UFC 259 on paper is one of the most stacked fight cards in the organization’s history. Three title fights across light heavyweight, women’s featherweight, and men’s bantamweight will surely treat us fight fans to an incredible evening of action.
However, don’t get too starstruck just by the fights with gold on the line because our pay-per-view opener is nothing short of a banger! We will have former title challenger and number two-ranked Thiago Santos taking on a fast-rising prospect and number four-ranked Aleksandar Rakic in a light heavyweight division clash. Join us as we breakdown Santos vs Rakic and the keys to victory!
Thiago “Marreta” Santos
“Marreta” is Portuguese for a sledgehammer. This is the perfect nickname for Brazilian native Thiago Santos, considering he has 15 KO/TKO victories coming into his fight against Alexsandar Rakic at UFC 259. With a record of 21-8 (13-7 in UFC), Santos is no stranger to the bright lights. Once a savage in the middleweight division, with TKO wins over the likes of Jack Hermansson and former title challenger, Anthony Smith, and a decision over Kevin Holland, you may be wondering why Thiago is now at light heavyweight. Well, if you take one look at this guy, he is built like a statue. You can only cut so much weight for so long before your body begins to fight back.
Since coming up to light heavyweight in September of 2018, Santos has taken on the toughest of challenges. His debut in the weight class would result in a TKO victory against former Alabama Crimson Tide football player, Eryk Anders. From there, Thiago went on to win two more fights against the likes of Jimi Manuwa by way of KO and a TKO over current Light Heavyweight Champion, Jan Blachowicz. As a matter of fact, Santos is the last person to hand Blachowicz a loss, and ever since the current champ is on a four-fight win streak. The UFC realized the need to capitalize on this unbeaten streak for Thiago in his new weight class and rewarded him accordingly with a title shot against one of the greatest to ever do it, Jon Jones.
In this UFC 239 headliner, Santos would give Jones one of, if not the toughest and closest fights of his career. All while on one leg! During the bout Santos would, unfortunately, suffer a torn ACL, MCL and PCL but still showed the heart of a warrior, fighting Jon to a split decision. Following this, we would see Thiago take a very long layoff to repair and recover his knee. After a 15 month hiatus, we would finally see Santos make his return in the main event at UFC Vegas 13, against the ageless wonder that is Glover Teixeira. In this fight, we would see Santos hurt Glover on two separate occasions when the fight was on the feet. However, Glover weathered both storms and grappled Santos heavily. This would eventually play a huge factor as Thiago began to gas and in the 3rd round, we would see Teixeira finish the sledgehammer via Rear Naked Choke submission.
Now Thiago finds himself coming into this fight at UFC 259 on a two-fight skid. So what version of Santos will we see inside the octagon this weekend? A man on a mission, looking to right his wrongs from his last outing is my guess. I think the knockout artist is coming out swinging, and it is up to Aleksandar Rakic to get out of the way.
Aleksandar “Rocket” Rakic
Representing Austria, Aleksandar Rakic is coming into UFC 259 with his biggest opportunity yet. With a record of 13-2 (5-1 in UFC), Rakic looks to extend his win streak to two this weekend and take out Thiago Santos in the process. Coming off of a dominant main event victory over Anthony Smith, where Rakic would beat Smith up badly on the feet with vicious leg kicks and hold complete control on the ground, he has shown very few weaknesses. Aleksandar also holds a TKO victory over Devin Clark, who Smith defeated in his last outing, as well as a devastating head kick KO over Jimi Manuwa that put Rakic on everyone’s radar.
The lone blunder on his UFC record came against a former title challenger in Volkan Oezdemir via a razor-close split decision that many felt Rakic won. This fight showed that Aleksandar is capable of going into deep waters and grinding out a tough battle. He definitely will need that same mentality when he steps into the cage with Thiago at UFC 259.
Rakic has a real chance here to prove he is deserving of a title shot if he can come out victorious over Santos. The dangerous kickboxer holds a lot of weapons in his arsenal and has proven to be very well-rounded. But, will that be enough to stop the sledgehammer? While it is no easy feat, it does seem to be a test Aleksandar seems to be ready for.
Santos vs Rakic Fight Breakdown
The light heavyweight division is sure being put on display at UFC 259 and it is crazy that two guys coming off of main events are now the first fight on the main card. But we are not complaining! This bout has two very powerful strikers, yet very different as well. Santos is one to overwhelm his opponents with a very aggressive style and pace. He wants to take his opponent’s head off and early if possible. On the reverse end, Rakic is a patient kickboxer, but given the right opening, can make the opposing fighter’s lights go out. So the question is, who’s style will get the best of the other?
Thiago will more than likely come out guns blazing, per usual. This will be something Rakic isn’t necessarily too familiar with in the UFC. Look for Santos to get the better of the opening moments and potentially even rattle his opponent. However, I believe Rakic will be able to withstand the onslaught and begin to fight at his pace.
Aleksandar will make it to the second round and from here take over. From what we got to witness in his last outing, look for the leg kicks to become a key factor in this fight. As a matter of fact, if you want to see powerful kicks, look no further than Rakic. His style and attack will be something Thiago has not seen much before outside of Jon Jones. Even then, Jon does not possess the power in his kicks quite like Rakic, Daniel Cormier head kick excluded that is. This will inevitably be the turning of the tide and what will lead Aleksandar to the biggest win of his career.
Don’t let that fool you though, because all it takes is one clean shot from Santos and the fight can be over. Which is why Santos vs Rakic has potential to be a Fight of the Night contender, amongst many others at UFC 259. Although it is not for gold like three other fights on the main card, it certainly holds title implications in the near future for whoever can come out on top.
Santos vs Rakic Prediction: Aleksandar Rakic via Unanimous Decision
Who do you see winning this Santos vs Rakic light heavyweight battle? Let us know your prediction in the comments below!
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