What WME Should See: Elizeu Zaleski dos Santos

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Far too often in MMA, fighters with fascinating backstories and unique talents are under-promoted. This lack of promotion is a massive blow to the wallets of these fighters, and, ironically, hurts the bottom line of the organization that makes such promotional missteps. In “What WME Should See“, we look at a fighter who should be getting a big push from their promoters, but for whatever reason isn’t, and detail just why – and how – they should. For today’s edition, we’ll take a look at Elizeu Zaleski dos Santos.

The Fighter

Elizeu “Capoeira” Zaleski dos Santos (19-5 MMA, 5-1 UFC) is a violent, violent man. At thirty-one years of age, the Brazilian welterweight has established himself as an upcoming contender in the UFC. Before signing to the UFC, dos Santos competed in a variety of regional Brazilian promotions, including Jungle Fight.

Since signing to the UFC in 2015, the Brazilian has established himself as a contender for the mythical “violence belt” coined by Twitter user and MMA aficionado, @Grabaka_Hitman (also known as Caposa).

In his most recent outing, dos Santos scored a highlight-reel, first-round knockout of Sean Strickland at UFC 224. This week, he’ll face short notice replacement, twenty-two-year-old Luigi Vendramini (7-0).


The Context

It seems like Elizeu Zaleski dos Santos has been on the fringe of the divisional top fifteen forever. After dropping a contentious split-decision to Nicolas Dalby in his UFC debut, dos Santos has racked up five straight wins over increasingly skilled competition.

This week, dos Santos was originally slated to face a fellow surging prospect, Belal Muhammad (14-2). Unfortunately, Muhammad withdrew from the fight citing an injury.

Luigi Vendramini, his replacement, is a young countryman of dos Santos’. Vendramini has won all seven of his regional matchups by way of stoppage.

The Roadblocks

Elizeu Zaleski dos Santos is not ranked in the UFC’s welterweight division. It’s very rare that the UFC pushes an unranked contender, with the except of fighters with charismatic personalities or obvious, exciting potential. Dos Santos checks off both of those boxes.

Yet, for some reason, the UFC has failed to do so with dos Santos.

While the stature of his opponents has increased in each bout, dos Santos still has yet to draw a ranked opponent. And with a young, raw UFC debutant replacing the much more notable Belal Muhammad, that’s a pattern that is unfortunately likely to repeat itself.

Likewise, per Tapology, not one of dos Santos’ bouts has been featured on an event’s main card. That’s a travesty, especially when the aim is to maximize his exposure.

The Way To Promote Elizeu Zaleski dos Santos

Violence… Just Violence

“Capoeira” is built largely in the same mould as talented lightweight contender, Justin Gaethje. Gaethje has received a substantial promotional push, with the UFC promoting his ‘madman’ approach to fighting coupled with the dizzying amount of highlights he produces.

Dos Santos has had an objectively better run in the UFC, compiling a 5-1 record to Gaethje’s 2-2. Allow me to plagiarize the great Caposa:

It Ain’t Hard… Main Card

No matter how well dos Santos does, or how spectacular his performance is, it only matters if people know about it. Essentially, that’s the crux of this article series. When the UFC fails to shine a spotlight on a competitor who checks all the boxes, it hurts them.

They’ve failed to do so with dos Santos. All of his UFC matchups have been aired on the preliminary portion of the card. And while prelims have provided some of the best fights in UFC history (see: Dong Hyun Kim vs. Marco Polo Reyes), there are inherently fewer eyeballs on them than on the main card.

So put dos Santos on it. Before Muhammad’s withdrawal from this weekend’s UFC São Paulo card, their fight was listed as a Fight Pass Prelim, which undoubtedly is the least accessible, least viewed portion of the card.

The Verdict

Elizeu Zaleski dos Santos is objectively one of the most exciting fighters on the UFC’s roster. His thirteen career knockouts and four UFC “Performance of the Night” bonuses can attest to that.

What WME should see is a fighter specialized in a style that makes violent, exciting fights inevitable who has rattled off five straight victories. And what they should do is promote him.

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Michael Fiedel is a journalist covering mixed martial arts and submission grappling. He has been training in Brazilian jiu jitsu for almost two years and has immersed himself in both jiu jitsu and MMA. He has written for both MMA Today and MMA Sucka.

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