Two former light heavyweight title challengers will be fighting for another chance at the belt as Thiago “Marreta “Santos returns from injury to take on longtime contender Glover Teixeira.
Thiago Santos, currently ranked No. 1 in the light heavyweight division, is coming off a losing, but close, effort against Jon Jones last year for the light heavyweight belt. Santos hurt his left knee early in the first round but was still able to fight to a decision. The split decision went in the way of Jones, but many fans did not agree with the decision and felt that Santos won. Santos has fought at middleweight for the majority of his career, but when the opportunity to face a top ten light heavyweight contender arose, Santos jumped in without any hesitation. Unfortunately, that opportunity would be postponed as the original opponent-Jimi Manuwa- had to pull out and Santos had to face Eryk Anders on short notice instead. Santos would ultimately win the fight by third round TKO. Feeling as if he had unfinished business with Manuwa, Santos would stay at light heavyweight and take on Manuwa at UFC 231. The two fighters went to war and put on a very exciting fight that saw Santos and Manuwa throw caution to the wind and slug it out. Santos would knock Manuwa out in the second round. Santos was now a top ranked light heavyweight since beating Manuwa and was given a chance to be next for the belt when he was next matched up with Jan Blachowicz. Santos fought more patient this fight then he has his other fights, but that wouldn’t change the result as Santos would TKO Blachowicz in the third round. Santos’s rise to light heavyweight was fast, and it wouldn’t slow down as his wish to fight for the belt was granted and he fought arguably the GOAT, Jon Jones. The fight was very compelling as Santos rushed towards Jones and landed some good shots. Jones would win the fight, but Santos won the fans’ respect. After being out for 16 months and currently being 36, Santos is wanting to make up for lost time, and a win over surging veteran Teixeira is the right step back to a title shot.
Glover Teixeira, currently ranked No.3, is still rising through the ranks at 41 years young. Teixeira is currently riding a four-fight win streak with three finishes. Teixeira’s last fight saw him upset Anthony Smith this past May and dominate the former title challenger for all five rounds, even knocking out Smith’s real teeth. Teixeira would TKO Smith in the fifth round. Teixeira first fought for the belt against Jon Jones at UFC 172 in a losing effort that saw the unanimous decision go in favor of Jones. Teixeira has flipped between wins and losses since that loss but is on his longest win streak since losing to Jones. Teixeira has notable wins over the likes of Rashad Evans, Quinton “Rampage” Jackson, and Ryan Bader. Teixeira has knockout power with great grappling should the fight hit the canvas. This is more than likely Teixeira’s last chance at a UFC belt, so he’ll need to fight cautious against an aggressive striker like Santos.
This is a great return fight for Santos and the perfect fight for Teixeira if he wants to fight for the belt again, and I’m picking Santos to win by second round knockout. Watch all of the amazing fights this Saturday on ESPN2 and ESPN+!
Tidwell Record: 7-6 (correctly picked Hall to defeat Silva last Saturday)