World MMA Middleweight Scouting Report: #5 - Bruno "Carioca" Santos

Brazil won't be as dominant in the middleweight prospect rankings as it has been in other weight classes we've featured so far, but the country has produced two top notch grapplers in the 185 pound division that could be making their way to the UFC in 2011. The first of those prospects in our 2011 World MMA Middleweight scouting report is Bruno Santos (8-0), a 23-year-old Ze Mario Team-bred Brazilian jiu-jitsu fighter who remains undefeated. While many fans will see his style as boring and methodical to the point that a promotion like the UFC may pass on him until they see more definitive results, keep in mind that Santos is still very young and hasn't had the years of experience in specific disciplines of his skill-set that others have had.

Offensive Skills: Take a few minutes to review some of the video footage below the fold. If you are a fan who cannot tolerate the wrestling prowess of a guy like Antonio McKee, Bruno Santos is probably going to cause your blood to boil with rage. Santos isn't a finisher at this point in his career, and that point is further solidified by his 75% decision percentage in eight career bouts. He is far from a honed, speedy striker who devastates opponents with slick combinations or brutal power. But what he does do better than almost every prospect on our list... he grabs single leg after single leg and relentlessly hunts for the takedown.

The most impressive aspect of Bruno's style is that he isn't a highly-credential Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt or champion Luta Livre convert. No... he's simply a man who was interested in Brazilian jiu-jitsu, trained and progressed up the ranks, and decided that he wanted to test the waters of mixed martial arts. He has no formal wrestling background, nor does he have a history involving any striking art form other than the occasional foray into karate or traditional boxing. Those stints were short-lived or weren't serious enough to be considered sessions to improve his overall skills.

I suppose it's up to the reader to decide whether that lack of a background in any formal training hurts or helps Santos in the long run, but I found it impressive to see him progress from a 17-year-old neophyte in the Brazilian jiu-jitsu world to a 23-year-old undefeated mixed martial arts fighter.

Defensive Skills: Obviously, with a base in Brazilian jiu-jitsu, his defense is primarily a counter game from his back. He's shown the skills to escape from his back, and he has had a few instances in which he's needed a reversal to escape imminent threats of ground and pound from opponents. For the most part however, he's been the workhorse who never lets his opponents dictate where the fight takes place. He isn't the type of fighter who comes out the gates swinging or takes huge risks in trying to knock out opponents. Instead, he waits for his opponents to attack him, latches onto a leg, and begins his quest for the takedown. Ninety-nine percent of the time, Santos succeeds.

Progression: At only 23 years of age, there is some time for Santos to hone his craft. His stand-up game is his biggest weakness, but the ability to finish is a close second. Rousimar Palhares is a fighter that Santos could mimic in the future as he's intent on using his grappling as his primary offense, but Palhares has one of the most dangerous submission games in the division. Santos hasn't progressed to that level yet.

If he can continue to improve in the ground department and add strength, he could begin turning those decisions into finishes quickly. This coming year will be his chance to prove those two things can happen.

Environment: Santos trains out of the Ze Mario Team, which is a more modern training center in Brazil, in which he works with Jose Mario Benedict, who is a Brazilian jiu-jitsu and Judo black belt. The camp has no relation to the great Mario Sperry, but Santos does have access to many of the great camps in the surrounding areas. He mentioned in a past interview that he trained a bit with Gracie Fusion in the past.

Lightweight Welterweight Middleweight
#1 - Thiago Michel
#2 - Ricardo Tirloni
#3 - Magno Almeida
#4 - Ui Cheol Nam
#5 - Henrique Mello
#6 - Reza Madadi
#7 - Alexander Sarnavskiy
#8 - Ole Laursen
#9 - Guillaume DeLorenzi
#10 - Al Iaquinta
#1 - Yuri Villefort
#2 - Alex Garcia
#3 - Erick Silva
#4 - Douglas Lima
#5 - Luis "Sapo" Santos
#6 - Jesse Juarez
#7 - Gunnar Nelson
#8 - Quinn Mulhern
#9 - Alberto Mina
#10 - Joe Ray
#5 - Bruno Santos
#6 - Costantinos Philippou
#7 - Jordan Smith
#8 - Uriah Hall
#9 - Victor O'Donnell
#10 - Assan Njie

Potential: Santos is still very young. His takedown game, for a Brazilian jiu-jitsu fighter, is exceptional, and if he can capitalize on his consistency to gain top control -- he could become one of the best prospects out of Brazil in the middleweight division. He'll need to add more technique and strength to his arsenal, but it's tough to be down on a fighter who can impose his will on the ground like Santos.

From interviews that I've read, Santos has aspirations to mirror the style of Paulo Filho, and that is a respectable goal to aim for if you take out the mental deficiencies that Filho has suffered over the course of his career. Filho was one of the premier power grapplers in mixed martial arts, and Santos may be able to attain that level of prowess. It'll take some time, but 2011 should be a make-or-break year for the youthful middleweight.

Video:

Bruno Santos vs. Daniel Acacio

Bruno Santos vs. Eder Jones


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