Best bets for UFC Fight Night: Santos vs. Teixeira


With a new light heavyweight champion just recently determined in the early post-Jon Jones era, the main event Saturday certainly looks like a title eliminator between the first- and third-ranked contenders. In fact, Thiago Santos already has a win over current champion Jan Blachowicz, which came in the fight before his loss to Jones. Meanwhile, Glover Teixeira is riding a four-fight win streak and hasn't seen a title shot since 2014.

But clearly both men have a strong case for a title shot with a win. However, there are some confounding factors to consider in determining their matchup against each other.

Prelims start at 7 p.m. ET Saturday on ESPN+, and the main card begins at 10 p.m. ET on ESPN2/ESPN+.

Odds courtesy of Caesars Sportsbook by William Hill.

Light heavyweight main event: No. 1 Thiago Santos (-240) vs. No. 3 Glover Teixeira (+200)

Tale Of The Tape

Last fight weight class Light heavyweight Light heavyweight
Age 41 36
Height 74 74
Reach 76 76
Stance Orthodox Orthodox
Analyzed minutes 196 145
Stand-up striking offense
Total knockdown ratio (scored:received) 5:4 12:3
Distance knockdown rate 2.4% 9.8%
Head jab accuracy 40% 13%
Head power accuracy 32% 24%
Total stand-up strike ratio 0.7 1.4
Striking defense
Total head strike defense 67% 77%
Distance knockdown defense ("Chin") 99% 97%
Wrestling and grappling
TD attempts per min standing/clinch 0.46 0.17
Takedown accuracy 38% 40%
Advances per takedown/top control 2.0 1.4
Opponent takedown attempts 68 47
Takedown defense 60% 68%
Share of total ground time in control 71% 68%
Submission attempts per trip to ground 0.22 0.04
The stats to date hint at a positional battle. Santos prefers to stand and trade, while Teixeira is best when controlling opponents on the ground. However, that doesn't mean Teixeira won't test his hands; it just means he might need to change levels if he feels the full brunt of Santos's striking arsenal.

Santos uses an aggressive pace and mixes in a variety of kicks while standing. That has led to plenty of knockout finishes and a knockdown rate that is among the best in the division. Teixeira, who seems to have developed better striking with age, still is not as much of a knockout threat on his feet.

At 41, this matchup presents a real threat to Teixeira's win streak. And yet, remarkably, he has never looked better than in his most recent fights. Still, as he draws more skilled and dangerous opponents, the combination of forces here still means an uphill battle, unless he can get the fight to the ground.

That means the key metric to look at is the takedown defense of Santos, which stands slightly above average. Teixeira, for as good as his grappling game is, hasn't been the most successful takedown artist. His takedown success rate is slightly below average, with a pace of attempts that is just above average. When we realize that Santos' ground control share is almost as high as Teixeira's despite rarely using takedowns, it means his defensive wrestling has been an asset. This suggests Santos should be able to stuff a few takedowns, perhaps moreso early on when he's fresh. That opens up opportunities to unleash his power striking and perhaps win him early rounds should he eventually succumb to Teixeira's ground control.

That would normally leave us with a clear lean for Santos, but there is one last factor to consider. After losing a narrow split decision to Jones last year, Santos is coming off a long layoff after serious leg injuries suffered in that fight. We have yet to see if he has the same ability and aggression that made his fighting style so effective in his title run. If he comes in looking sharp and works through any ring rust quickly, he gets the edge here. But if he loses a step, Teixeira's grinding five-round style could lead to an upset.

E+ recommends: Money line lean on Santos.

Best bets elsewhere on the card

Prop hunters looking for an under might consider heavyweights Tanner Boser and Andrei Arlovski. It's rare to see heavyweights with a plus money under at 2.5 rounds, but Arlovski's seeming immunity to age and cumulative knockouts must be pulling the market. Still, facing a much younger and still improving striker in Boser means we could see an early finish.

E+ recommends: Under 2.5 rounds at plus money, ML lean on Boser.

One underdog to consider is strawweight Claudia Gadelha. She came up short twice as a title challenger in striking duels with former champ Joanna Jędrzejczyk. Saturday she will face Yan Xiaonan. The striking numbers are even, but the ground game favors Gadelha, if she can get the fight there. The biggest difference, however, is simply the strength of schedule. Gadelha as an underdog is a value play. And if she can get the upset, it means Yan is likely a name to remember for a future title shot.

E+ recommends: ML lean on Gadelha.