Former Light Heavyweight title contender, Thiago Santos, was back in action tonight (Sat., March 6, 2021) against surging contender, Aleksandar Rakic, kicking off the UFC 259 pay-per-view (PPV) main card inside UFC Apex in Las Vegas, Nevada. “Marreta” was hoping to get back in the 205-pound title chase after a submission loss to Glover Teixeira in Nov. 2020; however, the towering Austrian striker was not about to make it easy.
Indeed, Rakic fought a very patient fight, staying on the outside and avoiding the power shots to escape with a close unanimous decision win.
Rakic looked to press the action early, backing up the Brazilian and trying to corner him up against the fence. Santos circled out with a low kick as the pair made it back to the center of the cage. Rakic scored with a nice low kick, as Santos charged forward with a big right hand that missed. More low kicks from Rakic, perhaps targeting those surgically-repaired knees. Santos, undeterred, flung a hard kick to the body, while Rakic patiently waited for an opening. Santos cracked him with a hard left hand, though, with Rakic countering with more low kicks. Rakic avoided the major strikes and piled up some points with the judges with his leg attacks from the outside.
Both fighters touched gloves to start the second stanza, with Santos’ corner urging him to be more aggressive. Rakic once again with the low kick, though, looking to once again back Santos into the fence. Shovel hook and low kick combination from Rakic, with Santos being cautious in the first 90 seconds. Rakic clinched Santos up against the fence, unloading body shots into Santos’ bread basket. Santos circled out then nailed Rakic with a hard outside low kick. Santos feinted and faked, but didn’t pull the trigger. Rakic landed a hard counter shot upstairs then just missed with a flying knee at the buzzer.
Third and final round and it seemed as though Rakic was up on points — Santos definitely needed to do work in the final five minutes. Rakic was warned real quick about his fingers before the action restarted. Santos came out way more aggressive with a low kick and a punch that missed. Rakic used the momentum to grab a hold of Santos and mush him up against the cage. Santos flicked a front kick then a hard kick to the body , which Rakic didn’t seem to like. One-two combination from Rakic, with Santos firing back with another hard body kick. He landed another then just missed with a big right hook. Two minutes remaining and Rakic finally went in on a single-leg takedown, but Santos defended well against the fence and even landed some nice short shots inside. Santos was able to also sneak in a solid knee until Rakic finally gave up on the takedown attempt. And that was pretty much it — not much urgency from either fighter.
It seemed like a tough fight to score with Santos actually landing more significant strikes, but Rakic dictating the pace throughout. The judges were almost all on the same page scoring-wise, ultimately giving the nod to Rakic, who was awarded his jiu-jitsu brown belt after the decision was read.
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