UFC 95 is probably an event that Jon Fitch's teammate Josh Koscheck would prefer to forget. Fresh off a stunning knockout victory of Yoshiyuki Yoshida at UFC Fight for the Troops in which Koscheck immediately gained new fans for his headhunting style, Koscheck met newcomer Paulo Thiago in a fight that many fans considered a squash match for Koscheck to end in spectacular fashion.
For the first three minutes of the bout, Koscheck forged into Thiago's range and threw heavy-handed bombs at the Brazilian submission specialist. Thiago tried to hang standing with Koscheck for most of the round, but it was evident that he had a much weaker striking game. Close to the 3:20 mark in the round, that all changed with an uppercut that found its mark on Koscheck's chin. Referee Marc Goddard stepped in to stop the bout, and a visibly upset Josh Koscheck denounced Goddard's decision. However you may feel about the stoppage, Paulo Thiago had beaten the odds and pulled off a surprise upset win.
Fast forward to Saturday night in which Paulo Thiago will have a chance to prove that he's no fluke. He'll take on Koscheck teammate and AKA member Jon Fitch in what is once again looking to be a squash match for the UFC to feature Jon Fitch.
What tells the tale that this could be a squash match? First and foremost, Paulo Thiago isn't a striking phenom. In fact, he looked appalling in his stand-up technique up until the flash knockout of Josh Koscheck at UFC 95. He was easily rattled by Koscheck's aggression and power, and he was taking substantial damage early. The major difference here is that Fitch won't be headhunting for Thiago. Jon Fitch is one wrestler who has avoided the trap of trying to win bonuses and fans by winging booming overhands.
The other reason I think Fitch has a high chance of winning this matchup is that he's much more experienced and flat-out better than Paulo Thiago in every aspect of this fight. He is one of the toughest welterweights to submit, and he possesses a very formidable top control wrestling game that I believe will smother Thiago if it goes to the ground. I'm also on the bandwagon that Fitch will be able to outstrike Thiago fairly easily without giving up his chin to the uppercut.
We're talking about a fighter who went 9-1 in his last 10 fights in the UFC, only losing to the champion Georges St. Pierre in an absolute war of a fight. Who would you go with?
Thiago doesn't offer much in terms of danger to Fitch's reign as a top-level fighter. His biggest strength is his ground acumen in the submission game, but Fitch has powerful wrestling and strength to nullify any opportunities that Thiago can muster. I'm calling for a quick win by Fitch in this matchup, and there really isn't anything intriguing about the fight that can be said for Thiago. If he can win this matchup, it'll be the Cinderella story of 2009. If he loses, I'm afraid we'll probably see Paulo Thiago trail off into obscurity in the middle of the division.
UFC 100 coverage