Thiago Santos continued his one-man public service campaign against the efficacy of weight cutting, taking out the 4th-ranked light heavyweight contender in the world, Jan Blachowicz (highlights). His third straight win at 205, Santos probably just made himself the number one contender (we will see how Dominick Reyes handles Volkan Oezdemir on March 16th). Which is crazy, because he wasn’t even close to doing that at middleweight. Just like the current middleweight champion, Robert Whittaker, and the current heavyweight champion, Daniel Cormier, Santos is seemingly a much better, more durable, more energetic fighter when he doesn’t have to sweat out twenty pounds before fighting the next day. Or, perhaps light heavyweight is just that awful a divison. Santos is not even the first or worst to pull this strategy; Anthony Smith, whose ass Santos kicked in 2018, preceded him to this land of plenty, and swiftly became the top contender, knocking out Rashad Evans, Shogun Rua, and Volkan Oezdemir to line up an upcoming fight with Jon Jones at UFC 235.
Other middleweights are catching on. Luke Rockhold announced he was moving up to light heavyweight months ago, after Yoel Romero sent him wandering the spirit realm back at UFC 221. Now, he evidently sees Santos’ success as an opportunity.
I’m not certain why someone with Rockhold’s chin, and history of being chinned by power punchers and Michael Bisping alike, would look at Thiago Santos’ patient but deadly performance yesterday, and think calling them out was a good career move. Perhaps he really has been chinned one too many times. Perhaps Luke is banking on the boost to durability not cutting weight has given Santos and Smith. Perhaps he thinks he could take Santos down and drown him in Rockhold’s world, grappling, the way he did to David Branch.
The thing is, Rockhold was an Elite Middleweight. He was champion, in fact, something Santos never got close to sniffing. He finished David Branch; David Branch finished Thiago Santos. If the world worked as it did at middleweight, Santos should be easy money for him.
Santos is probably not fighting Luke Rockhold next. He has done enough for a title shot at 205, and made clear, that’s what he wants next. However, if one booked Luke Rockhold to fight Thiago Santos for some reason- now, or down the road- I can’t say I would complain. I can’t say I would frown. I would probably look at my screen and chuckle, and chuckle every time I thought of the fight until it happened.
Perhaps Rockhold would manage to drag Santos down to the mat and grapple him into submission. Perhaps he would kick Santos in the body and double him over like a folding chair. But if the history of Luke Rockhold tells me anything, it is that the Ralph Lauren model has a delightful tendency of projecting arrogant confidence, of looking for all the world like he is going to execute a brilliant gameplan — and then just getting blasted out of nowhere. There is no fighter at light heavyweight Rockhold could pick more likely to do that than Thiago “Marreta” Santos.