Kicking off the main card of UFC Fight Night 80 is a middleweight fight between The Ultimate Fighter Nations winner Elias Theodorou and Thiago “Marreta” Santos. Theodorou has kicked off his UFC career by winning three straight, while Santos has won three out of his last four Octagon appearances. Elias Theodorou (11-0 MMA, 3-0 UFC, -235 favorite) Theodorou made a name for himself as a competitor on The Ultimate Fighter Nations: Canada vs Australia. As a member of Team Canada, Theodorou defeated two members of Team Australia to make it to the show’s finals, where he met fellow Canadian Sheldon Westcott. On the Finale, Theodorou dominated Westcott and ultimately won the fight via technical knockout in the second round. The Canadian has since dominated Bruno Santos and Roger Narvaez in consecutive fights. He will look for his fourth consecutive win to start his UFC career by defeating Santos tonight. The 27-year old is a big, scrappy grinder that utilizes a lot of pressure to wear down his opposition. He will push his opponent against the cage and smash their legs and body with knees, while also smashing their face with elbows. From there he will look to execute scoop double-legs and take his opponent to the mat. Once Theodorou achieves top position he looks to posture up and land bombs. It is hard for his opponents to get up once he has their shoulders flat on the mat. Theodorou has not shown a great passing or submission game, but that may come as he continues to improve. He currently prefers to maintain position and land ground and pound. Excellent conditioning, fight IQ, and a high pace are also key aspects of Theodorou’s game. Theodorou is still a work in progress on the feet. He throws a lot of kicks to all levels, which accomplishes two things; they damage his opponent and also close the distance so he can establish a clinch. Theodorou likes to move forward while firing punch-kick combinations, all while mixing in takedowns and control in the clinch. He is not a great striker, but his kicks are effective. Theodorou actually broke his last opponent’s arm when they tried to block one of his kicks. Thiago Santos (11-3 MMA, 3-2 UFC, +195 underdog) Like Theodorou, Santos is a product of The Ultimate Fighter. He was on season two of The Ultimate Fighter: Brazil, which was coached by Antonio Rodrigo Noguiera and current UFC Heavyweight Champion Fabricio Werdum. While competing as a welterweight, he made it to the semifinals but lost to the eventual winner of the show, Leonardo Santos. Santos’ UFC career did not exactly start off well, as he was submitted within one minute in his first fight against Cezar Ferreira. However, he has since rebounded by winning three out of his last four, with all of his wins coming by way of knockout. Santos’ sole loss during that stretch was a close decision to Uriah Hall. It should be noted that all three of the opponents that Santos beat either have no UFC wins or are no longer in the UFC, so he did not exactly face the stiffest competition. The 31-year old is a pure striker by trade. He has a black belt in Muay Thai and a green rope in Capoeira. Fighting out of an orthodox stance, he either likes to move forward or stand in the middle of the cage and exchange strikes with his opponent. His rear-leg kicks are nasty and he throws them to all levels. Santos’ punches are not nearly as good as his kicks, but they do help set his kicks up. One of the negatives of his striking game is that he is not nearly as good when his opponent pressures him and makes him fight going backwards. Defensively, he is there to be hit and his head movement is lacking. Santos is a purple belt in Brazilian jiu jitsu but his takedown defense and ability to scramble back to his feet are not great. He offers little from his back and looks to just hold on and wait for a stand-up. Santos’ submission defense is serviceable, but he also does not take many risks in getting back to his feet, which gives his opponent a better chance of securing a submission. Additionally, he tends to slow down quite a bit after the first round. Thoughts This is a good step up in competition in Theodorou, but I believe it is a test he should pass. Styles make fights and I believe this is a good stylistic matchup for him. As I said, Santos does not fight well going backwards and he can be taken down and kept on the mat for long periods of time. Theodorou is very good at pressuring his opponents and should be able to do the same against Santos. Additionally, Theodorou should be able to secure takedowns in this fight, especially as Santos tires in rounds two and three. While Santos is a dangerous offensive fighter, I think Theodorou’s style will be too much for him. I think the Canadian will either win a clear decision or get a late stoppage. The Prediction Elias Theodorou by unanimous decision
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