Steve Erceg competing in Eternal MMA (Source: Eternal)

Steve “Astro Boy” Erceg, 28, stepped into the UFC octagon for the first time in June and earned a flyweight ranking 15 minutes later. That decision win brought his professional record to 10-1, with his sole loss coming via a decision in his second career fight.

Alessandro “Nono” Costa, 27, was also given a shot at a ranked opponent in his debut but lost via 3rd round TKO to the now #3 ranked flyweight on the roster. He rebounded nicely six months later with a knockout finish of his own.

Erceg vs Costa betting odds

Erceg’s odds have steadily grown throughout the week and are larger in some other books. So, if you plan to bet him, bet him soon to get the best of the number.

  • Steve Erceg: -165 (BetUS)
  • Alessandro Costa: +140 (BetUS)

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Erceg vs Costa fight breakdown

Erceg surprised many, myself included, with how well he showed on the feet against a ranked UFC veteran known for his ability to push a pace and land cleanly. Erceg, however, outpaced his opponent and seemed to land the more damaging shots.

Considering Erceg’s strength typically lie in the wrestling and grappling department, his ability to hang with and find success against a ranked caliber striker demonstrate that “Astro Boy” belongs on a list with a number next to his name. While his striking did impress, specifically the dynamic attacks and technical snap on his combinations, his striking consistency still left a bit to be desired.

Wrestling, grappling, and a strong submission game, though, is what brought Erceg into the UFC. He struggled to implement this game plan against a highly mobile and defensively sound wrestler early; but, in round three, the fans were able to see just how effective Erceg can be on top. He landed three takedowns in the final round of his fight and immediately looked to transition to the back for his patented rear-naked choke. Although a small series of events in only one fight, Erceg’s round three grappling display is a prime example of how he prefers to fight.

He typically is willing to stand on the feet, at range, using his length to chop the calf and corner an opponent near the cage. Then, when he sees an opening on the hips, he’ll shoot a takedown or clinch up and look for a body lock takedown. In either case, Erceg’s goal is not to lay and pray for long periods of control time, rather, his goal is to get the fight down and get to the back as quickly as possible. He transitions smoothly on the mat, uses his length as leverage to find the back, and sinks in hooks well while looking for the choke. His offensive mindset while grappling has resulted in several finishes; but also, has resulted in opponents being able to get back to their feet.

Costa is a stocky, strong, and explosive striker who has several fights of experience being the shorter fighter. Standing only at 5’3, Costa can sometimes struggle to get into his range. But, when he does, he lands with pop, fast and explosive combinations, and and overhand right that can shut the lights out. He is cautious, though, when looking to enter the pocket.

Costa will, intelligently, use feints, footwork, and a calf kick to bait his opponent into trying to counter. Then, Costa can block or evade the baited counter and slip into boxing range. Once there, his speed and precision are often an advantage over his opponent. Costa’s style can result in longer bouts of inactivity, as he looks for a way into the pocket, but also helps him maintain a safe distance and defend shots from his opponent.

Costa’s x-factor in this fight is his defensive grappling. He has an accredited grappling and jiu-jitsu background but primarily uses his skills and experience in those arenas to keep the fight standing rather than as offensive weapons. He’ll have to overcome a reach advantage and an opponent who wants the fight on the mat, but that shouldn’t be a new obstacle for Costa who has dealt with both for most of his career.

Erceg vs Costa prediction and pick

Erceg is the more popular; and, likely, more promising prospect. He has a uniquely big frame for the division, a well-rounded game while still maintaining a trump card in some fights with his grappling skills, and the UFC believes in him. However, Costa is no easy out. In fact, Costa’s game plan of in the pocket boxing and stout takedown defense should test both of Erceg’s possible weak spots.

While I respect Costa’s game and wouldn’t be shocked with a decision win for “Nono” on the back of persistence and dirty boxing, I like Erceg here. He will have more opportunities to finish the fight, both at range as Costa tries to close distance and on the mat if Costa can stuff takedowns for 15 minutes.

Moreover, Erceg just proved he can handle a shorter striker who uses his footwork, speed, and experience to win fights in David Dvorak. I expect it to be a fun scrap but will happily take the favorite at any odds south of -180 in this fight.

Best Bet: Erceg to win (-165 at BetUS)

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