Three years ago, Thiago Santos had two torn knees and was within one UFC Gold scorecard.
Despite his four losses in his last five games, the hard-hitting Brazilian is still a top-six contender with his seventh headliner in his last nine games. . Not only that, but the eight-year UFC veteran thinks passing a soaring Jamahal Hill at his UFC Apex in Las Vegas on Saturday (10 p.m., ESPN) will give him an edge on the light heavyweight title. .
"If I stop this guy, I believe they will probably fight for the title again," Santos told The Post this week via Zoom.
Looking at the numbers alone, his 1-4 rise (22-10, 16 finishes) from Santos over the last three years is unimpressive. Once again, in 2019 he split his championship against the legendary but troubled Jon Jones, one of MMA's most dominant fighters. , closer than anyone to defeating the previous champion. And Santos did just that while enduring two devastating injuries to his knee.
Returning 16 months later, Santos nearly knocked out future 205-pound champion Glover Teixeira before succumbing to a rear-naked choke. Four months later, Alexander Rakić outpointed him for three rounds. After his five-round decision against Johnnie Walker, he distanced himself in a losing effort against Magomed his Ankaraev in March this year.
3 opponents who beat him and his last 5 games Former champions Jan Blachowicz and Anthony Smith make up the five contenders in the promotion rankings of the Santos UFC who defeated them in 2010. And Santos is keenly aware that he will be against a rematch after this weekend, looking to challenge reigning champion Ziri Prochazka.
"Honestly, I want to fight Jiri Prochaska. I like his style and [he's] the new meat," Santos said.
"But let's see," Santos continues. "First of all, we need to get a good win this Saturday and show that we deserve more than that." Known for his high volume striking attack, which is in stark contrast to the more laborious pace set by his final three opponents. The 31-year-old from Michigan ranks second all-time in strikes per minute among UFC light heavyweights. He also has momentum on his side with his pair of first-round knockouts against Jimmy Croot (December) and common opponent Walker (February).
The fact that a confident Hill could very well come forward and give him a fight only excites Santos. Santos' aptly assigned nickname "Maleta" means "Hammer". He "absolutely" appreciates opponents who can play from multiple opponents with lower outputs.
"I like guys coming up to me and trying to knock me out," says Santos, a seven-year veteran of his in his native Brazil. “It makes the fights interesting. It makes you pay attention, you can't close your eyes for a second.”
Santos, 38, knows his MMA competition is closer to the end than the beginning. A professional since 2010, he says he has "up to four years" in the sport. Given his physical condition, the idea of racing deep into his 40s is unpalatable.
Still, Santos draws inspiration from the likes of Teixeira and Blachowicz. is getting He won the title at 42 and he at 37 and are the top two contenders in the division. Their example offers hope that he can reach the top, even at a relatively high age in MMA.
"My body has gone through a lot of injuries, a lot of small injuries," Santos explains. "[It's] not just training and fighting, but when I was in the army. So my body, it's an old car. It's a tough, tough car, but it's an old car. I've been through a lot
"I have a few more years left, so I will do my best to win this belt."