Thiago Santos' plan for beating Jon Jones at UFC 239: 'Make him suffer everywhere'

Thiago “Marreta” Santos knows he’s got a tall order in front of him in his next fight.

It’s no ordinary opponent Santos will face on July 6 in Las Vegas. The Brazilian slugger will meet UFC light heavyweight champion Jon Jones, a man who has never legitimately lost an MMA fight, in the main event of the highly anticipated UFC 239.

Santos (21-6 MMA, 13-5 UFC) knows that when Jones (24-1 MMA, 18-1 UFC)) steps into the cage, he’s outstanding at, well, everything.

And the way the converted middleweight sees it, the best approach is to simply bite down on his mouthpiece, throw some of the sledgehammers represented by the tattoo on his chest, and then do his best to match Jones in every aspect of the game. 

“He’s a very intelligent guy, so I need to be ready for everything,” Santos told MMA Junkie in his native Portuguese. “I need to be ready for everything and to make him suffer everywhere. If it’s on the ground, he has to suffer. If it’s on the feet, he has to suffer. If he takes me to the fence, he will suffer. That’s how I see it.”

Why such a basic approach? Well, if there was already a blueprint in place to defeat the champ, the American Top Team standout would use it, but there isn’t.

“If there was a formula, or a secret, someone would have figured it out already,” Santos said. “That’s something we’ll see then. We’re working on it, my coaches are studying him, but I think he’s a very intelligent guy. He adapts. If the fight is bad on the feet, he goes to the ground. If it’s bad on the ground, he goes to the feet. If it’s bad at the center of the cage, he takes it to the fence. If it gets bad on the fence, he takes it to the center.”

Thus, Santos, who is 3-0 with three knockouts since leaving 185 pounds for 205, is going to stick with what works. His relentless, pressuring approach has gotten him this far, as he’s silenced all the doubters who didn’t think he could hang after making the jump from light heavyweight. So why fix something which isn’t broken?

“We haven’t really been able to see a weakness in his game,” Santos said. “But we have never seen him with his back against the ground – better yet, with his back to the ground and a hand landing heavily. Then, we’ll see. That’s something we haven’t seen, how he reacts to a powerful ground-and-pound from the top. But anyway, more than ever I need to be ready for anything. He’s a very well-rounded guy, he adjusts to wherever the fight is, so my strategy is to make him feel bad wherever he is.”

For more on UFC 239, check out the UFC Rumors section of the site.

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