May 14, 2018

UFC 224: The UFC Needs To Fast-Track Rising Star Elizeu Zaleski Dos Santos

By Adam Martin

The most exciting dos Santos on the UFC roster right now isn’t former UFC Heavyweight Champion Junior dos Santos. It’s Elizeu Zaleski dos Santos, who brutally knocked out Sean Strickland with a spinning wheel kick and punches on the preliminary card of UFC 224, which went down this past Saturday night at Jeunesse Arena in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. On a card that featured a number of ridiculous finishes, dos Santos' kick KO stands out as one of the most impressive, one of the most brutal and vicious stoppages of the year.

The 31-year-old Brazilian moved to 19-5 in his MMA career, including a 5-1 mark in the UFC since making his Octagon debut back in 2015. After losing a contentious decision to Nicholas Dalby in his UFC debut, he has since reeled off five straight wins inside the Octagon, with knockouts of Strickland and Omari Akhmedov as well as decision wins over Max Griffin, Lyman Good, and Keita Nakamura. He's already won three "Fight of the Night" awards as well, so he's basically become "The Brazilian Bonus Hunter" in a short period of time. He's quickly become one of the most exciting fighters on the UFC roster, and no doubt the promotion's matchmakers have taken notice.

With such a strong start to his UFC career, along with the fact he's already in his thirties, I think the UFC would be wise not to waste any more time and start pushing dos Santos up the welterweight ladder. In my opinion the former Jungle Fights champion is ready for a big step up in competition. If I was the UFC, I would strongly consider dos Santos for a short-notice fight with Neil Magny at UFC Fight Night 130 in a few weeks in Liverpool, England. Magny needs an opponent badly after Gunnar Nelson got hurt, and Jorge Masvidal can't make 170, so with dos Santos in shape and coming off of a short fight where he didn't take any damage, the UFC should offer him this fight with Magny.

For dos Santos, beating Magny would be a way to immediately jump into not only the Top 15 at 170 lbs, but also into the Top 10 since Magny is rated so highly in the division, and for good reason, considering Magny has a great UFC record filled with quality wins. But he's also beatable, and stylistically dos Santos matches up very well with Magny, as he'd be very competitive on the feet but also have the power to touch Magny's chin. The opportunity to fight Magny would come on short notice, but these are the kinds of opportunities fighters must take to progress their careers.

UFC 224 turned out to be an amazing card with a number of incredible finishes, and dos Santos' ridiculous spinning wheel kick KO over Strickland stood out as one of the best of the night. Dos Santos is in his prime, on a huge winning streak, and is ready to break into the welterweight Top 15. He just needs the opportunity to do so. It's up to the UFC to fast-track him up the ladder now, because he's ready to fight the top guys at 170 lbs. Let's hope the UFC gives him the chance to show the MMA world just how good he is.

UFC 224
Elizeu Zaleski dos Santos vs. Sean Strickland: Elizeu Zaleski dos Santos def. Sean Strickland via KO (strikes) at 3:12 of Round 1.

UFC 224: Nunes vs. Pennington took place May 12, 2018 at Jeunesse Arena in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

Click HERE for more UFC 224 Post-Fight Analysis

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