While it wasn’t the most action packed fight, Rakic was able to keep Santos on the end of his punches and kicks for almost the entirety of the three round battle, which led to the unanimous decision handed down from the judges. The scores read 30-27, 29-28 and 29-28 for Rakic, who picks up his second win in a row overall.
“I’ve been working so hard for this fight. There’s no way that I lose this fight,” Rakic said afterwards. “The game plan was to keep the distance, to reach him with the long punches. We know Thiago is a sledgehammer. The game plan was to keep the distance and pick him apart.
“I want my chance to get a title. This is the third former title challenger for me and I beat all of them.”
The light heavyweights were respectful of the power each of them could throw because neither Rakic or Santos were over committing to combinations in the first round. Rakic did connect with a few kicks at range as he used his height and reach to keep Santos at a distance while preventing the Brazilian from unleashing his devastating power.
Rakic continued to pepper away at Santos from the outside and the former title contender was just not showing his signature aggression while spending a lot of time on his back foot. While Santos was definitely tentative, Rakic was still cautious not to engage in a fire fight with his heavy-handed opponent.
As the fight moved into the final round, Santos finally started to wake up after the urging of his coaches and he began tagging Rakic with several hard kicks. Rakic did a good job not to absorb too much damage but his output was also waning after largely controlling the pace through the first 10 minutes.
Still, Rakic had already done enough without allowing Santos to mount a comeback to win a decision to move to 6-1 overall in the UFC.
Judging by the reaction to the fight, it’s hard to imagine Rakic will earn a title opportunity off this win but he certainly put himself into position to potentially compete in a No. 1 contender’s fight when he returns later this year.