Prior to each UFC fight card, Jay Primetown takes a look at some of the key contests at each event. In the latest installment, we look ahead to the main event of UFC on ESPN+ 3 as Jan Blachowicz takes on Thiago Santos in a clash of top 10 light heavyweights.
Jan Blachowicz (Record: 23-7, -115 Pickem, Power Ranking: B-)
After a slow start in the UFC losing four of his first six fights, Blachowicz has since won four bouts in a row including two by submission. Blachowicz has rounded into form and is likely a bout away from title contention.
The former KSW Light Heavyweight Champion has long been one of Poland’s top fighters. He’s got good size for the division standing at 6’2” with a 78-inch reach. He’s an accurate striker with solid technique. He’s not a volume striker by any stretch, but he does mix his strikes well. He has a very good left legged switch kick which he landed to the body to finish Ilir Latifi. While he’s a capable striker, he does his best work on the mat. Blachowicz secures 1.59 takedowns per 15 minutes in the UFC and successfully secures 54% of his takedown attempts. Blachowicz is heavy in top control and does well to keep opponents grounded. He does well to advance position on the mat to side control or ground and pound then work submissions at that point. Blachowicz has proven durable over the course of his career. He has only been finished twice in his thirty fights and not since 2011.
Thiago Santos (Record: 20-6, -115 Pickem, Power Ranking: B-)
The TATA Fight Team middleweight had been on the best form of his career winning seven of his last eight bouts in the UFC including a knockout of surging light heavyweight Anthony Smith. This is Santos second straight main event in the UFC.
A black belt in muay thai and a purple belt in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, Santos has become a well-rounded mixed martial artist. He’s made real strides to develop his game especially improving his takedown defense. He was only taken to the mat once by Elias Theodorou which is an impressive accomplishment considering Theodorou’s grueling style. Santos wants to keep his opponent on the feet where he has a big advantage over most opponents. Santos has a heavy kicking game and is a very capable finisher with his legs. He is not only capable of landing decisive kicks to the body, but also to the head. Santos excels when he’s able to stand at range and power into his kicks. His biggest weakness is on the ground. While Santos has improved in the grappling exchanges, it’s still his weakest MMA element overall and one where he can be exposed by fighters with advanced jiu jitsu. Still, that requires his opponents finding a way to get him to the ground which is no easy feat.
In the first ever fight card in the Czech Republic, Poland’s Jan Blachowicz takes on Brazil’s Thiago Santos in a top ten clash in the light heavyweight division. Santos has become one of the most feared fighters in the division as he’s a powerful, athletic striker that can put opponents away. Blachowicz, on the other hand, is a more diverse fighter that will be seeking the takedown throughout the fight to limit Santos’ gifts. Santos has really taken advantage of fighting strikers that have not looked for the takedown. This is a much different fight for Santos in that it will be fought at a slower pace than he is used to fighting at. Blachowicz is a master of slowing fights down to his pace. I expect Blachowicz to make it a physical bout and not one at range. Ultimately, his success will depend on getting Santos to the mat. I expect him to be able to get Santos to the mat and then to use his strong grappling from top position to slow Santos down and then control the Brazilian from that position to win the fight. Given Santos knockout power, he’s capable of finishing anyone in the UFC, so there’s certainly a path to victory for him as well. It’s lined as a pickem for a reason and it’s not one I’ll be looking to bet.