Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) will crown a new light heavyweight No. 1 contender this weekend when battle-tested veterans Thiago Santos and Glover Teixeira collide for the right to challenge for the 205-pound strap. As of this writing the belt is being worn by Jan Blachowicz, though we may have a title change if Israel Adesanya can move up in weight next March. Either way, expect Santos or Teixeira to be waiting in the wings. In the UFC Vegas 13 co-main event, which takes place this Sat. night by way of ESPN+ and ESPN2 from inside APEX facility in Las Vegas, former UFC heavyweight champion Andrei Arlovski looks to quell the uprising of Canadian “Bulldozer” Tanner Boser.
Before we dive into the main and co-main events, be sure to check out the complete UFC Vegas 13 preliminary card breakdown, expertly deconstructed by Patrick Stumberg here and here. Resident MMA champ Andrew Richardson did most of the heavy lifting for the rest of the main card right here. For the latest “Santos vs. Teixeira” odds and betting lines click here.
Let’s get to work ...
205 lbs.: Thiago Santos vs. Glover Teixeira
Thiago “Marreta” Santos
Record: 21-7 | Age: 36 | Betting line: -240
Wins: 15 KO/TKO, 1 SUB, 5 DEC | Losses: 3 KO/TKO, 2 SUB, 2 DEC
Height: 6’2“ | Reach: 76” | Stance: Orthodox
Significant Strikes Landed Per Minute: 4.44 | Striking accuracy: 47%
Strikes Absorbed Per Minute: 2.19 | Striking Defense: 57%
Takedown Average: 0.83 (40% accuracy) | Takedown Defense: 68%
Current Ranking: No. 1 | Last fight: Split-decision loss to Jon Jones
Record: 31-7 | Age: 41 | Betting line: +200
Wins: 18 KO/TKO, 8 SUB, 5 DEC | Losses: 3 KO/TKO, 0 SUB, 4 DEC
Height: 6’2“ | Reach: 76” | Stance: Orthodox
Significant Strikes Landed Per Minute: 3.74 | Striking accuracy: 47%
Strikes Absorbed Per Minute: 3.87 | Striking Defense: 55%
Takedown Average: 1.87 (38% accuracy) | Takedown Defense: 60%
Current Ranking: No. 3 | Last fight: TKO win over Anthony Smith
Glover Teixeira is one of those fighters who makes you question what you know about combat sports and some of the universal laws of cage fighting. I don’t think there is much dispute over the fact that an older fighter is saddled with an inherent disadvantage in speed, power, and agility, attributes that typically make the difference in high-level competition. The Brazilian is sitting comfortably at No. 3 in the 205-pound rankings and under normal circumstances that would reflect poorly on the quality of the division. In this case, it stands as a testament to Teixeira’s durability and recent track record. He’s certainly not the first 40-something veteran to contend for a title; Dan Henderson and Randy Couture stand as memorable examples, but he’s sandwiched between Dominick Reyes, 30, and Aleksander Rakic, 28, so he’s definitely competing in a younger man’s game. Not that Thiago Santos is a spring chicken at age 36, but anyone who’s hit both numbers will tell you there is a marked difference between the two, even more so in professional sports.
Santos has captured eight of his last 10 and took Jon Jones to the absolute limit. If we’re still looking at Jones as the best light heavyweight on the planet then we must also hold “Marreta’s” performance in equal esteem. Of those eight wins, seven of them came by way of brutal knockout. I know critics like to point out the David Branch upset and we certainly can’t ignore it, but even Israel Adesanya has been toe-tagged in his career. It happens and when it happens regularly is when we sound the “he’s probably done” alarms. I didn't see anything against Jones — or his destruction of now-champion Jan Blachowicz — that would suggest Santos is anything but prime. It is fair, however, to wonder if the extended layoff caused any sort of deterioration in the Brazilian bomber, who spent a healthy portion of his 16-month layoff immobilized with surgically-repaired legs. His right hand is a death sentence and always has been, I just can’t help but think superior footwork and better timing from an active opponent like Teixeira will have “Marreta” throwing up airballs.
My one problem with that scenario is that we’re asking Teixeira to avoid one of those doom fists for 25 minutes. He’s going to be hit at some point and he's going to be hit hard. As good as he looked against Anthony Smith in what was a sensational performance, we can’t pretend “Lionheart” is some kind of world-class striker with dynamite in his gloves. In addition, the memory of Alexander Gustafsson treating Teixeira like a Brazilian Bobo doll has yet to fade. If G-Tex hopes to win this fight then he needs to close the distance and capitalize on a rusty Santos who may need a round or two to shake off the cobwebs. Anything past that and it feels like this is “Marreta’s” fight to lose.
