Though it appears Jan Blachowicz already has a dance partner for the first defense of his recently-earned light heavyweight title in Israel Adesanya, the next challenger for the belt will likely be decided by this fight.
Glover Teixeira is in the midst of a career resurgence and is riding a four-fight win streak coming into this one. He has 31 wins in 38 professional fights with 17 finishes, most recently by fifth-round knockout of Anthony Smith in May.
Thiago Santos has had over a year off since his five-round classic with Jon Jones last July, taking his time recovering from a knee injury suffered in that fight. Had it not been for that injury, Santos may have been the light heavyweight champion following that fight and, even with the injury, he managed to win the fight on one judge’s scorecard.
Santos is a powerful striker and a dangerous matchup for anyone in the division. He is athletic and has very good footwork, likes to change the angles he throws from and is most successful when he can fight from the outside, land leg kicks and jabs, get his opponents to chase him, and catch them with bombs on the way in. He thrives in close exchanges and can put the lights out with one left hook or overhand. He throws those left hooks and overhands from both stances, and those are really the strikes which most of his other strikes and attacks serve to set up, though he is very active with left kicks to the body and head.
Santos tends to fight at an active pace early, throwing heavy shots, bu somehow managed to maintain five-round conditioning fighting that style against Jones. For all his power, Santos doesn’t counter-strike very effectively. When he’s the first to land, he’s one of the best strikers in this division. When he’s not, he isn’t much of a threat to return fire, because he relies on his footwork and athleticism defensively. He also holds a pretty low guard, and doesn’t guard his off-side when he throws power punches and kicks, leaving him vulnerable against more advanced counter-strikers.
Santos can’t be mistaken for a grappler, but not many of his recent opponents have tried to get Santos into grappling exchanges. He is not very comfortable in clinch situations, but is extremely dangerous on the break. He has shown some great knees, but what his opponents really have to worry about are his left hooks. In his 2018 knockout of Jimmy Manuwa, the finished left hook looked like a baseball pitch. There’s a reason Marretta has 11 knockouts in 13 UFC wins- he knows when he has his opponents wobbled, and he doesn’t let them off the hook.
His takedown defense held up against the few offerings from Jones, and he was able to escape the grasp of Eryk Anders in response to a pretty heavy early wrestling and clinch grappling attack in that fight, but there isn’t much to tell about Santos’ takedown defense or getup skills. He has proven to be tough to keep down, but he is not very smart on the bottom and gives up his back to try to get to his feet. Santos’ wrestling is a big question as he approaches this matchup with Glover Teixeira, who is a second-degree BJJ black belt under Luigi Mondelli with seven career submissions and a considerable amount of knockouts and decisions ultimately resulting from ground & pound dominance.
From his feet, Teixeira is a shifty kick boxer with great head movement, and good striking speed for light heavyweight. His head movement makes him a tough target to hit and, even when he does get touched, he rolls with punches very well and rarely absorbs all of any single strike. Texeira has a tight jab and uses it to work inside where he can land short hooks to the head and body. From the outside, he likes to close distance and set up his right overhand.
When he’s in trouble or being out-paced, Teixeira looks to work into the clinch. He’s dangerous in and out of the breaks, and can start to take control of fights in these positions, the way he did against Anthony Smith. Teixeira has solid single leg takedowns and is heavy on top. He has a wide variety of submissions he can slip in on top, but usually works to take the back for a rear-naked choke. He has a nasty guillotine, but he likely won’t have many opportunities to use it in this fight, if at all.
When it comes to predicting this fight, we actually don’t feel very confident in either side of the moneyline. While Teixeira could double your investment as an underdog, he most likely isn’t going to come out on top of this one. Though he has the ability to get this fight to the ground, Santos has shown good enough takedown defense against physically stronger fighters than Teixeira. If the fight does get to the ground, it likely won’t stay there long and Santos will be landing shots on the way in and out.
That being said, Santos is a dangerous and overpriced favorite at -250, because of his tendency to so often give up his back in an effort to get to his feet, and the fact that he’s fighting a 2nd degree jiu jitsu black belt with four wins by rear naked choke. Beyond that, all of the advantages that Santos possesses on paper could be entirely null if his knee hasn’t fully healed from the injury sustained against Jones.
The only thing you can be sure of is that this fight is not going the distance. Whether Santos sits back and lets Teixeira walk into the bomb shots, or Glover finds a takedown and takes Santos’ back, or Santos doesn’t move the way he needs to and gets caught by Teixeira, there’s just no way this goes all the way. Unfortunately, Vegas knows that just like anyone with eyes, so this fight to end ITD is a steep -400. We like this fight to end before the 4th round, with high confidence, along with a slew of value plays.