Thiago Santos has a hammer tattooed on his chest for good reason considering the way he loves to pound out his opponents inside the Octagon.
In his first UFC main event on Saturday night, Santos lived up to that reputation as he rained down a brutal series of elbows to stop Eryk Anders in the third round in what turned out to be a back and forth war between two fighters who accepted this matchup on short notice.
As expected, Santos was very heavy-handed in the opening round as he came after Anders with almost every shot looking like he was gunning for the knockout. Anders did a good job staying out of the way from absorbing too much damage early while doing his best not to over pursue Santos and leave himself open for one of those hammer like strikes.
Anders was constantly cutting off the cage but he couldn’t find a home for most of his combinations with Santos loading up behind every punch or kick he was throwing.
Santos opted for a different strategy in the second frame as he put Anders on his back and began raining down some heavy ground and pound from the top.
The fight eventually worked its way back to the feet with Santos and Anders deciding to forgo game plan and just start dropping bombs on each other with each fighter stunning the other during the furious exchange.
— UFC (@ufc) September 23, 2018
The action did slow down a bit with less than two minutes remaining but Santos sped things back up again with a huge body shot that reverberated throughout the arena in Brazil.
Santos followed it up with a stinging punch that had Anders turning his back thanks to the damage he was taking but he somehow survived the onslaught and came back with takedown of his own before the round ended.
Anders decided to go for a ground attack in the third as he took Santos to the mat early but he wasn’t able to hold the Brazilian down for very long. Back on his feet, Santos started unleashing his best strikes while Anders was somehow still moving forward and firing back with his own counters.
Anders tried to revert to a ground attack again but this time Santos stuffed his takedown attempt by unloading a barrage of elbows to the side of his head. Anders continued to press forward but Santos was relentless with more of those same elbows as the round came to an end.
After Santos got up from the ground, Anders could barely get to his feet and he eventually collapsed back down to the canvas as referee Marc Goddard finally waved off the fight. Anders ended up laying flat on the mat for several moments as a result of the incredible punishment he endured at the end of the fight.
This. Was. War. pic.twitter.com/6pquuzYJX0
— FOX Sports: UFC (@UFCONFOX) September 23, 2018
The official time for the TKO was 5:00 at the end of the third round.
Santos has teased a move to light heavyweight previously but planned on staying at middleweight a little longer until he was offered this main event opportunity.
Considering his performance on Saturday night, Santos may want to rethink returning to middleweight as he looked more than ready to jump into the deep end at 205 pounds following his knockout win in Brazil.
As for Anders, he accepted the fight on six days notice, moved up a weight class and still went three hard rounds with an absolute killer in Santos so while he will go home with a loss on his record, it’s safe to say his stock has raised after a seriously gutsy performance.