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Who will Steve Erceg fight next?

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He didn’t win the UFC flyweight title but Steve Erceg announced himself to the division in a big way.

In just his fourth appearance in the UFC, Erceg ran Alexandre Pantoja mighty close at UFC 301 in Rio de Janeiro, dropping a unanimous points decision but winning plenty of fans along the way.

With the scores locked at 2-2 in the eyes of two judges, had the Perth product kept the fight standing in the fifth round, there’s every chance he could have taken the belt back home to Australia.

MORE: All upcoming bouts for Aussie and Kiwi UFC fighters

Unfortunately, it wasn’t to be this time, but at 28, Erceg has time on his side and many good judges are tipping he’ll be back fighting for UFC gold before too long.

We take a look at what could be next for “AstroBoy”.

After the loss at UFC 301, Erceg told Full Send MMA that he’d like to get back in there “as soon as my body permits.”

The Aussie didn’t appear to have any significant injuries but will need some time off following the bruising five-round encounter.

Erceg’s timing should sync up perfectly with the UFC’s next trip to Australia – a pay-per-view in his hometown, no less.

UFC 305 hits Perth on Sunday, August 18, and, while no bouts have been announced as yet, Erceg, as well as fellow Western Australian Jack Della Maddalena, seem obvious candidates.

But who could Erceg fight?

Prior to his loss to Pantoja, he was ranked 10th at 125-pounds.

While he didn’t get the victory, no one would begrudge Erceg a shot at any of the top names in the flyweight division next.

Furthermore, Pantoja confirmed his wish to take some time off following his win over Erceg, meaning the key contenders may be looking to stay busy rather than wait for a shot at the belt.

Ranked one and two are a couple of Brandons – Royval and Moreno.

That pair just had their second fight with each other in February, with Royval taking a split decision to square the ledger at one each.

Either of those two would make for an enticing matchup with Erceg at UFC 305.

Moving further down, Amir Albazi, ranked third, was due to face Moreno earlier this year but withdrew due to a neck injury, seeing Royval step in.

Albazi’s last fight came in June 2023, against no. 4-ranked Kiwi, Kai Kara-France, ending in split decision in favour of the Iraqi fighter. 

Kara-France hasn’t got a fight locked in either, making for an intriguing potential trans-Tasman battle.

No. 5-ranked Alex Perez has a fight lined up for June, so he’s unlikely.

While Erceg has previously spoken of his wish to take on Muhammad Mokaev, currently ranked at six, although he’s been teasing a fight at UFC 304, which would rule him out of calculations.

Coming next are Manel Kape and Matheus Nicolau, who have been lined up to fight each other twice this year, with both falling through.

Should the UFC grow tired of trying to make that fight, one of those guys could make a fitting dance partner for Erceg.

All that’s to say, there’s no shortage of options for the softly-spoken Aussie with a savage streak.

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