Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) lightweights Leonardo Santos and Tony Martin will hunt for submissions this Saturday night (March 21, 2015) at UFC Fight Night 62 on FOX Sports 1 from inside the Ginásio do Maracanãzinho in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
Technically, Santos is undefeated inside the Octagon, but he's hardly lighting the world on fire. In the crowded 155-pound division, he'll need a dominant victory here to separate himself from the pack.
Martin started his UFC career with two straight defeats, admittedly to some pretty good opposition. He turned it around in his last bout, submitting a skilled grappler in Fabricio Camoes. Now, he'll look to build momentum from that win.
Let's take a look at the keys to victory for each fighter.
Key Wins: William Macario (UFC on FUEL 10), Efrain Escudero (UFC Fight Night 51)
Key Losses: None
Keys to Victory: Santos is a talented jiu-jitsu fighter and a Nova Uniao black belt with eight submission victories. While he's not an expert anywhere else, the rest of his game is quite solid, as well.
While Santos has the submission edge on paper, so did Fabricio Camoes. If Santos looks to have a jiu-jitsu match early on, he could find one of his limbs bent in an unpleasant angle.
In order to defeat Martin, Santos needs to ensure that he is the better conditioned fighter. His cardio to this point has been iffy; he outlasted Macario but slowed down in his last performance. However, it's a factor that is under his control and could be a major advantage.
Martin's conditioning is not such a simple issue, as his large weight cut drains him quite a bit. It's clear from all of his fights inside the Octagon thus far that he's very dangerous early, but he's far less potent as the fight wears on.
So long as Santos is well-prepared, this fight should be easy for him. Early on, he can use his range striking, particularly his sharp low kicks, to slow his opponent down. Martin will certainly look to grapple, but Santos can defend that with his counter wrestling or defensive jiu-jitsu.
As the fight moves into the later rounds, opportunities will open up for the Brazilian to implement more of his own offense, but only if he's in the condition to do so.
Key Wins: Fabricio Camoes (UFC 182)
Key Losses: Rashid Magomedov (UFC 169), Beneil Dariush (UFC Fight Night 49)
Keys to Victory: Martin is just three years into his professional career, but he's already proven to be a dangerous fighter. A purple belt in jiu-jitsu, Martin has demonstrated a dangerous and powerful submission game, which has earned him seven finishes.
Martin is one of the largest men on the lightweight roster. There are clear benefits and costs to this fact, and it's up to Martin to maximize the advantages.
Since Martin cannot keep a high pace for a particularly long time, it's very important for him to either finish early or put himself in a position that doesn't require much energy. Otherwise, he'll wind up tired underneath an excellent jiu-jitsu fighter.
In short, Martin cannot waste time early. He needs to throw some power punches, close the distance, and force his opponent to the mat. From top position, Martin can tire his opponent out while putting out very little effort.
Additionally, Martin puts himself in a very good position to finish if he can get to a dominant position. He's not as technically proficient as his opponent, but strength and ground strikes can make a big difference in securing a limb.
Bottom Line: Neither man is on the verge of making waves in the lightweight division, but victory is pretty vital for both fighters, which could produce a quality scrap.
Santos is well into his thirties, which means he doesn't have a ton of time to impact his division. He's still undefeated inside the Octagon, but he needs to string together some big wins if he wants any chance of moving forward inside the UFC's most stacked division.
That has to start with Martin.
If the Brazilian loses, the chance of him ever being considered a contender is pretty much over. At his age and experience level, Santos needs to be defeating up-and-coming grapplers like Martin.
While Martin did not start his UFC career well, the organization clearly saw potential in him, as he was kept around after two opening losses. The submission specialist is undoubtedly a physical talent and is already quite good for his short time as a professional, but he needs wins to back it up.
Should Martin fail to overwhelm his opponent, his future with UFC is uncertain. Additionally, he may want to question whether he can continue to make a career at lightweight work, particularly if his conditioning is the cause of his defeat.
At UFC Fight Night 62, Leonardo Santos and Tony Martin will go to war. Which man will prove himself the superior grappler?