Another weekend of fisticuffs has come and gone and after an exciting night of fights in London, England, there are undoubtedly more than a few people still suffering from a hangover, including mixed martial arts (MMA) fighters themselves.
No, I'm not referring to the after-effects fighters feels after hitting the local pubs to celebrate a job well done or the loser drowning his sorrows looking for answers at the bottom of a bottle. Though some may be suffering from a wild night out in the U.K., I'm referring to the effects of losing a big fight.
At UFC on FUEL TV 7, which took place at Wembley Arena this past weekend (Feb. 16, 2013), there may be more than a few fighters still licking their wounds. From Michael McDonald's submission loss to Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) interim bantamweight champ Renan Barao, Stanislav Nedkov's knockout loss to Tom Watson and Cyrille Diabate suffering from a torn right calf muscle, the night was filled with devastating losses for many combatants.
But, which fighter is still suffering from the worst hangover, now two days removed?
The former Sengoku middleweight champion took on Gunnar Nelson in what was the Brazilian's debut at welterweight. While Santiago got off to a decent start in the opening frame, landing a few solid shots to the chin of the Icelandic grappler, "Gunni" managed to adjust and take control of the contest though the visibly exhausted Santiago turned up the heat in the final seconds of the fight, landing a huge right hand which could have proved disastrous for Gunnar had there been a few more ticks remaining on the clock.
Though "The Sandman" put on a valiant effort, he failed, once again, to earn a victory under the bright lights of the UFC, coming up on the wrong side of the judges' scorecards, dropping his fifth straight fight inside the Octagon in what was his third go-round with the promotion.
Santiago is a curious case, to say the least. We have a talented fighter who has all the potential in the world and who holds wins over the likes of Siyar Bahadurzada, Kazuo Misaki, and even won the Strikeforce Middleweight Grand Prix in 2007 and the Sengoku 185-pound Grand Prix the following year. Yet, in his three stints with the UFC, he has only managed to win one fight, his debut back in 2006 against Justin Levens. He proceeded to drop two straight to Chris Leben and Alan Belcher immediately after, which isn't anything to really frown about.
After getting the ax from the UFC, "The Sandman" managed to collect an impressive 11-1 record outside of the Octagon which earned him a second invite to compete inside the eight-walled cage, only to drop two straight in the span of five months to Brian Stann and Demian Maia in 2011. After getting his pink slip one more time, he picked up two wins under the Titan FC banner to receive his most recent chance to prove he can succeed on the biggest stage of them all, replacing an injured Justin Edwards against Nelson this past weekend.
And, just like his previous four attempts, Santiago came up short, running his UFC record to 1-5.
It's sad really, because every time I see that Santiago managed to get another chance with the UFC, I admit, I see a glimmer of hope. I think, this time will be different. I look forward to the flashes of brilliance the 32-year old once showed such as his "Fight of the Year" performance against Misaki just two years ago. But, those flashes never come. Do I expect a replay of Santiago vs. Misaki 2 each time out? No. But, I do, however, look forward to a better output from the Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt who has the potential to make a run, but, just hasn't fulfilled it yet.
At least not inside the Octagon.
It's not that he doesn't put up a fight. On the contrary, his spirited effort against Nelson likely earned him another shot at redemption, but, for some reason, he just can't seem to pop off enough offense in order to secure the big win he needs to hang around the promotion longer than two fights.
Could it be that the pressure of fighting for the UFC that's too much? Is it the level of competition he's faced? Taking on Stann and Maia in consecutive bouts is no easy task for anyone. The luck of the draw wasn't on his side when he got the bid to take on the undefeated (11-0-1) "Gunni" on three weeks notice, either. Or is the painful, yet, simple truth that Santiago, as talented as he is, shines better under the dimmer lights of local promotions?
As the old adage goes, there are no easy fights in the UFC, but, I think we can agree Jorge's last five opponents with the UFC have been far from gimmes. Having said that, I'd like to see Santiago get at least one more fight to prove he is worthy of a spot on the overly-crowded roster. His "never say die" attitude in London earned him at least that much.
Against who, you ask?
I'm thinking Che Mills. Both would be ready to scrap around the same time given the fact they each competed at UFC on FUEL TV 7 and didn't acquire any visible injuries. The fight, too, would allow both men to do what the do best, and that's stand-and-bang.
With neither Santiago or Mills in danger of being confused as world class wrestlers and in a bout that will likely be decided on the feet, something would have to give here.
But would it be Santiago ... again?