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About a month ago, this event in San Paulo, Brazil was expected to be headlined by a pair of light heavyweights, Jimi Manuwa and Glover Teixeira. In mid-August, Teixeira was forced to pull out after suffering a shoulder injury in training camp. Luckily, fellow Brazilian, Thiago Santos, agreed to move up a weight class on short notice to take on Manuwa. This Monday, just five days before the fight, disaster struck again. After landing in Brazil, Jimi Manuwa tore his hamstring in a freak accident on a run. Eryk Anders became the newest hero by stepping in on very short notice to take the main event spot.
What was supposed to be a huge bout between two top five light heavyweights has turned into an intriguing matchup of two rising middleweights. The catch is that the event will still be contested at 205 lbs. Despite this fight being contested in a heavier division, Saturday’s winner will certainly earn a bump in the middleweight rankings. Both men are thrilling knockout artists so we are sure to get a show, even if it is not the show we expected.
“The Sledgehammer” is ready to swing (at anyone)
Thiago Santos (18-6) has been in the UFC for five years now and after winning five of his last six fights, he has climbed his way to No. 12 in the middleweight rankings. Through his ups and downs, one thing that has not changes is his strategy. He is going to try and take Eryk Anders head off the same way he would with Jimi Manuwa. That willingness to stand and bang has paid off more often than not lately, however, we have seen it come back to bite him like it did against David Branch. Eryk Anders is a very dangerous striker so Santos can throw a lot, but he cannot throw recklessly.
Of course Thiago Santos has an advantage in terms of experience. This will help him out in a short notice fight between two similar fighting styles. When Santos was fighting as a professional in Brazil, Eryk Anders was still trying out for the Cleveland Browns and bouncing around football leagues. “The Sledgehammer” has wins in his career over the likes of Nate Marquardt, Elias Theodorou, and Anthony Smith. Anders cannot claim similar competition so you have to think all of Santos’ big fight experience will pay off in a short notice tilt.
Because of his exciting striking and powerful knockouts, it is easy to forget that Santos is a black belt in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. Anders is new on the MMA scene and only holds a purple belt so if he can get this fight to the ground, he may have an advantage. Santos loves to stand and only has one submission in his career but softening up Anders with leg kicks and taking him down could be a good strategy to take a win.
“Ya Boy” saves the day
Former NCAA Football National Champion and rising UFC Middleweight contender, Eryk Anders (10-1) decided to step in and take on Thiago Santos in a five round main event on less than a week’s notice. Anders comes into this one off a brutal head kick knockout victory over Tim Williams that gave him a well-deserved performance of the night bonus. Prior to that, Anders took the only loss of his career is a split decision main event to Lyoto Machida that could have gone either way. Machida was the only ranked opponent Anders has seen until Santos.
Eryk Anders is one of those guys that can end the fight at any moment. Of his 10 wins, only three have gone to decision and three have been ended inside of the first minute. If Santos gets overzealous with his striking, he could leave an opening for Anders to counter and put him away. Even though he is fresh off a training camp Anders will have to conserve his energy in a short notice five round fight. The counterpunch will be Anders best friend in this bout.
Of course the concern for Anders in this one is short notice and a lack of experience compared to Santos. That experience difference could cause this fight to end up on the ground if Anders is not careful. The former Alabama linebacker is obviously very strong which can get him off the ground but that is simply not enough against a legitimate black belt. Eryk Anders will have a far better chance if he can keep the fight on the feet and look for openings for his counter-punch.
Obviously this fight has a very unpredictable element to it. It would be dishonest to lead someone to think otherwise. Both of these men swing for the fences and have brilliant knockout power. With the added variable of having virtually no time to prepare for each other, the entropic nature of this bout only increases.
While Thiago Santos is not experienced a 205 lbs, we have seen him take out larger men like current light heavyweight contender Anthony Smith. Early in the fight, Santos should look for some leg kicks. If he can hinder the movement of Anders, he may be able to hit a slower target with a knockout blow. Alternatively, he could use a slower moving Anders as a way to take the fight to the mat where he will surely have an advantage. As much as we love the high kick of Santos, it is not likely his path to victory on Saturday. A grappling exchange or a shot resulting in pressure or fatigue could definitely get the job done.
For Anders to win, he needs to be patient and wait for Santos to make a mistake. If Thiago Santos starts looking for the high kick too often, it could leave an opening for a devastating punch. If Satos decides to try taking this fight to the ground, he will have to time it properly or else a well timed knee or kick from Anders could end things. Being anywhere near the ground within range of the shin of Eryk Anders is not a great spot; just ask Tim Williams. Either fighter could finish this at any time but Santos has more weapons and experience that will give him the edge in this five rounder.
Pick: Thiago Santos -145
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