Two of the top light heavyweights in the world will collide when former title challengers Thiago Santos and Glover Teixeira meet at UFC Vegas 13.
— ESPN MMA (@espnmma) November 5, 2020
It is a terrible thought, but it is the one that is the most prevalent going into Saturday: did Thiago Santos take too much damage last year when he fought Jon Jones? After going five rounds and losing a razor close split decision, Santos suffered severe ligament damage to both knees that required surgical procedures that have kept him out of action for over a year. Once the most intimidating knockout artist in the light heavyweight division, all eyes will be on “Marreta” to see if the base below him is as stable as before to support his familiar onslaught.
There is good reason for concern. After all, a healthy Santos tore a path through the light heavyweight division en route to his first UFC title shot. A win over current up-start Kevin Holland and stoppages over Eryk Anders, Jimi Manuwa, and current champion Jan Blachowicz all made him appear as an engine of destruction. The fact that he also fought longtime kingpin Jon Jones to a tight split decision on injured knees also lends credence to the fact that he has a claim to the title of uncrowned king. Should the procedures and recovery have gone well, Santos re-enters the division as a massive threat to everyone at 205 pounds. Should he be compromised, however, there is worry that the force of brutality he was before may be lost to the unkind nature of the fight game.
— UFC (@ufc) May 14, 2020
At 41 years old, respectfully, there was doubt that Glover Teixeira may ever reach this point again. After putting together a 20-fight win streak, including five in the UFC, the Brazilian contender entered his own title fight against Jon Jones in 2014. Teixeira came up short that night, and would struggle to reach the same heights in the subsequent years. He would go 5-4 in his next 9 fights, falling to Phil Davis, Alexander Gustafsson, Corey Anderson, and having a three fight win-streak snapped by Anthony Johnson in a title eliminator. While he remained a formidable foe, his age, record, and the state of the division did not lend itself to the idea that Teixeira could reach the world title again.
Beginning in 2019, however, Teixeira slowly began to turn the corner. He put together a 3-0 run with a decision win over Nikita Krylov and submissions victories over Ion Cutelaba and Karl Roberson. The pandemic pushed back his toughest fight in this stretch, but he nonetheless did get his date with former title challenger Anthony Smith in the Octagon next. Despite coming in as the underdog, Teixeira rallied back from a difficult first round to dominate the end of the fight for one of the most punishing performances of 2020. This has set the stage for the fight with Santos. Rescheduled twice before due to covid diagnosis for both men, the collision promises to be worth the wait.
Teixeira would be remiss if he does not to use leg-kicks during the fight. If Santos’ base is compromised, the fastest way to test it is with heavy leg kicks early to wear down the mobility of his more explosive opponent. If given the opportunity, Santos will close the distance and look to use his physicality to deliver damage early. Should Teixeira maintain the distance, Santos will look to conserve his energy by looking to counter or by coming forward in strategic surges. Teixeira should look to get in-and-out with short combinations, hiding kicks behind his punches as to connect with them as frequently as possible.
A top contender will emerge 🏆
Your #UFCVegas13 main event is ready for Saturday night.
— UFC (@ufc) November 6, 2020
The winner of this fight is in a precarious position as the winner of the bout would be considered the top contender, but UFC President Dana White already announced that current middleweight champion Israel Adesanya will be moving up to face light heavyweight champion Jan Blachowicz in an immediate title shot. The winner between Santos and Teixeira will likely explore options, first as a possible back-up next year and later evaluating whether or not to wait for the next title shot. Should it materialize soon, waiting for their shot at the belt would make the most sense. If left to wait, there’s a chance that the winner could face another top contender such as Aleksander Rakic in the meantime.