Once hailed as one of the brightest talents in the rich UFC lightweight division after knocking out Kevin Lee, Leonardo Santos’ prime passed him by with issues that led to inactivity. Coming into his UFC 278 bout with Jared Gordon he still had all the talent, but the cardio had become a glaring issue that caused him to end up finished after punching himself out against Clay Guida.
Gordon, on the other hand, has always had cardio for days, something that likely led to him being the favorite in this one. While perhaps not the raw physical specimen that the Nova União fighter was in his prime, Jared Gordon’s consistency, affable personality, and heartwarming redemption story has seen him gain a cult following among some fans.
The first round opened with a feeling out process on the feet that resulted in few solid connections other than a clinch knee from Santos. Gordon often targeted the lower leg while Santos threw teep and round kicks to the body, some of which were effective damage. With a minute left, Gordon rushed Santos, landed strikes over the top, and then bullied his opponent’s body before the pair clinched up. The body smartly became more of a target from then on and Jared Gordon ended the round strong.
Santos repeatedly attempted to land knees from the double collar tie after he had success one time, but his tunnel vision led to Gordon slightly out striking him until Santos landed a power double leg and almost got the back against the cage. However a fence grab helped Gordon escape the position and gain the outside position in the clinch. He held that for a considerable amount of time while Santos kept ineffectively trying for the collar tie knees which simply gave Gordon free reign to rip hooks to the body.
Jared was clearly the much fresher athlete in the third round as Leonardo Santos was breathing hard with his mouth open the whole round. Gordon used that advantage to walk Santos down and land short hooks. A last-ditch takedown attempt from Santos got sprawled on by Gordon, but nothing much else of note happened in the final round until the buzzer sounded. It was a clear win for Jared Gordon and the judges confirmed that.
Official Result: Jared Gordon def. Leonardo Santos by unanimous decision (30–27, 30–27, 30–27)