Octagon Oracles: Daniel Santos

Grade: B

After two different matchups for a 2021 debut fell through, Brazilian bantamweight Daniel Santos will finally make his UFC debut against Julio Arce at UFC 273 on Saturday night.

An action fighter with several highlight-reel finishes on his record, Santos is often guilty of eating a lot of strikes but relies on his toughness and ability to land harder on his opponents in return. “Willycat” will get right to work with hard outside leg kicks from the start of his fights, and will typically try to work his jab a bit while keeping a high guard to see what his opponent will offer. Once opponents start throwing on him Santos will respond with hard counters, particularly favoring a counter left hook which he’ll also follow with a right straight. He’ll also throw hooks to the head and body of opponents or look to land knees in the clinch once the distance closes, and he’s most dangerous when he can get an opponent covered against the fence to start teeing off with volume. Santos also loves to mix in flying knees and spinning attacks, and his record includes a spinning back elbow finish as well as two victories via spinning back kick.

While he loves to engage in striking battles, Santos is also very good at following up his big flurries against the fence with a level change to look for single or double-leg takedowns. He’s admittedly been susceptible to takedowns himself, and he’s especially vulnerable to well-timed attempts while he’s throwing one of his many spinning attacks. Dukvakh Astamirov was able to get him down several times in their fight, but Santos rarely conceded position in that fight and was quick to work to his feet after being taken down. His takedown defense also largely held up in his bout with Irwing Machado, which was contested at featherweight.

Currently on a two-fight win streak following his only career loss at ACA 91, Santos hasn’t fought since 2019. At only twenty-seven years old I don’t expect the layoff to hurt Santos too much, although he’s up for a strong test in this matchup with UFC veteran Julio Arce. Both men will be looking for the finish, so there’s a good chance of this bout being a Fight of the Night candidate as long as it doesn’t end too quickly.

Santos’s recklessness on the feet will likely cause him problems the higher he’s able to climb in the UFC’s extremely talented bantamweight division, but he’s going to put on a lot of exciting fights and should become popular with fans very quickly.

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