UFC Fight Night 95 Breakdown: Thiago Santos vs Eric Spicely

Thiago SantosPrior to each UFC fight card, Jay Primetown takes a look at some of the key contests at each event. In the latest installment, we preview a middleweight clash between 15th-ranked Thiago Santos and Ultimate Fighter alumnus Eric Spicely at Saturday’s UFC Fight Night 95 in Brazil. Thiago Santos (Record: 13-4, -450 Favorite, Power Ranking: B-) The TATA Fight Team middleweight had been on the best form of his career prior to running into Gegard Mousasi at UFC 200. He had won four fights in a row in the UFC, beating the likes of Nate Marquardt and Elias Theodorou in the process. Santos looks to get back on track returning to Brazil for this bout. A black belt in Muay Thai and a purple belt in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, Santos is 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 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’s one of the only fighters in the promotion with three knockouts via leg kicks. 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 BJJ. Still, that requires his opponents finding a way to get him to the ground, which is no easy feat. Eric Spicely (Record: 12-6, +360 Underdog, Power Ranking: F) The Rhode Island-based middleweight returns to the Octagon for the first time since losing his first-ever bout as a professional. The Ultimate Fighter alumnus did lose in the semifinals to eventual TUF winner Andrew Sanchez, but that was considered an exhibition bout. In his first official UFC fight, he had no answers for Sam Alvey, getting beat up on the feet and eventually being submitted. Spicely needs a win against Santos to keep his roster spot in the UFC. The 6-foot-1 middleweight had fought entirely with CES, New England’s top MMA promotion, prior to trying out for The Ultimate Fighter. His career on the regional scene mainly consisted of him dominating the grappling exchanges and getting submission wins over inferior competition. He looked solid at the onset on TUF before running into Sanchez. Spicely is a fighter that makes no bones about the fact that he needs to secure takedowns and grapple to have success. His stand-up game is not at a UFC level, and he was exposed in his fight with Alvey that he simply doesn’t have the tools to exchange with UFC-caliber competition. If he can secure a takedown, his BJJ is above average, and he is capable of securing submissions, but ultimately he will struggle to get his opponents there. Matchup This is a pretty straight forward matchup. Spicely is as predictable a fighter as there is on the UFC roster. In nearly every fight he’s been in, he goes for a single leg right from the start. If he’s able to secure a takedown, he’s a threat with submissions. He’s very effective finding the back of his opponent and working for chokes. When on his back, he’s very capable with triangles and armbar attempts. On the feet, however, he simply is at a disadvantage and is very vulnerable to being knocked out. He’s looked lost in stand-up exchanges, which is a real problem once again for him in the UFC. Santos is a horrible matchup for Spicely because he is such a threat on the feet. Santos will not need much to unleash his kicks in this bout. Spicely has looked vulnerable to body and head strikes in previous fights, and he will struggle here in any stand-up exchanges. Santos doesn’t have the best takedown defense in the division, but it’s an area he has improved on and has had success against much more capable wrestlers than Spicely. It will be difficult for Spicely to secure takedowns in this bout and when forced into a stand-up exchange, Santos should be able to land a big shot early in this bout and get a finish early in this fight. Despite being a -475 favorite in this bout, Santos is still worth putting into a parlay for this card. I have him lined as roughly a -700 favorite. I’ll be looking at inside the distance and TKO props once released as well.

Written by Jay Primetown

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