Dagestan’s best representative in the 205-lb division, Magomed Ankalaev enters UFC Fight Night 203 as a massive favorite on the UFC odds over former title challenger Thiago Santos. Other than a last-second loss, that was quite flukey, Ankalaev has been “the truth” in the division and could be Russia’s most dominant fighter since Khabib Nurmagomedov.
- Date: Saturday, 6 p.m. ET
- Venue: UFC APEX, Las Vegas, NV, United States
- Watch on: ESPN+
Thiago Santos vs Magomed Ankalaev
- Weight Class: Light Heavyweight (205 lbs)
- Rounds: Five
- Moneyline: Magomed Ankalaev -500,Thiago Santos +350
- Totals: Over 3½ (-130o), Under 3½ (Evu)
Thiago Santos has the bigger name here but that’s pretty much all he has. At least, that’s what the online sports betting lines are indicating as Magomed Ankalaev is being spotted a 79% shot at winning this fight. Santos (22-9-0) is always a live underdog although Ankalaev (16-1-0) could be a future UFC champion.
Ankalaev Can Be Next In Line
That last line on the lede isn’t just hyperbole. Magomed Ankalaev has been virtually unstoppable since he irresponsibly dove into a Paul Craig triangle choke. But the hype on the 29-year-old has been apparent since his debut as he has been a -300 favorite or shorter in six of his last eight fights. He’s delivered emphatically for most of it.
Ankalaev is renowned for his striking but he is a complete fighter. He used his wrestling to beat Nikita Krylov, outstruck and knocked out Ion Cutelaba (twice), and mixed it up in a clinical decision over former title challenger Volkan Oezdemir.
But Ankalaev’s biggest weapon is his mentality. His momentary brainfart against Craig may have been a blessing in disguise as it made him smarten up and be more patient. While he can finish anyone, Ankalaev will systematically break them down. You can bet online in peace.
The Ghost of Thiago Santos
Thiago Santos has had a long and fruitful UFC career. This is a man who fought the great Jon Jones to a split decision, knocked out former champion Jan Blachowicz, and tied for the most KOs in the middleweight division. But this Santos is long gone as age and injuries have all but sapped his explosive abilities.
Santos snapped his three-game losing streak by beating Johnny Walker to a decision. But Walker has just one win in his last five fights and this fight was anything but impressive. “Marreta” did cash this bet but it was clear that he did not have the same spryness.
But even a phantom of Santos can dust any unprepared opponent. Santos may not be as fast or dangerous, but one well-placed kick from this man can send even a champion to the hospital. Don’t sleep on Santos.
Santos vs Ankalaev: Who Wins?
Thiago Santos has come through as a large underdog before. He dusted Ronny Markes as a 6-1 underdog and was one decision away from beating Jones at 5-1. But this was when Santos was at his prime and he isn’t. Magomed Ankalaev is not only the fresher fighter here, but he is faster and has a big advantage with his grappling.
Ankalaev should be able to mix it up and beat Santos. Laying -500 on Ankalaev is a tad too hefty so throw him in a parlay or bet on him to finish Santos as the best UFC bet. The total going over 3½ rounds is another bet to look at as Ankalaev will give Santos plenty of respect leading to long fight.
Pick: Magomed Ankalaev -500
Pick: Over 3½ (-130)