Prediction: Santos def. Teixeira by knockout
265 lbs.: Andrei Arlovski vs. Tanner Boser
Andrei “The Pitbull” Arlovski
Record: 29-19, 2 NC | Age: 41 | Betting line: +235
Wins: 17 KO/TKO, 3 SUB, 9 DEC | Losses: 11 KO/TKO, 1 SUB, 7 DEC
Height: 6’3“ | Reach: 77” | Stance: Orthodox
Significant Strikes Landed Per Minute: 3.54 | Striking accuracy: 44%
Strikes Absorbed Per Minute: 2.69 | Striking Defense: 59%
Takedown Average: 0.50 (36% accuracy) | Takedown Defense: 79%
Current Ranking: Unranked | Last fight: Unanimous decision win over Philipe Lins
Tanner “Bulldozer” Boser
Record: 19-6-1 | Age: 29 | Betting line: -275
Wins: 10 KO/TKO, 2 SUB, 7 DEC | Losses: 1 KO/TKO, 0 SUB, 5 DEC
Height: 6’2“ | Reach: 75” | Stance: Orthodox
Significant Strikes Landed Per Minute: 4.54 | Striking accuracy: 54%
Strikes Absorbed Per Minute: 2.85 | Striking Defense: 64%
Takedown Average: 0.00 (0% accuracy) | Takedown Defense: 100%
Current Ranking: Unranked | Last fight: TKO win over Raphael Pessoa
Andrei Arlovski made his Octagon debut 20 years ago at UFC 28 in Atlantic City when opponent Tanner Boser was just nine years old. I happened to be at a nearby casino that weekend but didn’t bother with the event because I thought cage fighting was stupid. For those of you who don’t remember the early days of MMA, I can assure you a majority of “fights” were just that: two guys beating the shit out of one another with no real skill or technical ability. There were exceptions, of course, including Arlovski who was the only fighter on that card to win by submission, thanks in part to his background in sambo. It’s kind of a shame he fell in love with the knockout because a more balanced approach would have likely kept him at the top of the food chain during his peak years. For all his success, “The Pitbull” has been knocked out 11 times in his pro career. To his credit, it’s only happened once over the last three years across a span of 10 fights and let’s face it, going limp is a risk you take when competing against heavy-handed monsters like Francis Ngannou and Jairzinho Rozenstruik.
I know Boser is the toast of the heavyweight town these days and for good reason, he’s won three out of four since migrating to UFC including back-to-back victories over Philipe Lins and Raphael Pessoa. Like Arlovski, “The Bulldozer” has won most of his fights by way of knockout (10) and isn’t afraid to stand in the pocket and let his hands go. While it would be nice to highlight some of his accomplishments over the eight years he’s been competing, we have to be honest with ourselves when assessing his place in this division. At the risk of sounding douchey, Boser hasn’t really done anything worth writing home about. Most of his regional fights came on the Canadian circuit for Unified MMA where the heavyweight talent pool leaves a lot to be desired. To be fair, good heavyweights can be hard to find in any territory which is why combatants like Derrick Lewis and Jairzinho Rozenstruik — who wouldn’t have a ground game even if they got drunk and passed out on a Parcheesi board — have managed to slug their way into the division Top 5.
This fight is like most Arlovski fights in that the outcome is dependent on how well his beard holds up, though you can argue that his porous defense is more responsible for his knockout losses than his actual chin. “The Pitbull” has fought and in many cases beaten some of the best heavyweights in the world and brings with him a level of experience that Boser can only dream of. Just like any 265-pound bout, none of that really matters if a haymaker lands, I just have a hard time imagining any scenario that doesn’t include “The Bulldozer” getting boxed up from bell-to-bell. Arlovski is the better technical striker and still has above-average cardio for a heavyweight. Barring a first-round collapse, this night belongs to Belarus.
Prediction: Arlovski def. Boser by unanimous decision
Remember, the rest of the UFC Vegas 13 main card predictions are RIGHT HERE.
MMAmania.com will deliver LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the entire UFC Vegas 13 fight card this weekend RIGHT HERE, starting with the ESPN+ “Prelims” matches, which are scheduled to begin at 7 p.m. ET, then the remaining main card balance on ESPN+ and ESPN2 at 10 p.m. ET.