Thiago Santos came closer to beating Jon Jones than anyone has in the past and, remarkably, he did so on one leg.
Santos lost a five-round split decision to Jones in the main event of UFC 239 over the weekend and an MRI Monday revealed Santos sustained several significant injuries during the fight that will keep him out of action for the remainder of 2019.
The Brazilian tore the meniscus and all ligaments (ACL, MCL, PCL) in his left knee during the contest, his manager confirmed to ESPN.
It’s unknown when exactly in the fight all the various damage occurred, although Santos said he hurt his knee in the opening round. It didn’t become apparent anything was wrong until Santos’s left knee noticeably buckled in the second round when he threw a kick with his right leg.
According to Guilherme Cruz of MMA Fighting, Santos also hurt his right knee during the fight – the same knee that was operated on in the lead-up to UFC 239 – and it will require further testing and possibly another surgery.
“My knee really bothered me during the fight,” Santos said. “I did everything I could in the condition I was. It’s a fight. We’re never 100 per cent sure that we will win, but I’m satisfied. I left everything in there even after injuring my knee in the first round.
“I fought four rounds on a southpaw stance, unable to move like I usually move, unable to throw the strikes I usually throw. I didn’t shock the world because of those circumstances, but I did what I could do in those conditions and I’m satisfied.”
One judge scored the fight 48-47 (three rounds to two) in favour of Santos while the other two judges had it 48-47 Jones on their scorecards.
Unlike most of Jones’s past opponents, Santos never appeared hesitant or hypnotized by Jones’s intimidating length and fight IQ.
In fact, Santos was often the one controlling the action and pressing forward. The 35-year-old threw 166 significant strikes during the 25-minute bout with his most effective technique being legs kicks that connected 27 times.
“I thought I hit him more and out-pointed him, but with my knee like that, it was all I could do,” Santos said via a translator at the post-fight press conference. “I knew it was a very close fight. In the condition I was in, I thought I fought a good fight.”
“He implemented a game plan I think a lot of people have wanted to for a very long time,” Jones said of his opponent. “He did a good job. He exploited a hole in my game that won’t be there next time.”