Last week’s main event was about the past, as we bid farewell to Anderson Silva, as he lost in the main event to Uriah Hall. This week we are setting up a future title fight, and we have as high level of a main event as we can get in the light heavyweight division. Thiago “Marreta” Santos returns following knee surgery to repair an injury he sustained in his controversial loss in his title shot to Jon Jones. He takes on resurgent Glover Texeira to decide who the established light heavyweight is to call themselves number one contender. More on this fight in the breakdown, but the card is solid, if not star-studded and should be entertaining top to bottom. Let’s get to the breakdowns.
Thiago Santos -245 vs Glover Texeira
Fight is five rounds at 205 lbs and is -405 to end inside the distance.
After Glover Texeira put on the performance he did against Anthony Smith in a Fight Night main event spotlight, it was a foregone conclusion he would get a higher level fight with potential title ramifications. With Thiago Santos, or Marreta, finally back healthy, he gets to square off with my pick for the top fighter in the division. Texeira has some areas of advantage in this fight, but those are all generally on the floor, and he will likely need to survive the early portions of the fight and have the gas tank of Marreta drain to some extent if he is to close distance and secure any takedowns. In the early portion of the fight, particularly the first round, Texeira will have to find a way to avoid the slow start that has plagued him of late. He was touched hard and touched often in the first round of his recent fights with Smith and Ion Cutelaba, and was even momentarily knocked out cold in the first round against middleweight Karl Roberson. He survived this because he was on a double leg at the time and the referee simply did not notice he went out. Now, take this trend and apply how it will affect him against his current opponent, and it is daunting. Marreta is probably the most prolific finisher at light heavyweight overall, and if Texeira is eating upwards of 30 significant strikes in that first round as he’s done recently, he won’t be able to survive that as he did against the lesser competition.
Santos, who beat Jon Jones on my scorecard and dropped a split decision in that title fight, already has an easy claim to top contender status. In his fight prior to the title shot against Jones, he KO’d current champion Jan Blachowicz and has realized his full potential since he stopped cutting the weight at middleweight and embraced the light heavyweight division. He should absolutely look to pour it on Texeira immediately as Texeira has shown little in terms of counteracting early fight explosiveness with more athletic and powerful opponents. The difference with this particular opponent, is that survival is unlikely to be an option. If Santos is unable to finish this fight early on, he will really want to keep the fight standing, and may be at a cardio disadvantage to Texeira. Even if Texeira is able to take him down, I don’t see a level of helplessness and acceptance to stay there like Anthony Smith had, and we should see at least one or two occasions where Santos is able to return to his feet. Santos is also a BJJ black belt and it won’t be about the know how, it will be about the gas tank if he is grounded at any point.
While there is a crowd out there arguing this line might be too wide, I tend to respectfully disagree. I believe it would be far wider if not for the 16 month lay off since the Jones fight for Marreta, and rightfully so. I think the potential for ring rust is baked into this line already, but I don’t believe that will be an issue for an action fighter like Santos. Santos securing a knockout and his rightful place atop the light heavyweight division is easily the most likely outcome, and with that being the case, the -150 ITD line is the best avenue of attack.
Tanner Boser -285 vs Andrei Arlovski
Fight is at heavyweight and is -105 to end inside the distance.
This will be a different type of test for Tanner Boser after getting a pair of KO’s in his last two fights against relatively inexperienced UFC competition. Andrei Arlovski is clearly not inexperienced, having fought 38 times in the Octagon (Strikeforce, EliteXC and Affliction included) since his debut at UFC 28. Arlovski is also not easily finished and has only been put out by truly heavy handed strikers in the last decade. This will be a new test for Boser after finding knockouts recently, as he simply was not finishing fights leading up to these last two. While he had one leg kick KO in this mix, he finished a fight with punches just once in his previous 14 fights leading up to those, dating back to 2015. We will have questions answered on whether it was Boser improvement or a pair of subpar opponents that has led to the finishes of late.
This fight should play out with striking on both sides. Boser will start off with his high end leg kicks, that he is able to land on most with his high end movement. He is not a large heavyweight but he does move well. The leg kicks will likely give Boser an ironic leg up in the striking, but I do think the boxing is evenly matched. Arlovski will also throw leg kicks to a less effective extent and will be putting a jab out and throwing short combinations. Boser should be slightly higher on the volume side and likely slightly more effective as well. While I do believe Boser should be favored and more likely to win, these fighters are similar and I see the line as too wide to play the favorite.
I am also not convicted enough to play the underdog so this fight shapes up as a pass. I also believe a decision is the most likely outcome so avoiding the headache of judges is another reason to sit this fight out.
Yan Xiaonan -140 vs Claudia Gadelha
Fight is at 115 lbs and is +210 to end inside the distance.
This fight is all about the underdog, as Claudia Gadelha and her available cardio tend to dictate the outcome of her fights. She is still strong and dangerous in the first and sometimes second round and she absolutely has a huge advantage in all grappling aspects in this particular matchup. Gadelha has a complete grappling game and has the wrestling to get the fight to the floor and the top game and BJJ skill set to win rounds and end fights. If and when Gadelha decides this fight will be a grappling heavy fight and forces it to the floor, she will be in the driver’s seat. Even if she struggles with cardio in the second half of the fight, if she has grappled in the first half of the fight and didn’t find a finish, she will be winning the fight on the judges scorecards. All that said, the gas tank of Gadelha is an issue to the extent that it can keep her from implementing wrestling for fear of gassing out. If that is the case and she opts for striking, she will be at a volume disadvantage that will see her wilt more and more as the fight progresses. Xiaonan is hardly afraid to push a pace and is a very capable striker that will run away with this fight in the later stages if it gets that far and she hasn’t spent any time on her back.
This is sound matchmaking, but going back to the original point, it is all about Gadelha. Will she have the cardio to wrestle and ground the fight? Even if the answer to that question is yes, will she be willing to sell out for that path to victory? If the answer to either question is no, she will either lose a decision that becomes lopsided later in the fight or she will be KO’d late. I think this is a fair line and if playing it, the value on Xiaonan is in the flat play to cover all avenues of victory while the value on Gadelha will be ITD, as that figure sits at +315. I personally will be sitting this one out.
That completes the fight breakdown portion, but be sure to tune in for the remainder of the main card. We should see Raoni Barcelos get a finish of Khalid Taha and that figure sits at +110. I also expect Brendan Allen to show improved striking but to outgrapple Ian Heinish in a fight of the night candidate.