Taila Santos picks up a Performance of the Night award (Zuffa LLC)

The UFC travels to Singapore for an early morning fight card here in the U.S., but it boasts some intriguing and important matchups. A very important bout in the women’s flyweight division takes place between #3 ranked Erin Blanchfield and #4 Taila Santos. This is a potential #1 contender matchup or at least a title eliminator at 125 lbs and will be a big test for both ladies.

Coming off a heartbreaking split decision loss for the title, Taila Santos will be looking for her 20th pro win and to get back into the conversation to challenge for the strap once more. Blanchfield has soared up the rankings and after a stellar performance against a former champ in Jessica Andrade, her hype is as high as ever.

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Betting Odds

Though the line has shifted a bit this week, Erin Blanchfield still comes into this one as the slight favorite over the former title challenger.

  • Erin Blanchfield: -145 (BetUS)
  • Taila Santos: +115 (BetUS)

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Fight Breakdown

At only 24 years old, Erin Blanchfield is one of the best grapplers in the UFC regardless of division and has developing striking to pair with her submissions. She relies on takedowns from the clinch but will shoot at the hips from space should the opportunity present itself. Once she’s got her opponent down, it’s her world; she transitions with near flawless technique, keeping herself heavy from top control while hunting ground and pound and the submission. One of her best traits on the ground is her ability to isolate an arm and attack submissions from either her back or from top control. She’s opportunistic when it comes to chasing submissions but she won’t overcommit to the point where she puts herself out of position or in danger of being reversed.

‘Cold Blooded’ is a rightful nickname for the young New Jersey product as she’s more than willing to eat shots to open up her takedown opportunities. Her striking is improving and she’s become more consistent with her offense, mostly consisting of straight shots and kicks. She tries to use these straight shots to land at range and avoid eating shots coming back, but if she needs to take a few to grab the body lock, she’ll happily oblige.

I’d like to see her continue to improve on the feet, especially with evading strikes; she keeps her elbows far away from her body and her reactions/head movement to her opponent starting a combo almost always leaves her open for the straight right hand. She’s also still slow to exit the pocket when she wants to throw her own offense. This is where her opponents should be willing to engage as she’ll let herself get too squared in her stance and is very hittable. She doesn’t have much power in her hands so the more talented strikers of the division may still find success in throwing their own offense regardless of her forward pressure before using footwork to distance themselves before Blanchfield can engage in the clinch or shoot for takedowns.

Her fight against JJ Aldrich seemed to be a wake up call for her striking. Aldrich timed her well as she tried to enter with stiff jabs and crosses while also landing more powerful shots, exiting the pocket before Blanchfield could close the distance and make it a wrestling match. Even when she got caught in the clinch, she looked to overpower Blanchfield who usually has little issue getting her opponent down when she has her hands locked. She was able to sink in the high-elbow guillotine to finish her, but if she hadn’t, she likely would’ve been on the wrong side of the judge’s scorecards.

Her opponent is the former title challenger Taila Santos. This will be the first fight back for the Brazilian after her controversial split decision loss to Valentina Shevchenko where she arguably won three rounds against the now former champ. Santos is very strong and has a well rounded game of striking and grappling. She was able to notch 3 takedowns against Shevchenko and has dominated grappling exchanges against all competition including the grappling ace Gillian Robertson. This is in large part due to her overwhelming strength but she has good technique as well when keeping top control and transitioning, especially to the back.

The power of Santos is evident on the feet as well. She’s dropped multiple opponents with the right hand and her counters are sharp off the back foot. Shevchenko was able to find success in countering Taila as she isn’t super fast and her strikes, although impactful, aren’t the tightest and can be telegraphed by a good counter striker. Her kicks and knees are another big part of her game. She likes the front kick to the body and will batter the legs as well with her powerful low kicks. In tight, she uses her strength to gain control of the clinch and dig knees into the body. She’s a true threat on the feet as well as the ground.

Her best position is arguably this clinch where she’s almost always able to bully her opponent and take the body lock before tripping them and gaining top control. In her bout with Shevchenko, the two were more evenly matched in terms of punching power, but when it came to the wrestling, Santos looked to be much stronger physically. This has been the story of her UFC career so far; when she’s faced women who can match or exceed her ability in the grappling department, she’s still able to find success because she’s been able to dominate them with strength. She’s yet to face an opponent who’s capable of matching her strength as well as her grappling ability (if that fighter exists at 125 lbs).

Outside of her striking not being the most technically sound, she has a couple of other areas of worry. The first is her tendency to give up submission attempts. There have been multiple occasions when she’s on top of her opponent and they’re able to sneak an armbar or triangle attempt in. She’s always defended well and, when in doubt, has relied on her physicality to ensure she doesn’t get submitted but a high level grappler like Blanchfield isn’t going to miss on one of those opportunities. Other than that, the only other issue I could flag was her gas tank. Though she’s had no issues with going 15 minutes and has lasted 25 with Valentina, her pace on the feet slows as the fight progresses and the strikes become easier to read.

This matchup against Taila Santos is a tough one for Erin as she poses a lot of threats in the areas we see Blanchfield struggle in. The first of which is the powerful striking of Santos. Erin’s toughness and willingness to eat shots has given her opportunities to gain control of the clinch to work for takedowns, but Santos is very good (especially early on) at using her footwork to slide out of range of her opponent and land a powerful counter that makes them think twice about trying to rush in.

The second worry I have for Blanchfield in this matchup is the strength of Santos in clinch exchanges. We’ve seen Blanchfield struggle with stronger fighters along the fence and she relies heavily on these positions to get her takedowns. She’s very good at trips and she may be able to take advantage of Santos’s tendency to muscle her opponents down and reverse position but Santos has shown to be good in these scramble situations.


We need to see an improved version of Blanchfield if she wants to get past Santos this weekend. She’ll need to show improvements in her ability to evade shots and exit striking exchanges before she eats the big shots from Santos and look to time her grappling attempts while Santos is off balance or surprise her with a double/single leg shot from space. For Santos, she needs to make sure to stay as technically sound as possible on the feet and avoid being in a bad position when Blanchfield inevitably searches for the takedown. If the fight gets to the ground, I’m always confident that Erin Blanchfield will win that battle but if she’s attacking submissions from the bottom and not finishing them, she may not get the nod on the scorecards.

I think Santos, as the slight underdog in this matchup, is really good value for the Brazilian. Blanchfield is still growing into the fighter she’ll be when she challenges for a title one day but a test like Taila Santos feels like a tough learning experience that she may not come out of with a win. With her level of talent and continued improvements, she may show off a level of wrestling/grappling dominance we have yet to see against Santos and if she gets top position, we’ve seen just how lethal she can be with her submissions. That being said, I like Santos to steal this one as she has more tools and, in my opinion, the more likely path to victory. I believe Blanchfield keeps it close and is able to last the full three rounds though with the scorecards likely reading 29-28 for Santos.

  • Prediction: Taila Santos by decision +165 (BetUS)
  • Best Bet: Taila Santos to win +115 (BetUS)

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