WITH a combined 50 finishes across 66 career bouts, don’t blink when UFC light heavyweight contenders Thiago Santos and Glover Teixeira collide inside the Octagon in Las Vegas this weekend.
The two Brazilians have required judges’ scorecards just three times a piece over the last five years, despite Santos fighting 16 times and Glover 12. Throw in some national pride rivalry and top spot as the leading contender at 205lb and we have a gunfight on our hands behind closed doors at the UFC Apex.
The UFC Fight Night headliner was to serve as a final eliminator to see who will be first to test the resolve of newly-minted champion Jan Blachowicz. Currently ranked #1 and #3 respectively, when signing for the fight it was presumed the victor would get first shot at the Polish kingpin in the New Year.
But this week UFC president Dana White claimed middleweight champion Israel Adesanya would be moving to 205lb next, a decision that was welcomed by Blachowicz, who tweeted: “I have heard that Israel Adesanya wants to face me next. No problem, if you are ready to fight in March, let's do this. Prepare for some fireworks guys.”
All eyes on @JanBlachowicz's belt
— UFC (@ufc) November 4, 2020
That move shouldn’t sit right with the rest of the weight class, led by Santos, Teixeira and Dominick Reyes. Jon Jones, who dominated the light heavyweight division for a decade, relinquished the belt in the summer and it promised to be the dawn of a new age at 205lb with fresh opportunities for all.
But Adesanya’s mooted switch scuppers all that. In fact, should he jump the queue and defeat Blachowicz in a fight tentatively scheduled for March, calls for Jones to return to face the brash Kiwi would be off the charts. Meaning the athletes who have paid their dues at 205lb could be frozen out of any title opportunities for at least 12 months.
Teixeira simply can’t wait that long. The veteran is 41 already. He’s been in the sport since sparring with Hall of Famer Chuck Liddell. He’s a throwback fighter from a different age who is enjoying an Indian Summer, having won four on the spin for the first time since losing a title shot to Jones seven years ago. With Glover, it’s now or never.
Santos too has tangible reason to shout about getting frozen out of any title shakeup. He lost a split decision to Jones contesting the belt last time out, but knocked out Blachowicz inside three rounds the fight before – his third consecutive knockout – to open up that title opportunity. Santos is 4/6 to win by KO, TKO or DQ.
Adesanya has had his say. He’s laid claims for a shot at the light-heavyweight belt. But now it’s Santos and Teixeira’s turn to remind fans, media and the UFC president exactly who the leading contender at 205lb is. Both contenders must come out swinging.
Also, the Octagon inside the Apex is just 25-feet wide as opposed to the bigger 30-foot cage. That means almost 30% less canvas to move around on, which statistically takes the UFC finish rate up from 48% (30’) to 60% (25’). Santos by TKO inside the first two rounds, or a Glover submission between 3–5.
Bout odds: Santos (21/50) Teixeira (19/10)
Tips: Santos by TKO inside the first two rounds – Round 1 (13/5), Round 2 (4/1), or Glover by submission in rounds 3-5 – Round 3 (25/1), Round 4 (33/1), Round 5 (40/1)