Thiago Santos looks to continue his steady rise at UFC Fight Night 128 1

Thiago Santos is preparing to keep his winning ways at UFC Fight Night 128. The Brazilian hitman has enjoyed a 9-3 record since joining the UFC. But sometimes his accomplishments get overshadowed by his lack of buzz. Santos has done well to stop the bleeding after a two-loss skid though. He now holds a four-fight finishing streak in the middleweight division as his game has improved exponentially in the process.

Kickin’ it with ‘Marreta’

Thiago Santos has made a career out of getting the finish when it matters. In his 22 fights as a professional, he’s achieved a 71% KO/TKO percentage. It’s no secret that Santos’ bread and butter is on the feet. What’s really terrifying is his steady progression of speed and power as he’s developed as a true middleweight fighter.

Santos’ inability to pull the trigger in his old fights and not start as the aggressor cost him in his losses. In his recent win streak, Santos has looked unconscious on the offensive end as his vast array of kicks has made opponents think twice about committing to punches. Thiago Santos truly lives up to his ‘sledgehammer’ moniker with the intensity of each strike.

In his last fight against Anthony Smith, Santos never allowed his opponent to settle. Every time Smith planted his feet, Santos began throwing haymakers with his hands and feet, and Smith cracked under pressure. Santos landed a flush body kick a la Anthony Pettis that changed the landscape of the fight. The resulting beatdown was merely a formality as Smith was taken out of the fight physically and Santos captured his fourth straight finish.

Time to make a run?

In his next match-up against David Branch, Santos has clear win conditions with the fragilities Branch has shown in previous fights. Santos is one of the better first-round strikers in the division. His early danger in flurries will be a vital component to victory against a slow starter.

In his last few losses, David Branch has taken serious early shots that hindered his ability to wrestle off his back. Thiago Santos is fast and precise enough to penetrate the lackadaisical defense of Branch. If Branch approaches the early rounds the same way, he’ll have a serious problem staving off the output of Santos.

If David Branch can implement his smothering ground game, he can make it tough for Santos. But Santos’ takedown defense is nothing to be scoffed at either. It’s apparent to see that Santos is enjoying a renaissance in his career from all standpoints. His fearsome striking gives him the freedom to clinch, his knees open up the space for takedowns, and the recipe hasn’t been interrupted since his Eric Spicely loss.

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