The Film Room: Thiago Santos

By Kevin Wilson Feb 20, 2019
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Newly transitioned light heavyweight Thiago Santos will return to the Octagon when he collides with Jan Blachowicz in the UFC Fight Night 145 headliner on Saturday in Prague. Santos moved up to 205 pounds in 2018 and has gone 2-0 with two knockouts since. A win over Blachowicz would put him in contention in an Ultimate Fighting Championship division desperate for fresh faces.

The latest installment of The Film Room series puts Santos under the microscope.

Santos is a mad man, plain and simple. He is one of the most aggrieve strikers in the UFC today, and his knockout power and athleticism are rarely matched. Defense is not a concern for Santos, and he would rather blitz forward with wild combos to the head and body, usually with hooks to the head and rear-leg body kicks. These blitzes are not the most technical approach to fighting, but they work wonderfully to fluster opponents and trap them against the cage, where Santos can continue to unload with strikes. If you are fighting Santos, you better have immaculate footwork to circle off the cage and away from his pressure. If not, you are in for a long night of a giant Brazilian sprinting at you for five rounds.

Once the opponent is trapped along the fence, Santos will throw wild combos while looking for the finish. Santos is great at mixing up his attacks to get the opponent to the cage, but once they are trapped, he usually just throws wild looping hooks to the head instead of mixing it up. If Santos can learn to slow the pace a bit and intelligently pick his shots against the cage, he will have much more success with keeping the opponent trapped. He does leave himself wide open for counters during these rushing attacks, often crossing his feet and leading face first. However, opponents are generally fearful of these blitzes and end up running away instead of planting and countering. It is hard to point to Santos doing anything wrong when he has amassed a 20-6 record with 14 knockouts using this method of fighting.

Santos is a long and tall fighter, especially at middleweight, which means his kicks are easier to land while being out of range of the opponent’s strikes. Santos generally just looks for rear-leg kicks to the body, but he has shown the occasional spinning heel kick and other unorthodox kicks. It would be nice to see him attack the head more with his kicks, but since he has the bad habit of dropping his hands when kicking, it is probably best that he sticks to attacking the body.

Santos rarely initiates grappling exchanges, but he has shown to have vicious ground-and-pound when the opportunity arises. Most of his ground-and-pound comes when the opponent is hurt, but either way, he has proven to be just as aggressive with his ground striking as he is on the feet. Santos is a black belt in jiu-jitsu, but he only has one submission victory on his record, and it was eight years ago on the regional scene. It will be interesting to see who has the advantage on the ground since Santos is used to fighting smaller men, though expectations have this fight taking place mostly on the feet. Advertisement


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