Thiago Santos vs. Aleksandar Rakic UFC 259 Odds, Pick & Prediction (Saturday, March 6)
Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC. Pictured: Thiago Santos.
- The UFC 259 main card gets underway with a huge light heavyweight clash between Thiago Santos and Aleksandar Rakic.
- The hard-hitting Santos is coming off a loss to Glover Teixeira, while Rakic wrestled his way to a win last fall and has an edge on the ground.
- Sean Zerillo breaks down why he sees betting value in betting against an early finish.
Thiago Santos vs. Aleksandar Rakic Odds
Two top-five Light Heavyweights go head-to-head at UFC 259 when No. 2-ranked challenger Thiago Santos faces No. 4-ranked challenger Aleksandar Rakic on Saturday night’s main card.
Santos enters the matchup looking to get a win after losing in back-to-back fights to Jon Jones and Glover Texeira; his last win came against the man in the main event, champion Jan Blachowicz, in 2019. Rakic last fought in August and got a win over Anthony Smith after losing his previous matchup to Volkan Oezdemir.
Both men have a chance to make their case to fight for a title with a decisive win on Saturday night. So which side presents more betting value?
Below I preview the matchup and odds for tonight’s fight. For more analysis on the rest of the card, you can check out my projections for the entire slate here.
Tale of the Tape
|Avg. Fight Time||7:49||10:49|
|Weight (pounds)||206 lbs.||206 lbs.|
|Date of birth||1/7/84||2/6/92|
|Sig Strikes Per Min||4.36||4.66|
|SS Absorbed Per Min||2.32||1.99|
|Take Down Avg||0.77||0.93|
Santos had a career-best effort against Jon Jones in a split-decision loss back in July 2019, becoming the first fighter to ever win a judge’s scorecard against the best light heavyweight of all time. But he also sustained significant knee damage (torn ACL, MCL, PCL and meniscus) and required extensive time off to rehab.
He returned last November against the ageless Glover Teixeira, who is serving as the emergency replacement for Saturday’s main event, and had big moments in the first and third rounds, nearly putting Teixeira out multiple times. But Santos’ grappling (64% takedown defense) proved to be his downfall, a theme throughout the career of the Muay-Thai specialist.
Santos later admitted to being less than 100% going into that fight. He seems to have a different attitude and much more confidence after some additional rehabilitation time.
Aleksandr Rakic isn’t the best wrestler (0.93 takedowns per 15 minutes, 28% accuracy). Still, he showed improvements to his all-around game and excellent top control in his August win over Anthony Smith, spending more than 12 minutes controlling his opponent.
Rakic has gotten tagged on the feet in the past and has some defensive flaws (53% striking defense), so he’ll really need to mind Santos’ power at range.
Santos has been such a brutal knockout artist since joining the promotion (11 of 13 wins via knockout). I don’t know why anyone wouldn’t choose the path of least resistance against him.
If Rakic decides to wrestle, he probably wins this fight with relative ease and coasts to a wide decision as he did in the Smith fight. But if he decides to stand and trade, his lights could go out at any movement.
Santos vs. Rakic Pick
I expect either to see a staring contest on the feet or for Rakic to initiate those grappling exchanges, and I like the Over 1.5 rounds (up to -150) here as a result.
Otherwise, in terms of projections, everything else looks on point to me.
The Pick: Rakic/Santos, Over 1.5 Rounds (-135)