A victory on Saturday should all but assure a title shot for Aleksandar Rakic.
Fans will be treated to a light-heavyweight slugfest Saturday as Thiago Santos tangles with Aleksandar Rakic at UFC 259. Santos (+120 on the MMA odds) comes in as the No. 2-ranked fighter in the division but is a slight underdog for his bout with Rakic (-155), who has won five of six fights in the UFC (with only a controversial split decision loss on his record). If you’re looking for your Fight of the Night candidate, this could be it.
Thiago Santos UFC 259 Odds
This is the team equivalent of a must-win game for Santos, who has suffered back-to-back losses and might fall out of the title picture indefinitely with another defeat. His most recent defeat: A rear-naked-choke submission loss to Glover Teixeira, which was a major setback for Santos, who was forced to undergo two knee surgeries following his defeat to Jon Jones – and admitted that the injuries weighed on his mind in the lead-up to the Teixeira fight.
There’s little nuance to Santos’s fight game. He hits like a sledgehammer, and throws some of the most damaging kicks of any fighter in the division. With his focus sharper and those knee ailments well behind him, look for Santos to come out with more confidence and use his capoeira background to put Rakic on his heels. The mix of powerful kicks and punches makes him dangerous, and he’s more than capable of a first-round knockout here.
Aleksandar Rakic UFC 259 Odds
Saturday’s fight will be like looking in a mirror for both fighters, who possess similar skill sets and can end a fight in an instant. And while that didn’t happen in his previous bout, Rakic was dominant nevertheless, en route to a unanimous decision win over Anthony Smith. Rakic used well-placed leg kicks to weaken Smith – sending him to the canvas at one point – and was easily able to resist Smith’s submission attempts en route to the one-sided win.
Rakic clamoured for a title shot after that win – and a victory Saturday will all but assure him one. He has a significant advantage on Santos when it comes to strikes per minute (5.17 to 4.44) and accuracy (52 to 47 percent), but also takes more punches (2.41 to 2.19) at a higher success rate (47 to 43 percent). He has plenty of power, but might not want to get into a straight punch exchange with a fellow heavy hitter like Santos.
Santos vs. Rakic UFC 259 Prediction
Rakic has plenty of momentum, and is laser-focused on getting a title shot. Look for him to send Santos to the mat for good with a second-round TKO.