I have often been critical of guys outside the UFC who are ranked very high on media rankings. The example I often use is Sengoku middleweight champion Jorge Santiago. There are some media outlets wh rank him in the top ten in the world. While I think Santiago is a good fighter, I have always thought he falls more in the 15-20 range.
News broke last week that Santiago had neogtioaed his release from Sengoku and was a free agent who was looking to sign with a North American promotion. Immediately, I figured he would sign with Strikeforce or even Bellator. I thought there were a few intriguing fights for Santiago in Strikeforce and that he stylistically had a chance to become the Strikeforce middleweight champion. I never expected him to sign with the UFC because of his troubles there in his first stint and the fact that the competition is stiffer.
Yesterday, ESPN reported that Santiago had signed with the UFC and would debut at UFC 130 against Brian Stann. I was shocked. However, I am impressed with Santiago. Not only is the UFC the best place for Santiago to gain exposure it is also a step that shows a lot about him. It shows that he is looking to redeem himself in the UFC. He went 1-2 in the UFC and was brutally knocked out twice by Chris Leben and Alan Belcher. It also shows he has confidence in himself as a fighter. He would not have signed with the UFC if he did not think he could compete with the top guys in their division. I am not sold that he can, but his signing there says a lot. I am sure money was a factor, but he made the right move. It was the right move for him and it was a great pick-up for the UFC. even if Santiago is not top ten in the world he is top 20. This will give Santiago a chance to prove me wrong in my ranking. I hope he does prove me wrong.
I believe respect is due for Santiago for going the tough route. In a world where many guys are ducking the top talent in the UFC, padding hte record against second tier guys and being ranked higher as a result Santiago is jumping in deep waters.
Oh, and I think the fight with Stann is a great fight and a favorable match-up for Santiago.