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Taila Santos in Striking Distance


Taila Santos believes she holds some distinct advantages over her next opponent.

The Ultimate Fighting Championship veteran will seek a 2-0 start to her 2024 Professional Fighters League campaign when she meets the unbeaten Jena Bishop in a featured PFL 4 women’s flyweight prelim on Thursday at the Mohegan Sun Arena in Uncasville, Connecticut. An accomplished Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt, Bishop has submitted four of her first seven professional opponents.

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“I watched her fights,” Santos told Sherdog.com. “I believe that due to her specialty in jiu-jitsu and judo, she will come to grapple, take it to the mat and try to get a submission. Those are her strengths, and I believe she’ll focus on those areas. She seems weaker in striking. You can see that she looks to grapple from the start. She uses her striking timing to take the fight to the mat or against the cage.”

Santos plans to exploit such strategies.

“My roots are in striking,” she said. “I started in muay thai, and I trained in it for several years. I have a lot of experience in that area, and I’ve trained for more than 10 years in wrestling and jiu-jitsu. I’m very complete. Wherever the fight goes, I feel good, I feel comfortable.”

Still best known for her near-upset of then-UFC titleholder Valentina Shevchenko some two years ago, Santos made her intentions known in her promotional debut at PFL 1. There, she needed less than four minutes to put away Ilara Joanne with a rear-naked choke on April 4, moving into prime position to make a run at the PFL’s end-of-season $1 million prize.

“I’m very happy,” Santos said. “I’m grateful to the PFL for the opportunity. I’m very happy with the victory in this first fight. I couldn’t feel any other way. It played out as I expected. I was determined to get this victory. I trained a lot, mentally and physically. I was prepared, and that’s what happened. I went there to get a win, and I came home with it.”

Santos likes the structure of the PFL season.

“I think it’s really cool,” she said. “It’s like adding fuel to the fire, because the athletes start in a hurry, thinking about points and winning in the first round. The fights get hotter. Often, in other promotions, as they have no point system, fighters are more relaxed scoring points and keeping distance. It doesn’t make for such an aggressive fight, but in this grand prix, you can see that the people are coming in more aggressively as they want to get a finish in the first round. That’s important, as the scores are higher.”

Still just 30 years old, Santos hopes to build on her recent success, become the first woman to defeat Bishop and move one step closer to locking up a spot in the PFL playoffs at 125 pounds.

“My first PFL fight was a submission win. My opponent had more aggressive striking,” she said. “In this fight, as I said, I believe she will want things to play out in her area. I’m prepared to win either by submission or knockout. It can go either way.”
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