Santiago has shot at redemption in England

February 14, 2013, 7:10 PM

When you look at the win streaks under the Zuffa banner of all the fighters on the main card of Saturday’s UFC event in London, you see a lot of Ws.

That’s especially true of the headlining matchup between interim bantamweight champ Renan Barao and challenger Michael McDonald:

Barao: 6W (4 UFC, 2 WEC, part of his ridiculous 29 wins in a row overall)

McDonald: 5W (4 UFC, 1 WEC, part of his modest-by-comparison eight straight victories)

The six-fight main card also includes three fighters on multiple-fight win streaks in the UFC (Cub Swanson, Cyrille Diabate and James Te-Huna), and five fighters coming off a big win.

But there’s one fighter whose record stands out like a sore thumb.

Jorge Santiago: 2L

When the Brazilian Santiago first signed with the UFC in 2011 as Sengoku middleweight champion, he came in with a lot of promise. Unfortunately, that year turned out to be one of the biggest disappointments, as he was knocked out by Brian Stann at UFC 130 in May 2011 and then looked listless in a unanimous-decision loss to Demian Maia at UFC 136 in October later that year.

If you thought Hector Lombard’s debut was a dud — losing a close, lacklustre decision to Tim Boetsch at UFC 149 — at least the former Bellator middleweight champion rebounded with a big win, knocking out Rousimar Palhares in December.

In fact, going back to an earlier stint with the UFC, Santiago (25-10) is actually on a four-fight losing streak in the Octagon. In that way, it puts the Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt in similar company to Jay Hieron, who despite a solid 23-7 professional record just hasn’t been able to translate that success into the UFC, going 0-4 over multiple stints with organization (including his current two-fight losing streak with a knockout loss to Tyron Woodley earlier this month).

After Santiago’s dismal 2011 campaign, he was released by the organization. But then his fortune turned. A two-fight win streak with Titan FC earned him a contract with Strikeforce. He was set to fight Quinn Mulhern at September’s Melendez vs. Healy card before it became one of two late 2012 casualties.

He never ended up competing with the Strikeforce, but being under Zuffa’s employ allowed him an in for the UFC again. And when Gunnar Nelson’s original opponent for Saturday’s UFC on Sportsnet: Barao vs. McDonald was injured, the 32-year-old got his third shot at the UFC.

Watch Saturday’s UFC on Sportsnet: Barao vs. McDonald, beginning with preliminary fights on Sportsnet.ca starting at 12:15 p.m. ET and followed by the six-fight main card at 3 p.m. ET on Sportsnet East, Ontario, West and Pacific.

Santiago has plenty of talent and is a danger on his feet and on the ground with loads of finishes during his career. And while the veteran of over a decade in the sport may not be in his prime anymore, there’s no reason why he can’t make a sustained run at this point in his career.

He’ll be in tough against the unbeaten 24-year-old Icelandic fighter Nelson, who is coming off a submission of DaMarques Johnson in September, so Santiago can’t come in timidly. But if ever there was a time to make a statement, it’s now.

He better hope he can, because you don’t often get a fourth chance.

UFC GETTING MAJOR PLAY IN U.K. AGAIN:

The last time the UFC was in the England capital was in October 2010, when UFC 120: Bisping vs. Akiyama took place at the O2 Arena, but this will be the first UFC event held at Wembley Arena. While the building has a smaller capacity than the O2, it has quite a bit of cachet as one of the host venues for the London 2012 Olympics, and sits beside the famous Wembley Stadium, home of England’s national football team.

This is also the first time a UFC title fight has been contest on a FUEL TV card and it’s the first championship bout in England in over five years, when UFC 80: Rapid Fire saw B.J. Penn defend his lightweight belt against Joe Stevenson.

It also marks the first early-season event in the U.K. since 2009. Each of the past three years saw only one event in England in the fall.

This, along with the talk from UFC president Dana White this week about a new television deal and major plans for multiple events, suggests England is getting the major push it once did. That’s pretty good news for our fellow UFC fans across the pond.

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