Things in the UFC’s light heavyweight division are about to get very interesting. UFC President Dana White said middleweight champion Israel Adesanya will move up to 205 pounds to face champion Jan Blachowicz next. Yet, an argument can be made Thiago Santos is the uncrowned king of the light heavyweight division.
Santos suffered a split decision loss when he fought then champion Jon Jones at UFC 239. White said he felt Jones won the fight, a bout in which he had less output than Santos but did his job by being more efficient. Still, even Jones expected to face him again at the time.
In the immediate aftermath, it hadn’t been confirmed that Santos suffered an injury during the fight–or rather three knee injuries during the first of five rounds. MMA Junkie reported Santos had a torn ACL, MCL and PCL in his left knee following a kick from Jones.
Jones would go on to face Dominick Reyes in another fight many felt was a loss for “Bones” before “retiring” amidst talks of a move to heavyweight. Reyes would be put away by Blachowicz, earning him the title. A healed Santos now looks for a second scrap with the new champion–if he can get by fellow heavy hitter Glover Teixeira on November 7.
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Both Santos and Teixeira have won four of their last five bouts with three finishes each. In Santos’ case, before he fought Jones he scored a TKO win over the current champion Blachowicz.
Teixeira most recently finished Anthony Smith with strikes but his other two stoppages are by submission, which make up 26% of his victories while Santos’ one submission win dates back to 2011.
This fight depends on Santos’ ability to keep things on the feet. Both are primarily strikers but if Teixeira goes to the ground he is still a threat to end things while Santos would work to just get back up. UFC Stats show that Santos leads in every striking stat, including absorbing less per minute, except for accuracy where things are even at 47%.
Despite Teixeira being more of a submission threat, Santos has a 68% to 60% edge in takedown defense. Santos is also the favorite (-250) in this fight as he has been every time since July 2017 except UFC 239.
In short, this contest should be decided based on if Santos’ knee will hold up and who can capitalize on openings while standing.
Prediction: Thiago Santos def. Glover Teixeira by KO/TKO
Looking Ahead: The winner of Santos-Teixeira faces the winner of Adesanya-Blachowicz. Depending on how things play out, this will all lead back to Jones if Jones doesn’t return at heavyweight.