Jorge Santiago’s been much hyped coming into the UFC, twice, and has been solidly beaten out of it. But that was at middleweight; he’s dropped to 170 and now takes on noted Renzo Gracie BJJ black belt Gunnar Nelson.
Fight Breakdown – Jorge Santiago has great hands but not the strongest chin in the market. He also has a competent ground game and good enough takedown defense to keep it standing. And that’s where he’s going to have to keep it. He’s got a black belt in BJJ, and has shown to be good on the ground, but his clear advantage is standing. Look for him to maintain his distance, goad Nelson into standing with him, and circle away anytime Nelson gets close. His best chance at winning is making this into a kickboxing affair; he has a big advantage there. That and another big reason make it wise for him to “stand and bang, bro.”
Gunnar Nelson isn’t someone you screw with on the ground.
Gunnar Nelson’s strength is choking dudes out. While he doesn’t have nearly as strong a grappling resume as someone like Damian Maia it’s awfully close; dude’s got some serious chops on the ground. His goal is to get this fight to the ground and start attacking. I wouldn’t be surprised if he pulled guard out of the clinch or did the Frank Mir “shoot a double and then pull guard” technique. On the ground is his singularly best way at winning. Nelson looked competent standing in his Octagon debut but his strength will always be on the mat.
Why it matters – This is Santiago’s third stint in the UFC. He’s been a guy who’s clearly good enough to be in the UFC but has had some awful luck in matchups. Santiago’s been on streaks outside the UFC only to come in and get blown out of the water. It’s a trait he shares with Patrick Cote, actually. Both are good enough fighters to be in the UFC … but staying there is tricky.
Nelson’s a first rate prospect and a win here keeps him moving forward.
Prediction – Nelson