Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) Light Heavyweight strikers Thiago Santos and Jan Blachowicz dueled last night (Feb. 23, 2019) at UFC Fight Night 145 inside 02 Arena in Prague, Czech Republic.
It’s quite interesting how each of these main event fighters has really come into their own in the last couple years. For Santos, the solution has proven to be embracing the wildness, pushing a monstrous pace and throwing insane amounts of offense at his opponent. Without the weight cut to Middleweight, the Brazilian seems more durable as well — a big plus given his mad approach to combat. Meanwhile, conditioning has proven the missing factor for Blachowicz. Now that he’s no longer breathing heavy at the five minute mark, Blachowicz is able to showoff his well-rounded and technical game. As a result of these developments, both men entered this contest closing in on the title mix.
The fight opened a bit slower than expected, as the two traded kicks and jabs at range. Though neither man gained a clear edge early, Santos’ low kicks were the first strikes to land with real consistency. In addition, Santos managed to land a few big power shots. meanwhile, Blachowicz got his jab going a bit more, causing his foe’s eye to swell up a touch. In an important exchange, Santos managed to deny a solid takedown attempt after a caught body kick.
The opening five minutes were competitive, but Santos seemed to land the harder shots.
The second round continued at a rather measured pace. Blachowicz was having difficulty finding a home for his punches, but the Polish athlete was managing to land well with kicks of his own. In addition, Blachowicz also began to check the dangerous low kicks of his opponent — as an adjustment, Santos began targeting the calf instead. Across the entire round, both men did a nice job of countering the other’s kicks by passing the leg by and attacking the base leg.
Blachowicz’s gameplan seemed to be coming into effect in the second, as it was a calm, technical kickboxing match more than wild brawl.
After eating a few low kicks from “Marreta,” Blachowicz surged forward with a combination of punches. It was the same type of shifting combination that saw Blachowicz drop Jimi Manuwa, but it was a mistake here. Santos did not simply give ground and allow Blachowicz to throw. Instead, he took a step back with a check hook and then stepped back into Southpaw to throw a second check hook, this time with his right hand.
That stance-switch gave Santos extra impact behind his hook, and he also happened to catch Blachowicz mid-stance. In short, it was an extremely powerful punch landed on a foe in poor position to absorb it. Blachowicz fell to the mat hard, and a mad flurry of hammerfists ended the contest (watch it).
This was an interesting and surprising performance from Thiago Santos. Against a man like Blachowicz known for fatiguing as fighters wear on, I fully expected Santos to sprint at Blachowicz and throw the kitchen sink at him. Instead, Santos hung back, kicked with his opponent, and eventually found the home for a perfect counter shot to a signature Blachowicz technique.
Who knew “Marreta” could follow a patient gameplan like that?
The end result was a pretty spectacular knockout, so credit to Santos and his team. With three impressive knockout wins in a row against a high-level of competition, Santos has earned his first title shot.
As for Blachowicz, this is a disappointing end to his title run. Despite the loss, though, it was not a bad performance. The two were neck-and-neck heading into the third round, and Blachowicz seemed to be getting the type of fight he wanted. Things were going well, but it only takes one clean shot with a man like Santos.
The silver lining here is that Blachowicz did prove himself a top-level Light Heavyweight. His kickboxing looked sharp, and his past conditioning problems were nowhere to be seen. Assuming Jones holds onto that belt and remains active, Blachowicz could find himself back in the mix with another couple victories.
Last night at UFC Fight Night 145, Thiago Santos knocked out his opponent in the third round. Will Santos receive a title shot?
For complete UFC Fight Night 145: “Santos vs. Blachowicz” results and play-by-play, click HERE!