UFC Fight Night: Santos vs. Ankalaev Predictions & Betting Picks

UFC Fight Night: Santos vs. Ankalaev Predictions

Thiago Santos vs. Magomed Ankalaev

Santos made a big impression when he first moved up to light-heavyweight a few years ago, booking a title shot after three impressive finishes in a row via strikes and then giving Jon Jones one of his toughest title defenses. However, Santos suffered multiple serious knee injuries in that fight and had to spend over a year on the sidelines, then didn’t seem quite like his old self upon his return, losing three fights in a row.

Santos has since picked up a decision win over the downward-spiralling Johnny Walker, but at 38 his window of opportunity to get back on top is closing quickly. When he’s at his best Santos is a very dangerous striker though with finishing power in both his punches and dynamic kicking game, although as previously mentioned his knee issues seem to have curtailed the frequency of his more acrobatic output.

As for Ankalaev, the 29-year-old has been on a roll for the past few years, racking up seven wins in a row, while the only loss of his 17-fight career was a submission loss to Paul Craig in literally the last second of a debut fight that he had been dominating.

Ankalaev benefits from being a very well-rounded fighter, being an assured, accurate striker from range who mixes his combinations of punches and kicks up well with respectable power, but he also has very good wrestling too.

In terms of finishing power Santos may hold the edge, but I think Ankalaev can still be very competitive there, particularly at this later stage in his opponent’s career, while he holds a significant advantage on the mat and has the ability to get the fight there, so I like him to get a decision win here.

Prediction: Magomed Ankalaev to win by decision.

Marlon Moraes vs. Song Yadong

A dominant WSOF champion who also made a big impact early in his UFC run, Moraes has since fallen on hard times, having lost four of his last five fights.

That’s a bitter pill to swallow for a fighter who had only lost one fight in the previous eight years, but worse still, all four of those losses came via TKO, suggesting that his chin is no longer what it once was.

However, on the other hand the 33-year-old Moraes is still a serious threat offensively with his fast, dynamic striking, good finishing instincts and the fact he can also operate effectively on the mat too when he’s on top, though he is less effective defensively.

Meanwhile, Yadong is almost a decade younger at 24-years-old and holds a 7-1-1 record in the UFC  including his latest two victories over Casey Kenney and Julio Arce.

Yadong is very well-rounded for his age with his crisp technical boxing ability, quick hands and good movement making him a force to be reckoned with, while he’s also developed his wrestling game nicely too.

You certainly can’t count Moraes out here as he is an impactful striker who can produce something out of nothing, but though Yadong may not typically be as big of a highlight-reel finisher, I think he has the skills to capitalize on Moraes diminishing punch resistance here to win by second round TKO.

Prediction: Song Yadong to win by TKO in Rd2.

Sodiq Yusuff vs. Alex Caceres

After a four-fight winning start in the UFC, Yusuff picked up his first loss in the promotion last time out against the in-form Arnold Allen and now goes up against Caceres, who is enjoying the best run of his long run in the promotion with five wins in a row.

That really is impressive stuff from the 33-year-old Caceres given that before this winning streak he’d only mustered a 9-10 (+1nc) record in the Octagon. That being said, he hasn’t been going up against the highest level of competition and Yusuff will be his first bout against a ranked opponent (No.12) during his current run of form.

On the feet Caceres has a karate-style approach and stays active offensively, but while he is capable of throwing out flashy techniques he’s never had much in the way of stopping power. That could be a problem against Yusuff, who is also a busy striker, but has a far heavier hands and a more compact style.

Caceres crafty submission game has always been his most dangerous weapon though and he can be very good at seizing upon opportunities in scramble situations, although it has to be noted that he’s not as slick defensively and actually has as many submission losses as he does wins.

Meanwhile, Yusuff has relatively solid takedown defense and I think that will foil Caceres hopes of getting this one to the mat, leaving Yusuff to boss the striking action and secure a decision victory.

Prediction: Sodiq Yusuff to win by decision.

Khalil Rountree Jr. vs. Karl Roberson

After a spell in which he lost three out of four fights, Rountree earned a confidence-boosting TKO win against Modestas Boukauskas last time out, while Roberson could do with something similar after he lost his last two fights by submission.

