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“Capoeira” vs “The Leech”

Cover photos courtesy of Elizeu Zaleski and Li Jingliang

The co-main event of UFC Fight Night 157 is one of the most interesting stylistic match ups on the card. It’s also a match up of two fighters who have been very successful the last 3 years, the only loss of the two being Li Jinglang to Jake Matthews in early 2018. Elizeu Zaleski dos Santos is on a 7 fight win streak while Jinglang is 6-1 over his last 7. Both are well rounded fighters who bring plenty of action to every fight, this should be a very entertaining fight.

A post shared by Elizeu Capoeira Zaleski Santos (@elizeucapoeira) on Aug 27, 2019 at 4:04pm PDT

These fighters were supposed to meet before. Unfortunately “Capoeira” had to bow out of the UFC Fight Night 141 card, leaving Jinglang to fight David Zawada. Jinglang ended up finishing that fight in impressive fashion with a perfectly placed side-kick to the body in the third round. Whenever fighters have been scheduled to meet before, yet the fight didn’t happen, it’s evident both camps have had even more time to prepare for the match up. I’m not sure how much that will affect the outcome of this upcoming fight, but it may play a part.

Zaleski dos Santos has one of the most fan friendly styles of all top 15 ranked welterweights in the UFC. His capoeira background plays a huge part in that, his highlight knockouts in recent years have proved how useful that art can be in MMA. Jinglang is a pressure fighter who is willing to take a punch to give one and shows no fear in the cage. If you take the time to look at their stats, they’re fairly similar. Their strikes landed vs absorbed displays that Zaleski dos Santos is more of a counter striker while Jinglang is more likely to press the action (5 p/min strikes landed vs 3.5 absorbed for Jinglang, 4.3 vs 2.9 for Zaleski dos Santos). Their accuracy rate is nearly the same, both at the low 40% range. Zaleski dos Santos has 14 knockouts vs Jinglang’s 6, by far the biggest differential in regards to their striking.

A post shared by Elizeu Capoeira Zaleski Santos (@elizeucapoeira) on May 29, 2019 at 11:15am PDT

In the grappling department it’s apparent both men have a good respect for one another’s skills. Jinglang appears to be more the willing party to go for takedowns, utilize his wrestling and work for submissions. However, as evidenced in Zaleski dos Santos’s victory over Curtis Millender, he’s not afraid to maul people on the ground (especially if the match up is right). I have a feeling this fight will not be one where Zaleski dos Santos wants to play around on the ground too much, I more likely foresee a heavy counter striking game that takes advantage of an over aggressive opponent. However, if he plays that game and doesn’t land anything meaningful, Jinglang could win by pointing out his opponent through sheer volume. Hard to tell how it will go, creating a great reason to watch.

A post shared by Elizeu Capoeira Zaleski Santos (@elizeucapoeira) on Aug 27, 2019 at 4:04pm PDT

The older I get the more I love the most unpredictable fights. While I favor Zaleski dos Santos as a betting man, I think Jinglang having home court may be a key ex-factor. He’s 11 fights deep in the UFC at this point so he’s much more likely to embrace and feed off his home crowd rather than feel pressure performing in front of them. For Zaleski dos Santos, having to travel to China is probably a weird ordeal. If I’m in his shoes, especially with how this fight matches up, I’m absolutely wanting to finish this fight and keep the judges uninvolved. Jinglang on the other hand should feel much more comfortable if the fight does end up going to the judges, especially if it’s a close fight.

A post shared by Li Jingliang (@lijingliangmma) on Oct 16, 2018 at 8:33pm PDT

Being this is the second time the UFC has booked this fight in China, it’s evident all parties really wanted this fight to happen. Part of me thinks Zaleski dos Santos wanted this fight, at this specific card just as bad, if not more, than anybody. I doubt he was happy with having to back out the first time and is making good on his word to make sure that fight happened. He’s stated multiple times in interviews that he’s willing to fight anybody, anywhere, anytime (ala Cowboy Cerrone). It’s hard not to respect a fighter who takes that approach, it can’t be easy to travel across the world and take on a very legitimate opponent on their home ground and risk your higher ranking.

A post shared by Elizeu Capoeira Zaleski Santos (@elizeucapoeira) on Apr 8, 2019 at 5:12am PDT

Zaleski dos Santos should probably be facing a top 10 opponent at this point but he was open armed in accepting this fight. On the flip side, what a great opportunity for Jinglang. If he pulls the upset on his home ground, especially if he’s able to get a highlight reel finish, he’s suddenly launched himself into a much better position within the UFC’s welterweight division. I wish good luck to both gentlemen and I’m sure both have the intention of giving the fans exactly what they want, an action packed fight that keeps our eyes glued to the TV. ■

Jason Marlowe, UnknownMMA

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