When we last left our heroes...it's strange to look at Paulo's career, and reminisce as if he's an old man who was taking names against Fred Simmons types back at UFC 6.
2009 isn't that long ago when you think about it...but that was the year he won fan's hearts by knocking out Josh Koshceck at UFC 95. He's had a lot of tough fights since then, with losses to Diego Sanchez and Dong Hyun Kim, but the actual bouts always seem to highlight an atypical regression to his game. Where did the guy who gave Fitch trouble go and did Siyar Bahadurzada knock it out of him?
He's coming off a win, which even fans of his probably don't know or couldn't remember, over Michel Prazeres.
Opposite Thiago is Brandon Thatch who hasn't lost since 2008 by split decision. Thatch is a massive welterweight, and is coming off a win over the ok Justin Edwards via TKO in the first round. That makes it Brandon's 9th win via finish in the first round.
If he can manage that 1st round finish streak against a fighter with the caliber of Paulo Thiago, then Thatch will likely get a very high profile bout after this; I like a potential bout with Mike Pierce even though I know he's still recovering from having his leg torn by a the psychotic neoplasm that is Rousimar Palhares, but failing that, a Matt Brown (I can't believe he was born the same year as me!) matchup sounds nice.
But not to get ahead of ourselves...
What both men can do: When you watch Thatch you can understand why Georges. St. Pierre brought him in to train for Carlos Condit. His striking is extremely versatile. With a southpaw stance, he loves throwing a left straight, right hook, head kick combination or some variation thereof.
Despite the number of finishes in the first round, he's not some sort of wild, ultrafast brawler. He sets up his strikes well, and simply never wastes time. None of this is to exalt his ability on the feet, or to even compare him to Condit specifically, but he's got plenty of qualities you want out of a fighter at welterweight who stands out amid the crowd of wrestle-boxers.
In addition, he's very quick to throw knees in the clinch, and has a savage muay thai plum. There's not much footage of him from his back, and it's clear he understands what to do on the ground with solid position with top control, especially for ground and pound.
Thiago has his d'Arces, and front chokes, and lately that's been it. I honestly feel like Thiago is a good example of what happens to fighters who simply don't have as much time to dedicate to training away from their full time jobs.
What both men can't do: I basically glossed over everything Thiago does well because well, that feels like who he's become. He was never good on the feet to begin with, but he seems to have zero confidence in throwing what used to be a pretty powerful right hand.
He's a very plodding striker, which is what makes me think Thatch will look very impressive yet again, potentially scoring an early victory. While I still don't know whether or not Thatch is ready for a top 10 WW, I do think he'll beat Thiago in a way that will start turning some heads.
In addition, Thiago will have a very hard time getting this fight to the ground. Even when he's in the clinch or in a good position for a single. Thatch is a very strong kid who will fight like he's immortal while the matchups make it easier for him. I know I seem high on Thatch, and to be honest, it's impossible to tell what his ceiling is, but his potential combined with Thiago's decline and matchup of styles makes this pretty easy to predict in my opinion.
X-Factor: Everyone from the Brazilian crowd who beheaded a referee and put his head on a stake after the ref killed a soccer player in Maranhao is either in jail, or aren't allowed at public sporting events, correct?
Prediction: Brandon Thatch, by TKO, round 2.