Thiago Santos hopes to leave Magomed Ankalaev unconscious on the canvas in the main event of UFC Vegas 50, which goes down Saturday night at the UFC APEX in Las Vegas.
Entering his fifth main event over his past seven UFC bouts, “Marreta” admitted he felt something was missing in October 2021 when he went the distance against Brazilian slugger Johnny Walker and won a lackluster decision. Santos said he expected Walker to come out “with that crazy style of his,” which didn’t exactly happen.
Ankalaev presents an entirely different challenge, having won seven consecutive fights in UFC. This includes four knockouts. Santos will be making a big statement.
“I’m very critical [of myself],” Santos told MMA Fighting. The [Walker] battle was lacking emotion and aggression, in my view and that of the fans. But when you think about the fighter, we got what we wanted in the end, which is the victory. Sometimes it happens. It happens. He didn’t come out the way I expected, throwing spin punches to catch me.
“I’m sure [the Ankalaev fight will be different], because he’s young, he’s on a tear in the division, he’s confident, and he tends to grow in the fight, so that will push me as well. If I start slow, he’ll come at me and dominate the fight — and I don’t want that. This fight will be dynamic and exciting.”
Santos said Ankalaev “doesn’t look like a heavyweight fighting at light heavyweight,” unlike some fighters in the division, and “moves a lot, just like me,” so he expects a more dynamic contest. In the end, all Santos wants is to score his first knockout since February 2019, when he stopped future champion Jan Blachowicz to earn a shot at Jon Jones’ UFC title.
“I miss putting someone to sleep, man,” Santos said. “I miss putting someone to sleep or the referee having to stand in the middle to separate us. I miss it. It’s almost like the [soccer] striker who goes through many games without scoring. The striker will be hungry even if his team wins. It’s a feeling I have, and that is why I am coming to this fight .”
The American Top Team light-heavyweight division was in a losing streak of three fights against Jones, Glover Teixeira and Aleksandar Rakic prior to his decision victory over Walker. However, Santos feels he can be close for another title bout with a win on Saturday.
“Ankalaev, a potential in this division with numerous wins in succession, [and] puts me on my doorstep for another title bout,” Santos stated. Santos said, “Maybe another fight or even a title shot right away. We never know. But it’s a very important fight that will put me in a position where I’ll visualize the belt again.”