Leonardo Santos will meet Jared Gordon in a lightweight clash at UFC 278.
Santos, who was on a 10-year unbeaten streak leading up to 2020, was dealt his first two losses in the UFC back to back in 2021. His fight this weekend will be coming back as he looks to right those wrongs against Jared Gordon. Santos will look to challenge Gordon’s skills with a Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu brown belt under John Danaher, with his own championship-level skills as Santos boast a bronze medal in the 2001 ADCC world championships.
Gordon, who is also coming off of a loss to Grant Dawson who defeated Santos in 2021, will also be looking to bounce back. He most recently made headlines by demonstrating his grappling prowess on the street, subduing a baseball bat-wielding attacker just a couple of weeks before his fight. However, it’s his full arsenal and well rounded skills which will be the greatest threat to Santos.
Jared Gordon will come in as a large favorite. At -344 to +248, fans could look to earn a good sum if Santos pulls off an upset.
Santos is the slower fighter and the less technically sound striker. However, what he lacks in athleticism on the feet, he makes up for by utilizing his reach and height to good advantage. He likes to work from the outside, chipping away with whipping low kicks and good hooks, mixing things up between the head and body in order to pick at clear targets. He also does have good power to back up his striking, one caveat is that he leaves his head open, throwing from his hip when he gets over hungry for the finish however, this overzealousness towards the knockout is the major lesson to be learned from his last loss where he gassed himself out looking for the TKO. So we may see particular improvements in his cardio management this time around.
Gordon will be at a reach disadvantage of 7 inches. That being said, this is not the worst scenario for his style, as he is very good at rolling underneath punches and countering with big hooks upstairs and to the body. He is by far the sharper puncher and has the superior defense. He also has good boxing in gritty situations, where he can get in close to the pocket, even forehead to forehead, and work his dirty boxing inside. While he is competent everywhere, what he truly wants is to be the aggressor, pushing his opponent back and forcing them to lash out so as to weave his way further in, but he definitely needs to be the one pressing the pace.
Regardless of the awesome style clash of their striking, Santos will be looking to take Gordon to the mat. Both men have extremely well-trained grappling, but Santos’ background as an ADCC world champion should trump Gordon’s brown belt on paper. A record of 9 submissions in MMA backs this up, especially after watching Gordon struggle with his back taken in his loss to Dawson in April. Gordon has extremely good reactive grappling to be taken down, he will attack submissions, but even better, use those submissions to sweep rather than force a finish that isn’t there, and he is quick and dynamic in pulling the trigger on these moves.
It will be up to Santos to try to either hurt Gordon on the feet or drag him down methodically, careful not to offer him such a high momentum technique that Gordon can use it searching for a reversal. Trips and sweeps off fence clinches will be a good tactic to search for the Brazilian, and once on the mat, Gordon’s scrambling does have the double-edged sword of sometimes exposing the back. This is the hole most likely to be exploited by Santos.
Ultimately we have a good battle of opposing styles on the feet. I see success for both men throughout the exchanges, but once the fight touches the floor, I think the detriment in skill is larger, and Santos can take advantage of the issues Gordon had in his last fight with a larger arsenal of submission skills to back him.
Prediction: Leonardo Santos to win (+248 odds at MyBookie)