“Razor” Rob Wilkininson looks to defend his 2022 PFL Light Heavyweight World Championship this season and that campaign begins with a bout against MMA veteran Thiago “Marreta” Santos who very arguably beat current MMA heavyweight champion Jon Jones. Wilkinson has yet to see a third round under the PFL banner and will look to maintain his impressive form against a legend of the sport.
The round begins and it feels like this one isn’t long for this world as both of these fighters carry one punch knockout power. Wilkinson blitzes in behind his jab but neither fighter can land big so far as both men look to establish the range.
Wilkinson is walking Santos down into the SmartCage, landing a stiff jab that gets a reaction from Santos who returns with a heavy body kick which is again countered with a right hand and a successful level change from Wilkinson who takes Santos down with ease.
Wilkinson takes the back with over three minutes to work here but Santos is able to get his hips to the mat and get his back to the fence, working back to his feet before again being dragged down by Wilkinson who lands some heavy knees to the thighs and legs of Santos.
Wilkinson lands a beautiful trip and takes Santos down in the center of the SmartCage, quickly attacking the back with both hooks in a dominant position and plenty of time to work. Wilkinson is softening Santos up with strikes while attacking the neck, eventually transitioning to full mount and flattening Santos out whale landing some heavy blows.
Santos is able to recover half guard but he’s still in trouble as Wilkinson stays heavy on top and rains down some heavy ground and pound. Santos is able to survive to the final bell but he’ll need to do much more in the next round to keep this fight from getting away from him.
We begin our second round and again it’s Wilkinson coming forward and stalking Santos like prey in the SmartCage. Santos throws a heavy roundhouse kick but can’t land flush as Wilkinson circles out.
Wilkinson lands a heavy left hook that briefly stuns Santos before changing levels, however this time Santos is able to fight it off. Not for long however as Wilkinson shoots again and this time gets the fight to the mat and begins attacking the back of Santos. Santos is able to return to his feet but Wilkinson is glued to his back, staying heavy and making Santos carry his weight as Wilkinson gets the left hook in and lands some heavy punches.
Santos is able to reverse position and get back to his feet, but he is quickly reversed as Wilkinson circles off the fence and dumps Santos once again. Wilkinson has swelled to -750 on the live line as he continues to completely stifle Santos and prevent him from getting any offense off. Right on cue, Santos lands a nice knee and breaks the clinch, sensing the need to make something happen.
Wilkinson clearly respects the power of Santos, shooting once again as Santos lands another nice knee to the body of Wilkinson. Wilkinson is trying to control Santos’ wrists as the round comes to a close. Santos will need a finish here.
Our final round of the co-main event begins and Santos is going to need to sell out here to make something happen. Wilkinson will also need to show some urgency to get an extra point for a finish and keep Josh Silveira from running away with the division. Santos lands a nice roundhouse kick and eats a hook from Wilkinson for his troubles.
Wilkinson continues to impose a grappling heavy gameplan as they break and Santos is bleeding over his right eye. Santos is stepping up to the moment here and throwing nothing but killshots as he hunts a finish late here.
Wilkinson seems a little tepid now but he may be content to just sit on the lead at this point as Santos continues to have success with the roundhouse kick to the body. Wilkinson lands a nice right hand and Santos lands a nice knee as Wilkinson takes the fight to the ground once more.
If Santos can’t make something happen now it may just be too little too late as we hit 90 seconds remaining in the round. Santos gets back to his feet and breaks with a minute remaining, he’ll have to empty the gas tank here as Wilkinson appears to be slowing down significantly. However right on cue Wilkinson lands a right hand into a level change to close it out but Santos pops back up and they finish the fight throwing and landing bombs.
Robert Wilkinson passes his toughest test yet by defeating Thiago Santos to begin his campaign to repeat as PFL World Champion
Robert Wilkinson def. Thiago Santos by Unanimous Decision (29-28 3x)