The time is steadily approaching for the epic UFC event UFC 200. What started off as a so-so card that left many scratching their heads has now turned into must see TV. With a headlining bout between Daniel Cormier and Jon Jones, the rest of the night is stacked with prestigious bouts from early prelims up to the main. The co main event features the return of Brock Lesnar facing Mark Hunt and Miesha Tate defends her UFC title for the first time against Amanda Nunes. While there is plenty to digest in the main card let’s take a moment to glance at a fight happening on the Fight Pass prelims between former Strikeforce champion Gegard Mousasi and the emerging Brazilian Thiago Santos. A fight that could undoubtedly be a Fight Night headliner, with it being on the Fight Pass portion it really gives you an indication to the magnitude of UFC 200.
If you are Gegard Mousasi(38-6-2) you must be thinking one of two things. Since beating Dan Henderson i’ve gone 2-1 and one mistake against Uriah Hall possible has been keeping me on outside of the middleweight title discussion. The other is how they hell am I on the Fight Pass? Both answers are simple. Yes when discussing the names of Weidman, Rockhold and Souza you should be right there and yes the loss to Hall is why you aren’t. Also in your last 5 fights you are 3-2 but only one win is coming due to a finish. So while Gegard is still one of the most talented fighters in the sport people aren’t necessarily lining up to watch him compete. The fight between him and Brunson would have been a good one but the fight with Thiago Santos is just the type of match to revitalize his career. His list of recent opponents is legit but this will be his chance to do what he was unable to accomplish against Uriah Hall. Stop an emerging up and comer.
Thiago Santos (13-3) last lost was also to Uriah Hall but one thing is for sure when seeing him fight, he comes to make it an early pay day. The former muay thai specialist is evolving into a more well rounded fighter but that doesn’t mean his kicks won’t be there. Thiago has great lateral movement which makes it hard to tell where the attack will come from but the experience of Mousasi should help keep him in check. Santos piled up four straight wins since his loss to Hall and that included a first round TKO of the once dominate Nate Marquardt. Though taking a glance back at the fight between he and Elias Theodorou is really what shows his improvement. After losing that first round Santos was able to regroup and restrategize and pick the Canadian apart in route to victory. When a fighter of his talent starts to figure things out in that manner, look out.
So who truly holds the advantage in this fight depends on which athlete makes those fast and quick adjustments. The ground and grappling advantage heads in Gegard’s favor but expect this fight to remain on foot for some time. Mousasi’s jab has always been a great asset and he has the quickness to keep a steady stream of them flowing on Santos. He has to be weary of the head kick. Thiago has no qualms with throwing many and often. As mentioned earlier his footwork is what puts him in position and as great of a striker that Gegard is, he sometimes stands in concrete. So you have to give a slight advantage to Thiago on the feet. Each fighter has the tendency to start slow so expect a few touches of the gloves to sure up range before the war begins. The kicks of Thiago will leave openings and that’s where Mousai will have his chance to capitalize on take downs. The only question is will he know where the strikes are landing? That was his downfall with Hall and Uriah did a good job of using that gameplan also on Santos. This fight is closer than the numbers may indicate which should make for an exciting fight. It also has the type of atmosphere to put Gegard back in top five talks or Santos in top ten. The loss would be more detrimental to Gegard so expect “The Dreamcatcher” to give a maximum effort. This is huge opportunity for Santos too which means he will be chomping at the bit.
UFC 200 takes place on July 9th live from the T Mobile arena in Las Vegas, Nevada. Look for more UFC 200 breakdown coverage in the upcoming days.