Thiago Santos vs Magomed Ankalaev – UFC Vegas 50 Preview

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UFC is back this weekend with their 50th fight night show at the UFC Apex in Las Vegas. This Saturday features a light heavyweight clash between two ranked knockout artists: Thiago Santos vs Magomed Ankalaev.

One man may drop in the walls of the Octagon, but who will it be?

Thiago Santos vs Magomed Ankalaev — Texeira’s next contender?

The winner of this bout will have a serious case to contend for champion Glover Teixeira’s title. Ankalaev marched into the top-10 with relative ease and now sits at the sixth spot on a seven-win streak.

On the other hand, No. 5 “Marreta” Santos has had a slightly rougher time in recent years. After a three-fight slump, the Brazilian managed to bounce back in the most unusual way. Santos comes into Saturday with a win against Johnny Walker—one won by unanimous decision after five whole rounds.

This is the first time the two light heavyweights have ever met head-to-head, and oddly enough, they’ve never shared the same opponents either. It would be an exciting test for the two top-10 contenders, as they both have their eyes on the prize — Teixeira’s newly-minted belt.

Santos bouncing back

Santos was on a roll after moving up to join the 205-pounders, beating the likes of Eryk AndersJimi Manuwa, and even Jan Błachowicz — all three through hard-hitting finishes. Unfortunately, the Brazilian’s three-win high was quickly stopped by a curious split decision loss to Jon Jones during his first run at championship gold. 

We all know that Santos is very capable of throwing hands that can knock the lights out of his opponents. That fight against Walker may have also displayed the incredible gas tank that Santos has built in the seven months following his loss against Alexander Rakič. But, Santos has a serious challenge coming for him in Vegas. His submission loss in his first meeting with Teixeira exhibited a hole in his game—his weakness in ground defense.

Santos’s other UFC victories include Kevin Holland, Anthony Smith, and Jack Hermansson, who are all former title challengers or potential contenders in their own rights.

A win against Ankalaev could very well stick Santos back on the fast track to meeting Teixeira yet again.

Full-throttle Ankalaev 

The Russian powerhouse comes into Saturday riding a seven-fight win streak — four of them won via knockouts. After Paul Craig cracked Ankalaev’s clean 9-0 record with a third-round triangle choke during his debut, the Russian has been on a rampage since. Beating the likes of fellow top-10 fighters Nikita Krylov and Volkan Oezdemir — both via unanimous decision — further cemented his position at the sixth spot in the light heavyweight division.

Ankalaev also holds two wins over Ion Cutelaba, as well as UFC victories over the likes of Marcin Prachino, Dalcha Lungiambula, and Klidson Abreu.

However, Ankalaev’s strength and athletic ability may match his opponent’s — although he has yet to throw for five rounds. Until now. Although the Russian is known to be cold and calculating with his shots, that tends to cause him to lose rounds more often than he wins them. Yes, he can throw the right shots at the right strength to knock his opponents out, but he tends to fight at a pace that doesn’t work in his favor.

This fight against Santos will not be easy, not in the slightest. Ankalaev has yet to have a taste at contending the champion, but a win against Santos may very well make that an opportunity for him.

Who do you have winning in the Thiago Santos vs Magomed Ankalaev match-up? Let us know in the comments.

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Jasmin is a writer-photographer who has worked in video games, music, travel, and more recently, MMA. Her fight background is in TKD, Muay Thai and Boxing though she's always wanted to roll with the BJJ crew. Follow her on Twitter @blaise_MMA

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