who enters the fight riding a six-fight winning streak.

After going 2-3 with our best bets for UFC 300, we are sitting with a record of 8-12 on the year. That’s not a winning record, but there’s plenty of time to turn a rough year around, hopefully starting with UFC 301.

Paul Craig vs. Caio Borralho

Over 1.5 rounds (-200)

There’s not a lot to like about betting on this fight unless you see some reason to take a flyer on Craig as a big underdog. Borralho isn’t a big risk taker and has previously talked about being a “fighting nerd” who calculates the best path to victory, which has resulted in him being called boring many times. Craig is good enough to survive a round and a half, especially if Borralho approaches the fight trying to play a safe top game.

Michel Pereira vs. Ihor Potieria

Michel Pereira to win in Round 1 (+100)

It’s almost hard to believe that Pereira has a seven-fight winning streak. When he first was on the rise, his style and personality seemed too volatile to ever put together a streak of that length. Pereira is the more dynamic talent here and Potieria isn’t opposed to trying to walk through punches to get the job done. Unfortunately for Potieria, walking through Pereira’s strikes isn’t a great plan. We’re counting on Pereira to rip Potieria apart with kicks before finishing the show with his fists.

Anthony Smith vs. Vitor Petrino

Fight to go the distance: No (-215)

In a perfect world, the line here would be -200 but we can make this play with confidence. Smith is clearly on the back side of his career at this point and pairing him with a dangerous rising prospect seems almost cruel. Petrino can sting with leg kicks and has the kind of takedowns that just keep causing Smith problems. It feels like Petrino can pick Smith apart on the feet and if Smith gets any momentum, Petrino will have success taking the fight to the ground and dominating.

Jonathan Martinez vs. Jose Aldo

Jose Aldo moneyline (+125)

Maybe it’s that I’m old and clinging to the thought of who Aldo once was, but I like Aldo in this fight. Martinez is a good fighter but he’s a good fighter who is going to want to fight Aldo in ways that play best into Aldo’s game. If this stays a Muay Thai fight in the Octagon, that sets Aldo up to get the win in his un-retirement bout. If you want to get even better odds, Aldo by decision is sitting at +200.

Alexandre Pantoja vs. Steve Erceg

Alexandre Pantoja moneyline (-185)

Erceg is obviously a skilled fighter, and this is not a shot at him, but he has an incredibly thin resume for a title contender. While Pantoja has wins over Brandon Moreno (twice), Brandon Royval (twice), Manel Kape and many other highly-ranked fighters, Erceg’s best win came against Matt Schnell, who entered the fight on a 2-3 run in his previous fight bouts. Given Pantoja’s experience and success at a higher level, it makes sense to roll with him here. Erceg may have the goods to become champion, but the proof isn’t there that he’s worth risking money on yet.

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