Photo by Chris Unger/Zuffa LLC
The one-time light heavyweight title challenger has struggled to return to the form that had him one scorecard away from defeating Jon Jones back in 2019. His latest performance saw Santos largely stuck against the cage with Ankalaev pursuing him across the octagon with both fighters hesitant to really engage over the course of five rounds.
“No words about yesterday,” Santos wrote on Instagram. “No excuses, another hard and painful defeat.
“Still, my faith in God remains unshakable and my gratitude to him, my family, my friends, coaches and true fans only increases, thank you for everything.”
Santos had the biggest single moment in the fight on Saturday night after he dropped Ankalaev with a punch in the second round but he was unable to really capitalize on the opening.
Over 25 minutes, Santos landed just 60 significant strikes in total and his output really suffered in the final two rounds where he only connected with 17 significant strikes.
Those numbers are up only slightly from his previous fight where Santos landed just 44 significant strikes over five rounds in his unanimous decision win over Johnny Walker.
This time around, however, Santos’ inactivity cost him as he appeared to be waiting for Ankalaev to attack before he attempted to counter. Ankalaev admitted that he was expecting a more aggressive game plan from Santos as well, which is what ultimately resulted in the light heavyweights pawing at each other but not really unleashing blistering combinations round after round.
The loss will also put Santos at a deeper deficit when it comes to title contention after dropping three out of his last four fights since going to the split decision with Jones.