Welcome to the UFC: Gabriel Santos

Gabriel Santos, UFC
Gabriel Santos, UFC 286 ceremonial weigh-in Credit: Jamie Theodosi/Cageside Press

London is the landing spot for UFC 286 on Saturday, with England’s own welterweight champion Leon Edwards in a rematch with former champ Kamaru Usman, as the pair closing out their trilogy. Outside of that, the card features a few Contender Series alumni debuting and an abundance of highly anticipated UFC debuts. Lerone Murphy was expected to fight Nathaniel Wood but Wood had to pull out. Filling in on short notice is LFA featherweight champion, Gabriel Santos.

Gabriel “Mosquitinho” Santos
Standing at five-foot-nine
Fighting at 145 lbs (featherweight)
Fighting out of Curitiba, Parana, Brazil
Training out of Evolução Thai MMA
A pro record of 10-0
3 KO/TKOs, 4 Submissions

What’s Santos’s ceiling in the UFC:

Santos has a quietly good resume. He has good wins over Jose Delano, Marcia Barbosa, and Elves Brener. He’s more of a Jiu-Jitsu guy but will go with the flow with however the fight goes. He’s comfortable everywhere and dangerous everywhere. He just won the LFA featherweight title in January and is now in the UFC.

On the feet Santos throws a lot of weapons. His hands, kicks, elbows, and knees— he uses it all. His striking is highlighted by his leg kicks and left hand. He’s dangerous on the feet with all the tools but he’s also vulnerable. He does get hit and doesn’t wear damage too well. His toughness should never be questioned because he can hang in there as shown in his fight with Barbosa.

His wrestling is good but not great. He excels more in clashes where scrambles are happening. His grappling is really slick. The way he can take the back is seamless. Santos has a high work rate on the mat with his jiu-jitsu transitions and his active ground and pound. Jiu-jitsu is where he’s most comfortable.
I was never too high on Santos but his last fight made me think more about it. He’s only 26 and already battle-tested so in a few years he could be so much better. I think he could even be a top-15 fighter in the future. I do think he will suffer a few setbacks and three years from now we will see him at his best.

How he matches up with Murphy:

Murphy is a tough task to fight for your UFC debut. The good thing for Santos is Murphy hasn’t fought in over a year. Also, Murphy is coming off a nasty bicycle accident that was almost fatal. If Murphy is the same guy he’s going to be too much for Santos. The speed and strength of Murphy will be too much and he has better cardio. I can only see Santos submitting Murphy but I don’t see him having the wrestling to do so. Also, taking this fight on short notice his gas tank won’t be where it needs to be. I like Murphy by a decision.