In the last two years Thiago Santos has fought eight times, including five fights in 2018. That incredible pace and the willingness to fight anyone, anywhere and anytime has catapulted “Marreta” to the top of the light heavyweight division.
Well winning seven out of those eight fights helps too.
Santos moved up to 205lbs after defeating Kevin Holland at UFC 227. And since then he hasn’t looked back. Last September he defeated Eryk Anders in the main event at UFC Sao Paulo and then he knocked out Jimi Manuwa at UFC 231 in Toronto. Both fights were absolute wars and proved that Santos belongs at light heavyweight.
On Saturday Santos will be featured in the main event of UFC Prague against Jan Blachowicz. The event will be the UFC’s first ever in Czech Republic and Santos is honored to be part of history.
“I am very happy with this opportunity and for the recognition of my work. I hope to enjoy it and bring this victory back to Brazil,” Santos said. “I'm very happy. I've even been recognized in the streets. So I hope to give them a great show with my aggresive style.”
At the UFC Prague open workouts the fight fans of Prague loved Santos, with his pad work being the only thing being louder than their cheers. Santos also passed out some “Team Marreta” shirts that only increased his popularity.
If Santos can take care of business against the tough Blachowicz then his popularity will continue to skyrocket, especially if he can win in emphatic fashion.
“This victory is fundamental to my career. Because it leaves me very close to a title shot,” Santos said. “He is a very complete opponent both in the standing game and on the ground. But I believe I can take advantage in all parts. I'm very prepared for that. I believe that my speed, my movement and my knockout power will make a difference.”
That light heavyweight title shot is currently Anthony Smith’s, who Santos actually defeated by TKO just over a year ago. Smith moved from middleweight up to light heavyweight after his loss to Santos, prompting him to win three-straight on the path to fighting Jon Jones. The idea to jump up to light heavyweight was an idea that Santos had pondered for a while and after UFC 227 he knew it was time.
It’s safe to say the decision has paid dividends.
After his fight with Blachowicz he will turn his attention to the winner of that UFC 235 title fight. But until then his undivided attention is on his worthy UFC Prague opponent.
“My total focus is on Saturday,” Santos said. “I have a very tough opponent ahead of me, and I have to be focused on him, only thinking about him. After the fight, when I am out of the octagon, I will turn my eyes to UFC 235.”
That focus and confidence is what has led Santos to earn 14 of his 20 career victories by knockout or TKO. His aggressiveness and power is something that he has learned to harness. It’s also what he expects to be the difference in his fight with Blachowicz. When asked how he sees himself winning on Saturday the answer was as simple as possible.
“By knockout,” Santos said with unwavering confidence.
Tune into the UFC Prague main card at 2pm/11am ETPT on ESPN+ to see if Santos can continue his winning ways. Also make sure to watch the UFC Prague prelims live on ESPN2 at 11am/8am ETPT.
Gavin Porter is a digital producer and writer for UFC.com, follow him on Twitter at @PorterUFCNews.