from Sweden will mark the Octagon debut of another trumpeted overseas fighter in welterweight 2Siyar Bahadurzada, who draws the ever-game Brazilian Paulo Thiago. The bout is set for the event's main card, which is headlined by Alexander Gustafsson vs. Thiago Silva and airs on Fuel TV this Saturday, April 14th, at 3 p.m. ET.
Siyar "The Great" Bahadurzada (20-4) is a longtime Shooto light-heavyweight (183-pounds) champion and member of the renowned Golden Glory team, but vacated his Shooto title to fight in the UFC and parted ways with Golden Glory earlier this year. Siyar was born in Afghanistan and relocated to the Netherlands at age 15, where he hooked up with Martin de Jong at the Tatsujin Dojo to build upon his unpolished penchant for fighting.
Making his debut in 2002 at age 18, the first half of his career was promising. Competing mostly in the Holland branch of Shooto, Bahadurzada had compiled a 12-2-1 record with a balanced finishing ratio (5 submissions, 4 TKOs) and, after fighting in Japan for the first time, secured Shooto's world light-heavyweight crown. Bahadurzada was more widely recognized throughout the second half of his career and drew bigger names while expanding his horizons on the global stage.
He would suffer his last two defeats shortly after against two prestigious overseas standouts: Kazuo Misaki, the former Pride Welterweight (183-pounds) Grand Prix who recently upset Paul Daley in Strikeforce, would fit him with a guillotine in his Sengoku debut. Jorge Santiago, who had just flying-kneed his way to becoming the Strikeforce Middleweight Grand Prix champion and dropped two in the UFC last year, submitted him with a heel-hook in the 2008 Sengoku Middleweight Grand Prix semis. He would go on to defend his Shooto crown successfully twice and then drop to welterweight for the United Glory tournament. He's currently riding a 6-fight streak with 5 TKO stoppages.
Paulo Thiago (14-3) shocked the world in his Octagon debut by clubbing Josh Koscheck with a 1st-round TKO at UFC 95. He's a member of BOPE, which is the Brazilian police's elite Special-Ops battalion, and fights with the cold and unflinching composure that you'd expect from someone of that profession.
Thiago is a slick BJJ black belt who excels with technical sweeps and attacking with submissions from the front-headlock position. However, he's always a welcome addition to a UFC fight card because of his unbridled aggression and balls-out, head-hunting style of brawling. With a boxing arsenal anchored by his left hook, Thiago heaves each strike with everything he's got. He has a counter-striking acumen similar to Dennis Siver's in that, out of nowhere, he shifts gears and erupts with a cannonade of wide, looping hooks rather than methodically plugging holes at a reserved rate.
Though he was immediately thrown in with the top clique of welterweights, Thiago's held his own, having posted a 4-3 record with every loss coming by way of hard-fought decisions from divisional frontrunners (Jon Fitch, Martin Kampmann, Diego Sanchez). He's fresh off a commanding decision over David Mitchell at UFC 134 last August.
Gifs and analysis in the full entry.
Describing someone as violent has become a bit cliche, but it's all too fitting for Bahadurzada. He and Thiago both hurl loopers with malicious intent and will never be accused of point fighting. Siyar is an overwhelming kickboxer with cinder-block fists and damaging knees from the clinch. He's finished half his wins by TKO, he's never been stopped by strikes and typically marches through counter shots while they bounce off his steel-plated beard, seemingly unnoticed. In his latest sequence, Bahadurzada trampled former UFC welterweights Derrick Noble and John Alessio with 1st-round TKOs, and Paul Daley is the only other fighter to stop Alessio with strikes.
Siyar's style hearkens back to the infamous Chute Boxe fighters who threw caution to the wind and dedicated every ounce of energy toward destroying their adversaries as quickly and brutally as possible. He's strong in the clinch with good balance and generally defends takedowns by spearing linear knees to the midsection. While he's not an experienced wrestler, he's still tough to move around or control and his submission grappling has come along nicely.
Siyar might be a little unfamiliar with combat in a cage after his years in the ring, but he's spent time training in the states with the likes of Jason "Mayhem" Miller.
The way Thiago unhinged Mike Swick at UFC 109 was a nice representation of his scintillating double-threat offense. To the right, notice how much power and whip he puts on each of the rocket-fueled counters. He's building up so much torque with the twisting of his core that it's more like swinging a two-handed shot-put than throwing traditional punches.
In this regard he's like Bahadurzada, though Thiago picks his spots to empty the clip where as Siyar's trigger is pretty much stuck on automatic fire. The key ingredient in the Swick sequence is that Thiago nose-dived onto Swick and quickly cinched up a D'arce choke from the top to finish him off.
The crafty stoppage showed his diversity and intelligence which, along with his technical BJJ skills, make Thiago much more than just a primitive savage. To the left he pulls off a cunning Balloon Sweep on Diego Sanchez and almost transitions to full mount. Thiago is wise from the bottom and stays active while looking to create a scramble or kick his opponent's hips away from butterfly guard to escape.
Both aggressors have been open to eating shots when they commit to combinations but their chins have been resilient enough to see them through.
I'm on board with the narrow margin for Thiago on the betting lines. He's fought and defeated a higher level of competition than Siyar, has the same type of incredulous chin and can fall back on his sturdy submission grappling if necessary.
It is worth noting that the only top striker Thiago has faced is Kampmann, who relied more on his ground prowess than his striking to defeat him. Thiago has generally been the one trying to keep the fight upright against a grappler, but he might want to employ his under-rated Judo in the form of clinch takedowns to get a respite from Bahadurzada's unrelenting stand up.
My Prediction: Paulo Thiago by submission.
Thiago vs. Sanchez gif via Zombie Prophet of IronForgesIron.com
All others courtesy of Damn Severn