As it turns out, the sledgehammer tattoo on Thiago Santos’ chest is just as representative of his style at light heavyweight as it was at middleweight.
Santos, making the jump up to 205 pounds after a long run at 185, had his first UFC main event on Saturday night, where he took on short-notice replacement Eryk Anders. The duo threw down for three absolutely hellacious rounds before Santos earned the TKO victory.
In a scary scene, Anders twice collapsed trying to get back to his corner at the end of the third round, calling the bout to be waved off at the 5:00 mark at UFC Sao Paulo.
“This is my first main event, and I am very emotional,” Santos said through an interpreter. “I want to dedicate this fight to my father who is no longer with us.”
The tone was set in the early going, as both competitors landed heavy shots from the outset while also keeping a fast pace. Whenever it appeared Santos was going to start to run away with the fight, though, Anders would implement his grappling game to slow things down.
Santos got the better of things in the second, landing with big shots and just missing with several kicks thrown with bad intentions, but again, Anders landed enough heavy shots to keep Santos from getting reckless.
In the third, Anders appeared to be on his way to his best round of the fight, as he scored a takedown, his fourth of the fight, and started landing ground-and-pound offense. But he had taken the bout on just six days’ notice replacing Jimi Manuwa, and fatigue started setting in.
The end came when Anders shot for a takedown and pushed Santos up against the fence. Santos started landing elbows to the side of the head, and things only got worse when they hit the mat, as Santos landed another series of elbows, a bunch of punches to the face, and then elbows to the other side of the head until the horn sounded.
Anders twice collapsed trying to get back to his corner, ending the bout.
With his 13th career knockout win coming in his light heavyweight debut, Santos improved 19-6. He’s won two in a row and six of his past seven. Anders (11-2) has now dropped two of his past three, with both losses coming in Brazil.