The UFC travels back to Brazil Saturday when the promotion touches down in the gorgeous city of Sao Paulo. Their last visit took place last year at UFC Fight Night: Brunson vs. Machida in October. Three victorious fighters from the UFC Fight Night: Brunson vs. Machida event return to Brazil, two of which find themselves in must-see matchups.
With 14 fights scheduled for Saturday’s UFC Fight Night: Santos vs. Anders, some of us are not privy to watch every second of MMA action. First of all, shame on you. Secondly, I understand not everyone has the time or attention span to sit in front of a television for 6 hours to watch athletes bludgeon each other with their limbs. If that describes you, then this is the right place for you. Here are five fights to watch, UFC Fight Night: Santos vs. Anders.
Of the 28 fighters set for Saturday’s event, 7 have 30 or more fights on their record. The first fight to watch features two veterans with well over 30 fights each.
*List in no particular order*
Five Fights to Watch, UFC Fight Night: Santos vs. Anders:
Hector Lombard vs. Thales Leites
With 80 fights between the two of them, cage experience is abundant in this matchup. Lombard’s most recent competition ended in an odd fashion. In his UFC 222 preliminary bout against CB Dollaway, Lombard lost by way of disqualification.
Previous to his disqualification, Lombard hasn’t had much better of luck. Currently, the MMA veteran is in the midst of five consecutive losses. Since joining the UFC, the former Bellator middleweight champion holds a record of 3-7, 1 NC.
Lombard’s wrestling skill will come in handy, yet the best route to victory for the Cuban fighter is through his boxing. Thales Leites should hold an advantage in grappling on the mat, yet the advantage is slight.
Leites has also struggled as of late. In his last five, he owns a record of 2-3. Even more recently, the Brazilian fighter holds a two-fight losing streak. In his last performance, Leites fell by TKO stoppage to Jack Hermansson at UFC 224.
Submitting Lombard is a task is easier said than done. Lombard is a judo and jiu-jitsu black belt. Compounding this, Leites hasn’t submitted an opponent under MMA rules since 2016.
Ben Saunders vs. Sergio Moraes
Next on the fight docket pits another Bellator veteran against a Brazilian competitor. Ben Saunders returns to the octagon for the third time in 2018 Saturday when he takes on Sergio Moraes.
Saunders’ 10th Planet jiu-jitsu base has provided flashy submissions. 7 of his 17 stoppages victories came by way of submission, while Saunders himself has never been submitted in MMA competition. Lately, Saunders has relied on his striking. Thusly, fans were granted wars with Alan Jouban and Peter Sobotta. Although the results are marked as loses on his record, both were displays of utter brutality.
Sergio Moraes may not have the same depth to his striking attack but he is equally versed for war. Moraes also holds a high caliber submission game. In only 17 fights, the Brazilian owns 7 submission stoppages.
Andre Ewell vs. Renan Barao
Andre Ewell vs. Renan Barao provides an exciting bout featuring a UFC newcomer. Not just any debuting fighter, Ewell is the former CES bantamweight champion. It is a battle between former champions.
Fighting a former champion is a tall task for any fighter, let alone a debuting one. Yet, if any debuting fighter matchup serves the fans better it hasn’t been made yet. Barao has an experience advantage but beyond that, the two fighters’ skills nearly cancel each other out.
Ewell possesses great footwork and uses range efficiently. The Californian most certainly holds superior boxing. On the other hand, Barao is a well-respected grappler. His advantage comes in the grappling, experience, as well as fighting in his home country. Barao may be the better grappler by a test of the eye, but Ewell holds sneaky submission skills. He defeated Dinis Paiva with a brilliant D’arce choke which Ewell synched off a failed takedown attempt. Before finding themselves sprawled on the mat, the Californian rocked Paiva forcing him to shoot for the takedown.
*Barao missed weight (141.7). Extra weight may play a factor in this matchup.
Alex Oliveira vs. Carlo Pedersoli
Per usual, UFC Fight Night: Santos vs. Anders allows for Brazil vs. International matchups. Alex ‘Cowboy’ Oliveira is no stranger to entertaining fights. In the co-main event slot, he welcomes Carlo Pedersoli to his home country.
Oliveira has graced MMA fans with wars such as Oliveira vs. Yancy Medieros, Oliveira vs. Piotr Hallmann, and Oliveira vs. Gilbert Burns. ‘Cowboy’ also holds incredible stoppages in his arsenal. Just recently, the Brazilian brawler earned three performance bonuses in his last three appearances.
Pedersoli is a more calculated and cerebral fighter than ‘Cowboy’. Currently, the Italian-American rides 8 consecutive victories into Sao Paulo. Only one loss by split decision stains his record. In his UFC debut, the international fighter defeated veteran Brad Scott by earning a split decision. Previous to his debut with the North American promotion, Pedersoli defeated former UFC fighter, Nicolas Dalby at Cage Warriors 93.
Thiago Santos vs. Eryk Anders
What needs to be said here?
The power is strong with these ones. One shot from either of these men and you might wake up in a dystopian future after a 40-year coma, only to find factions of lizard-like people offering sacrificial tributes in exchange for rain.
Do not make either of these monsters angry.
Anders accepted the fight in Sao Paulo on short notice. The first incantation of Saturday’s event included a main event featuring neither of the fighters currently scheduled to compete. But who’s complaining?
Between the two of them, Anders and Santos hold 17 KO’s. Anders most recently slept Tim Williams as he attempted to stand up from the mat with a beautifully timed head kick. Santos heavily laid into Kevin Holland for three rounds in his most recent performance. Both men are on the cusp of the top-10 middle rankings. Although that doesn’t mean much, fighters with such power can easily smash their way into the deeper end of the rankings. It only takes a few punches.
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