Luis Santos’ statistics are impressive, to say the least. He’s had 73 fights, registered 62 wins, and stopped 47 separate opponents.
After a 16-year professional career, Santos is certainly not short of experience and, ahead of Saturday night’s fight with Igor Svirid at ONE: Titles & Titans, the 36-year-old believes he is at the peak of his powers.
“I really believe I’m the best I’ve ever been in my career right now. We’re both very aggressive. This will be a great fight.”
Santos is riding an eight-fight winning streak, punctuated only by the ‘no contest’ against Ben Askren. The wins on this run all came by way of either a submission finish or a knockout or TKO with seven of the fights ending in the very first round.
His two ONE Championship wins have both been secured in somewhat brutal fashion. Bakhtiyar Abbasov received a knee to the midsection so hard it reportedly hospitalized him, while Santos used exactly the same weapon to separate Rafael Silva from his senses, only this time he targeted the chin.
However, Santos feels that his key to victory against Svirid will not simply be striking, but the array of skills and techniques he has at his disposal.
“I think I’m more of a complete athlete than him. I have black belts in both Jiu-Jitsu and Judo. My Muay Thai is also great, so I have more tools than him to finish this fight.”
Svirid took just 17 seconds to stop the previously undefeated Leandro Ataides on his ONE Championship debut and win the middleweight title. In his second fight, the Kazakhstani exchanged knockdowns with Vitaly Bigdash, but lost his belt after being submitted in the second round.
Like Santos, he seldom goes the distance and the Brazilian believes his opponent’s striking skills are worthy of respect.
The BJJ black belt, however, does feel that there is one area in which he will enjoy a clear edge.
“He has great Jiu-Jitsu (but) I don’t think he’ll go to the ground with me. If he does then he’s in trouble.”
This suggests a slight change of strategy from Santos and the Brazilian admits he might have to adjust his tactical approach.
“I always go for the knockout, but this time you might see a submission.”
Santos is probably the most experienced fighter on the ONE Championship roster. He’s fought in cages and rings across the world and faced opponents from a wide variety of backgrounds, regions, and disciplines. When it comes to competing in MMA, Sapo has seen it all before and feels this gives him a big advantage.
“I’ve been in this sport for a very long time. When I was younger, I used to get nervous before a fight. I don’t ever feel that anymore. Now, I’m just excited and ready to win.”
With two stoppage wins over solid opponents, Santos is the undisputed number one contender in the welterweight division. An unfortunate eye poke and a failed weight cut have prevented him for completing a fight with reigning champion Askren, but the Brazilian believes he will get his rematch eventually.
“I’m ready for everyone, especially the champion. I know my time for the title will come in time, but I’m just focusing on training for this fight now.”
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