A second stint in the Ultimate Fighting Championship for Branch hasn’t seen him bring over the time of championship winning form, initially claiming a hard-fought decision victory over Polish youngster Krzysztof Jotko, before Luke Rockhold really exploited his usually sound Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu base after he was tagged in the opening minutes, to force Branch to tap to strikes from mount, incredibly surprising considering his Renzo Gracie black belt. A legitimately terrifying knockout artist, Santos recovered from a submission defeat to Eric Spicely to score four consecutive highlight knockout wins. With a black belt in Muay Thai and a purple belt in BJJ, Santos could be compared to a more devastating or heavy hitting Edson Barboza, who plies his trade at Lightweight.
Training at the Renzo Gracie Academy in Brooklyn, New York, Branch is one of the most seasoned grapplers in the Middleweight ranks today. With 7 separate victories via submission, Branch has overcome the likes of fellow grappling aces Vinny Magalhaes, Paulo Filho, Yushin Okami and Lewis Taylor on his to WSOF stardom. The dissolving of the organisation seen the influx of stars to the UFC, with Justin Gaethje following suit, having the same sort of success as his compatriot Branch. Quite large for the division considering his presence at 205lbs, Branch was initially scheduled to meet future UFC 225 title challenger Yoel ‘The Soldier Of God’ Romero before an injury to Robert Whittaker seen Romero face and starch Luke Rockhold, a realistic possibility for Branch if the pairing came to fruition.
Really finding his feet, literally, in his past four fights, Thiago Santos has evolved into one of the most dangerous threats to the 185lbs division. At 34 years of age, Santos is 9-4 in the promotion but his current win streak is arguably the most impressive of his storied career. Firstly, Santos executed a picture perfect spinning heel kick knockout over Jack Marshman at UFC Fight Night Nova Scotia, before finishing Gerald Meerschaert with strikes. His next two matches seen him produce two winching body kick wins over the dangerous Jack Hermansson and Anthony Smith. Santos holds a career highlight win over the recently retired and former Strikeforce Welterweight gold holder Nate Marquardt, back at UFC 198 with a nasty finish.