The good news for Roberson is that he doesn’t have to worry about being tapped out here as Rountree will have no interest in going to the mat. Instead, the powerfully built Rountree has continued to sharpen his muay thai ability and has the ability to finish fights whether it be by punches, kicks, elbows or knees. On the downside though, he’s not got the best cardio and as such he’s not the most active striker and becomes less potent as the fight progresses.

Roberson comes from a kickboxing background and can be quite slick when he focuses on that, although it’s an interesting quirk that despite having some notable losses on the mat he actually does like to pursue a more grappling-orientated gameplan at times and while his defense is shaky he does have a few submission wins under his belt.

With that in mind I’m leaning a bit towards Roberson here as I feel the fact he won’t have to concern himself with being taking down will allow him to open up more with his strikes here, though I think he’ll have more success and put himself at less risk by seeking openings to take down Rountree, where he should have a significant advantage, leading to a second round submission stoppage.

Prediction: Karl Roberson to win by submission in Rd2.

Drew Dober vs. Terrance McKinney

McKinney comes into this fight on just a week’s notice looking to rack up his third win in a row since joining the UFC last year, while Dober has suffered back-to-back losses in the past 12 months.

It’s worth bearing in mind however that Dober’s recent losses were against quality opposition in Islam Makhachev and Brad Riddell and he is still a robust, durable striker who applies a lot of pressure on the feet and has solid fundamentals.

McKinney will have a 2″ height and 3.5″ reach advantage here and has become an exciting striker to watch, demonstrating fight-ending power in the past couple of years inside and outside of the UFC.  That being said his foundation is in wrestling and many of his early wins in the regional circuit were by submission – something he also showed off in his last Octagon outing with a rear-naked choke finish.

That edge in the ground game could pay off for McKinney, but The short notice call-up is far from ideal for him, particularly since Dober is the kind of fighter that’s going to be pushing a hard pace for three rounds and so I’m going to take Dober to battle his way to a decision win here.

Prediction: Drew Dober to win by decision.

Alex Pereira vs. Bruno Silva

Despite being just 4-1 in his MMA career, Pereira has more hype behind him than your average UFC prospect for a couple of reasons.

Firstly, he has an extensive background in high-level kickboxing with the likes of Glory, but on top of that he also holds the distinction of having beaten current UFC middleweight champion Israel Adesanya twice in that sport, including handing him his only KO loss to date.

As you’d expect, the 34-year-old Pereira is a dynamic, highly technical striker who will make the most of the 4″ height and 6″ reach advantage he’ll have over Silva in this fight as he pieces together his hard-hitting kicks and punches from range, while he finished his UFC debut late last year via TKO courtesy of a flying knee followed up by punches.

In the 32-year-old Silva he’ll be facing someone who won’t be afraid to stand and trade however, as the Brazilian has fearsome power in his hands and has a long track record of finishing fights, including a KO and two TKO’s in his three fights so far in the UFC.

On top of that Silva can also mix in takedowns too, and while he’s not the best grappler and is  vulnerable to submissions, he should have a significant advantage over Pereira there, whose simply not had the time to really fully develop a ground game since transitioning from kickboxing.

So, a lot could depend on how committed Silva is to his wrestling in this fight. My feeling is that he’ll still be eager to let his hands fly and I think that will cost him as Pereira has the technical ability to pick him apart from range and punish him on the counter when he overcommits to big punches, leading to a second round TKO finish.

Prediction: Alex Pereira to win by TKO in Rd2.

UFC Fight Night: Santos vs. Ankalaev Prelims

(Predicted winners in bold)

Matthew Semelsberger vs. AJ Fletcher

JJ Aldrich vs. Gillian Robertson

Trevin Jones vs. Javid Basharat

Damon Jackson vs. Kamuela Kirk

Sabina Mazo vs. Miranda Maverick

Dalcha Lungiambula vs. Cody Brundage

Kris Moutinho vs. Guido Cannetti

Tafon Nchukwi vs. Azamat Murzakanov

Ross Cole
About the Author: Ross Cole

Ross Cole is one of the most prolific mixed martial arts writers in the world, having written more than 17,000 MMA news stories for MMA Insight, which he founded in 2009 as a way to channel his passion for the sport of mixed martial arts, and reaching millions of die-hard MMA fans in the process.
You can read more of Ross’s work at MMAInsight.com.

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