Thiago Santos vs. Eryk Anders headlines UFC Sao Paulo this September 22, 2018 at the Ginásio do Ibirapuera in São Paulo, Brazil.
One sentence summary:
David: If Mandy is playing in a theatre near you, go see that instead.
Phil: It’s the main event of UFC: Sao Paolo, which may still be Eryk Anders vs Thiago Santos by the time we publish this
Record: Thiago Santos 18-6 | Eryk Anders 11-1
Odds: Thiago Santos -160 | Eryk Anders +150
History / Introduction to Both Fighters
David: I had to double check how long Santos has been fighting in the UFC. Since 2013? And to begin with a loss to Cezar Mutante, no less? For most of Santos’ career, he’s been a hard charging, punch everything that moves fighter who always appears on the cusp of breaking through, but always hits a snag somewhere along the way. This could be a “snag.”
Phil: Thiago Santos presumably saw Anthony Smith obliterating old, faded light heavyweights on his way to a ranking and thought: I destroyed that guy. I want some of that action. In all honesty, it’s hard to feel bad for the guy in his decision to go up and beat up on some old dudes. He’s consistently taken pretty much any fight which has been offered to him, and remains a hellaciously fun and violent (if slightly fragile) action fighter.
David: It’s tough to gauge Anders’ ceiling at this point. He didn’t have much time to dead as many bodies as he could before the UFC decided “so you wanna be a UFC fighter, huh?!” and matched him up with Machida just two fights into his UFC career. He rebounded well by killing Tim Williams.
Phil: Eryk Anders was looked at as one of the brighter new entrants to 185 when he melted Rafael Natal. The UFC decided to rush him up the ranks pretty quickly and threw him in there with Lyoto Machida. One controversial decision later, and Machida was off to Bellator and Anders’ hype was seriously dented. He remains an interesting prospect: athletic and thoughtful, but it’s definitely worth considering him as more of a slow burn than a Weidman or Jones-esque talent who is immediately ready for prime time.
What’s at stake?
David: Just the usual: a shot up or down the UFC’s artificial ranking system.
Phil: Almost nothing? I’ll feel bad for Santos if he loses, seeing as he went up to 205 to fight old people, and immediately got a middleweight prospect thrown at him.
Where do they want it?
Phil: Santos is a hyper powerful striker who hangs his chin out and wings big hooks and punches. In some ways he’s the archetypal Brazilian regional banger, but supercharged with athleticism. The best and most functional part of his game is his kicks, and he’s shown more of a tendency to pull them and probe before trying to kick out his opponent’s quadriceps or liver with them, as he had a tendency to do in the past. His defensive liabilities remain fairly glaring, though: he loses his head when he gets backed into the fence, his chin is sub-par, and he has a tendency to self-destruct when he’s stuck on bottom.
David: Supercharged with athleticism? Didn’t we talk about this, Phil? Everyone on reddit knows you write just to say “but I have brown friends” whenever you waive around your British confederate flag. But seriously, not only is Santos supercharged with athleticism, but it’s clear he was descended from warrior slaves. Ok, sorry, readers. I’m gonna talk about this fight I swear. What I like about Santos is that he doesn’t pretend to be anything other than a violent knuckle soother with legs. His striking is versatile, and even dynamic, but once he feels the itch to be aggressive, he goes right into Lineker mode. For better or worse.
Phil: Anders initially appeared to be little more than an athletic, violent prospect. The Machida fight was both good and bad: it showed that he was smart, and cautious, and difficult to shake from his game. It also showed that he was willing to concede rounds to a much slower, older but cannier fighter because he was unwilling to just hulk him to the floor and leverage an athletic advantage. That tendency showed up again in his next fight against Tim Williams, where he allowed the slower fighter to put him into a one round hole before kicking his head into the stands. So against someone like Santos he’s an interesting proposition: does he rely on his physicality to insulate him and try and figure Santos out, opening himself up to getting kicked apart, or does he take the initiative?
David: Anders projects to be somewhat of a patient brawler. It’d be easy for a fighter with his size and power to fall into the comfort zone of a brawler, but he’s a much more opportunistic fighter than he first appears. To me that’s where Anders will either live or die in the UFC: getting out of his head to figure out where his best assets work in specific matchups. A lot of guys have had an identity crisis. Think of Urijah Hall, who always seemed to get in the way of his style, or Art Jimmerson, who couldn’t decide if he was a boxer or a cockfighter. And so forth...
Insight from past fights?
David: It’s clear from everything in Santos’ history, that Anders just needs to find that one opening. As long as Santos has blood pumping, he’s gonna leave himself wide open to get late career Roy Jones’ed (apologies: he was one of my favorite fighters too).
Phil: The one thing which really is in Anders’ favour is that Natal fight. It’s a good example of how exactly he could or should fight Santos: he pushed Natal back to the fence, stayed at the limit of his range, and smashed him when he overcommitted. If he can replicate that against the far faster and more dangerous Santos, he’s golden.
David: Just the usual: random injuries, and kidney failure.
Phil: How both men look at 205 is one, the short notice is the other. It’s a very weird fight.
David: It’s hard to pick against Santos, but for as violent as he is, the off switch is as present as the on switch. There are just too many fights to pick from where Santos loses his head (figuratively and half-literally), like against Branch, Spicely, Mutante, and Hall; none of these guys are what fighters either. When patience has power, patience tends to pay off more violently. Eryk Anders by KO, round 2.
Phil: Should Anders be able to replicate the Natal gameplan, Santos may be in trouble. However, his performance against Tim Williams was troubling, where he struggled to close down a clunky but determined grappler-turned-striker. If he tries to hang out at range against Santos too much, I think the Brazilian brings a level of pure offensive firepower that Anders has just never experienced before. Thiago Santos by TKO, round 3.