In a punishing war between two heavy-handed fighters, Brazil’s Thiago Santos came out on top at UFC Sao Paulo on Saturday, as Eryk Anders was rendered unable to continue after the third round.
The main event at UFC Sao Paulo on Saturday night had a number of quirks to it. First and foremost, both main event fighters — that would be Thiago Santos and Eryk Anders — were short-notice replacements. Anders, on just six days notice, in fact. Then there was the fact that both were middleweights. Fighting, however, at light heavyweight in this instance. In a true 185lb fight, this would be a big fight to see who was ready to push into the top ten of the division. And despite being at 205lbs, it had the potential to effect each man’s standings in the rankings, as a strong showing would certainly give them a boost.
For Anders, meanwhile, it was the second main event, and second main event in Brazil, for the American. While Thiago Santos, despite his longer tenure with the promotion, was headlining for the first time.
Anders opened by taking the middle and pressing, throwing the first punch, which Santos evaded. Anders then shot a takedown, landed it, but Santos was right back up. Anders would hang on to him, going to the fence in a clinch. Down they went, then back up, Anders still holding onto a leg and finally dragging Santos down. Anders added a knee. Back in the middle Santos landed a hard kick to the body. No doubt, Anders felt that. Santos connected with a right, forcing Anders back. Thiago went high with a kick, but it didn’t land flush. Anders continued to press forward, looking to close the distance. He ate a knee for his troubles, but got the clinch. He’d switch to a single leg, get Santos down for a moment, but was unable to keep him there. Santos fired a spinning back kick that sailed wide. Santos connected with a heavy leg kick towards the end of the round. They’d head to the second.
In the first, Anders had shown a healthy respect for the heavy hands of Thiago Santos, but unable to hold the Brazilian on the ground, would he change his approach in round two? Santos came out kicking, and tried to draw Anders into a firefight. Anders answered back but quickly shot for the takedown, only to wind up being up his back, more or less pulling guard. Santos decided to take him up on the offer, but soon backed off. Thiago would then go into Ander’s guard a second time, loading up on ground n’ pound while Anders threatened to grab an arm. Getting back up, Anders would eat a knee, and began getting lit up on the feet. Anders then fired back, landing a heavy blow on Santos. Surprisingly, both men stayed standing. Santos reverted back to his kicks, with Anders pressing forward again, but Anders suddenly found himself in trouble, Santos going to the body with kicks then charging forward as Anders bailed out. A slip/scramble may have saved him, and an eye poke gave him a chance to recover. Anders would then finish the round with a big knee to the body.
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Making it to the third round was something of a surprise with this heavy-handed pair. And it was not for the lack of effort. Anders connected with a hard jab early in the third, followed up, then scored a takedown, allowing him to take the back of Thiago Santos. Hooks in, he had four minutes to work. Anders was looking for a rear-naked choke, but couldn’t get it. He tried to transition to mount, but Santos threatened to reverse. Anders then escaped, but Santos began lighting him up on the feet. They were swinging for the fences, and somehow Anders stayed standing, then drove Santos into the cage. He landed a knee to Santos’ head, and continued to pressure for a takedown. Santos would look for a knee as Anders shot in for a takedown, but Anders powered through and converted it. Anders landed in half guard and began working to drop elbows. Santos would escape, began hitting elbows but Anders took him down again. Still Santos continued with the elbows. Santos dropped elbow after elbow as Anders clung to his legs, and could not stand at the end of the round. Trying as he could to get to his feet, the elbows had done the damage, with Anders collapsing on the cage floor.
Thankfully, Anders was able to walk out under his own power. It was a finish reminiscent of Travis Browne on Josh Barnett, a rare sight.
Thiago Santos def. Eryk Anders by TKO, Round 3, 5:00