With the biggest fight of his life fast approaching, Thiago Santos doesn’t seem particularly desperate to overcomplicate things.
Fighting the unparalleled Jon Jones, “Marreta” looks to become UFC Light Heavyweight Champion at UFC 239. He’s under no illusion as to the task’s difficulty though, far from it. “He’s a very intelligent guy, so I need to be ready for everything” Santos said, speaking to MMA Junkie in his native Portuguese. “I need to be ready for everything and to make him suffer everywhere. If it’s on the ground, he has to suffer. If it’s on the feet, he has to suffer. If he takes me to the fence, he will suffer. That’s how I see it.”
While tactics have never been more prevalent in the admittedly unpredictable sport of MMA, Santos’ simplistic approach is understandable. Jones is undeniably one of the greatest fighters in MMA history, suffering his sole defeat via controversial disqualification and racking up nine title defences in total. His skill set is elite across the board and Santos is very much aware of the challenge that Jones will present on July 6th.
“If there was a formula, or a secret, someone would have figured it out already. That’s something we’ll see then. We’re working on it, my coaches are studying him but I think he’s a very intelligent guy. He adapts,” Santos said. “If the fight is bad on the feet, he goes to the ground. If it’s bad on the ground, he goes to the feet. If it’s bad at the center of the cage, he takes it to the fence. If it’s bad on the fence, he takes it to the center. We haven’t really been able to see a weakness in his game.”
Santos (21-6) does have one solution in mind though, “we have never seen him with his back against the ground – better yet, with his back to the ground and a hand landing heavily. Then, we’ll see. That’s something we haven’t seen, how he reacts to powerful ground-and-pound from the top. But anyway, more than ever I need to be ready for anything. He’s a very well-rounded guy, he adjusts to wherever the fight is, so my strategy is to make him feel bad wherever he is.”
Though obviously a major underdog, Santos’ recent form does command some respect. On a four fight win-streak since April 2018, Santos has won three straight at 205lbs and has scored a stoppage each time. Beating Jones will obviously be a far tougher challenge though, that much is clear.