The winner of the second iteration of TUF: Brazil will be determined in the co-main event of UFC on FUEL TV 10, as Leonardo Santos meets William Macario in the welterweight division. A rematch between Brazilian heavyweights Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira vs. Fabricio Werdum sits atop the Fuel TV card, which begins at 8:00 p.m. ET.
I'll begin this breakdown differently than usual: being a longtime fan and supporter of prestigious BJJ competitor Leonardo Santos (11-3), I was almost certain that my name would be the only one next to his on the Bloody Elbow Staff Picks for this event. After all, Santos, a natural lightweight who'll probably drop to 155 after the show, was defeated via (what I thought was a controversial) decision by talented Argentinian Santiago Ponzinibbio (18-1) in the semifinal round. In the process, Ponzinibbio broke his hand, and Santos replaced him in the finals.
It was surprising to see the that the staff had rendered a near landslide for Santos in the predictions, and even more so when realizing that Leo's a steep favorite on the betting lines. Most of that stems from how impressed I am with William Macario (6-0), aka "Patolino," who is now the 2nd youngest fighter in the UFC.
Multiple sources informed me that Tiago "Unstoppable" Alves was unanimously considered the best wrestler on the show, yet, after quickly taking down and mashing a hole in the head of Roberto Barros Martins Amorim with a cleaving elbow and dominating Thiago Santos with takedowns and top control, Macario easily stuffed all of Alves' takedowns and even landed a few of his own. All the while, "Patolino" was popping off heaters and the high output of whizzing punches eventually sank Alves to the canvas for a 1st-round TKO.
Perhaps there was something lost in translation but, according to the subtitles, Santos was said to be the best "wrestler" of the bunch on more than one occasion. I'm thinking the intent was to credit his submission wrestling as, in my opinion, Alves and Macario were the top dogs in the wrestling department, and Macario excelled beyond all others.
At the ripe ol' age of 21, Macario is a young, hungry lion who just beams with confidence. He's exceptionally strong, fast and athletic, he hits like a Mack truck and transmits his wrestling game to impose suffocating pressure and control. Based on his TUF fights, he doesn't seem like much of a submission artist, as his wrestling and all other skills seem designed solely to open up opportunities to touch people up with his thunderous hands.
As far as striking, Macario has fast hands and a good sense of range and timing along with his absurd power. Mostly a boxer, Macario will sprinkle in the occasional kick, but there's not much on them and they're generally employed as a range weapon or to set up his hands. His left hook is nasty, and he also throws a nice 1-2 while pressing forward. Though they didn't play a huge role, Macario threatened with uppercuts and step-in knees to discourage opponents who dropped their heads while defending or while seeking out a takedown.
We've yet to see Macario off his back because his wrestling has been so effective, but his top game is not to be trifled with. He locks down a strong base with heavy hips and then looks to peel his opponents' hands away in order to blast down fierce punches and vicious elbows. I can't recall him ever attempting to pass from within guard; he was perfectly content to maintain position and inflict serious damage with ground-and-pound.
Santos is reminiscent of an old-school BJJ fighter. His stand up is not terrible, in fact it's improved quite a bit since he made his MMA debut against current UFC lightweight and former Pride champion Takanori Gomi. Yes, that was his MMA debut, and he was understandably over-matched but still showed tremendous heart and willpower by gutting it out to a decision against the feared Japanese slugger. Anyway, though he's a capable striker, it's by far his weakest aspect.
Santos does nothing fancy on the feet, but has a strong grasp of the basics. He's most effective when he corners an opponent who's hesitant to commit to anything for fear of a takedown, as Santos will engage with determination and sling a monster overhand right or piece together a 1-2 or 1-2-3 combo. Despite having an iron chin, his striking defense, however, can be somewhat questionable, as well as his gas tank.
As more of a lanky welterweight at 6'1", Santos wisely prioritizes speed over power. He rarely plants his feet and throws home-run shots (save the aforementioned overhand right), opting instead to pester his opponent with a high volume of quick blows, and he always stays in a low, crouched stance to launch for a takedown when least expected. Unfortunately for Leo, only a fool wouldn't expect a takedown from such a decorated BJJ player so, even though he's been successful with takedowns by mesmerizing his adversary with a barrage of punches, he still has to work hard for them.
Santos' method of pursuing takedowns are a bit limited as well. Rather than the traditional level changes, deep penetration and persistent driving we see from accredited collegiate wrestlers, Leo kind of just lowers his head and scurries forward while trying to connect to the hips, and almost always ends up missing the takedown but tied up in the clinch. From there, Santos is tricky with trips from the over-under or bodylock, often snaking a leg inside his opponents' from the standing position for additional leverage when he off-balances them with his upper-body techniques.
Though Leo is a decent striker and wrestler, he's not adept at smoothly transitioning from striking directly into a takedown attempt. Generally, he'll keep throwing stiff punches until his opponent is duped into thinking it's a striking match, and then drop levels from outside after resetting. And, again, the manner in which Santos drops levels is not traditional -- it's almost like he plans on not succeeding with a single or double leg but is just happy to be tied up in the clinch and working throws and trips from there.
Typically, if Santos is fighting anywhere on the ground, he's either winning or in the process of turning the tide his way. If he happens to be on top, he'll either dominate the round or finish. Much like we've seen from Demian Maia, Santos is not Aoki-like in magically pulling some dramatic submission out of nowhere, but is vigilant in attaining and keeping a dominant position before pursuing a submission attempt. He's done well in adapting his suffocating grappling to include punches, a few elbows, and some rugged knees to the body from side control. He's the type that will devour any and every little opening he can create; he's got a nice arm-triangle, an uncanny ability to slither into full mount or back control, and he's a virtual master of positioning.
Nevertheless, I think Macario will give Leo fits on the feet and make him work his ass off to force a ground fight. Realistically, I feel Macario, a beefy and explosive welterweight with excellent wrestling, has a great chance to finish Leo with strikes or gas him out by stuffing takedown after takedown. It's risky, but Macario might dare to venture into Leo's guard, especially in later rounds if he's tired out, and fire down some of his fight-ending ground strikes.
From a betting standpoint, even though I'll end up picking with my heart, I'd not only recommend avoiding a bet on Santos, but would steer the daredevils toward a play on Macario here, who's just a big, mean, brute of an athlete with loads of untapped potential.
My Prediction: Leo Santos by submission.