On Saturday afternoon, the UFC makes its debut in the Czech Republic with UFC Prague, their third event on the new ESPN+ platform.
The main event is a light heavyweight bout with serious title implications as fourth-ranked Jan Blachowicz takes on sixth-ranked Thiago Santos, with the winner very likely to face off against the winner of next month’s Jon Jones vs. Anthony Smith title fight.
It’s not the best card but there’s money to be made for fans of UFC betting, with both fighters getting -110 odds. So, let’s get to it.
Jan Blachowicz is something of an everyman in the UFC’s light heavyweight division.
After making his debut in 2014, Blachowicz had an underwhelming start to his UFC career, going 2-4 in his first six fights. Since then though, he’s rattled off four straight victories over increasingly better competition and now he sits one win away from a title shot.
Blachowicz’s strength and weakness is his well-rounded game. The quintessential “jack of all trades, master of none,” Blachowicz is a solid, fundamental striker with well-built grappling but lacks the dynamism to take advantage of superior athletes with buttoned-up games.
Historically, wrestling has been the thorn in his side, as three of his losses in the UFC have been the result of being unable to stop the takedown.
But lately, Blachowicz has turned that around, employing his own wrestling and grappling game to take advantage of his underrated submission talents.
Thiago Santos is the other end of the spectrum from Blachowicz. As you might guess about a man with a giant hammer tattooed on his chest, Santos throws haymakers.
His game is almost entirely built around power and athleticism and he rarely grapples unless forced to. Mostly, he relies on vicious hooks and savage body kicks to mow down opponents.
It’s a style that usually results in an early stoppage but has been known to sap his own energy if he’s unable to break his opponent early.
Santos has looked impressive since moving up to light heavyweight, but he has also fought two opponents who were likely to give him the kind of wantonly violent brawl that his game is built for.
In Blachowicz, he faces much more of a tactician, one who can stay defensively sound on the feet and work takedowns to tire out Santos for the later rounds. The question for Santos is, can he get Blachowicz out of there early and if not, can stave off the wrestling?
Neither of those seem that likely.
Blachowicz is an extremely durable fighter and has not been stopped since 2011 despite having faced a number of ferocious hitters like Santos.
Even when he faced Alexander Gustafsson, a much more technical striker than Santos, Blachowicz was winning the standup, and Gustafsson had to result to takedowns to win.
Santos will do no such thing, and in fact, will likely be taken down by Blachowicz as the Polish fighter looks to drain his power and take the fight into deep waters.
Add in the fact that Santos is susceptible to submissions, something Blachowicz has been increasingly comfortable attacking with, and everything seems to point to Blachowicz weathering the early storm and getting his hand raised.
Blachowicz straight at -110 per 888Sport is a worthwhile bet.
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