There's something about this fight that feels incredibly retro. There are no title shot implications for both men, but both are trending up. Leites is 7-0, and Boetsch is coming off a big win over Brad Tavares. This isn't 2008 is it?
The Match Up
Middleweight Thales Leites -475 vs. Tim Boetsch +380
3 Things You Should Know
1. Leites' winning streak is every bit as good on paper as it is in violent practice. He's better than the guy who fought Anderson Silva for the title at UFC 97.
Whether that manifests itself in a title shot is a different story. After all, the contenders are superior this time around with names like Jacare, Machida, Rockhold, Romero, Mousasi, and the Spider himself. Still, it's silly not to appreciate Leites not only refinding his game, but refining it.
He's come a long way since getting BJ Penn's personal recommendation to Joe Silva. His departure was always a little silly, only losing once after the title fight to Alessio Sakara via split decision, but his style more than anything jilted Silva; the dude was fighting not to lose. Now he's fighting to win via the spectacle of fearsome acts.
2. Boetsch deserves those odds and then some. Consider this blogger a skeptic until proven otherwise. The only two wins in his last five were either arguable, or fortuitous.
For some reason, the concept of luck always receives a little more pushback from the fight community than it does elsewhere. For example, in hockey, fans can accept that well maybe the ref missing an obvious call made a difference. In baseball, the Royals Flush, football, the "tuck rule", et cetera. Whether these were the right or wrong calls is not what I mean; only that enough discussion surrounds them to think that in a different world, things might have gone the other way. Yet fight fans can't stand the idea of something other than hard work and determination as being the only ingredients to success.
Boetsch is hard working, and determined. There's nothing random about throwing a punch intended to hurt. But there can be something random about the circumstances under which that punch is thrown. Just look at Pat Barry vs. Cheick Kongo.
3. This fight is close in close quarters, less so from range where Leites will have a respectable advantage.
Boetsch, lucky or not, excels in close where his brutal uppercuts and Judo throws have become the hallmark of Tim's game. The difference here is that Leites, despite his slim frame, has a fantastic center of gravity, and deftly avoids takedowns with his movement and leverage. In addition, his grappling ability allows him to scramble out of trouble when called upon, and he's the favorite from top control because that's just what his guard passing allows.
Thales is becoming more of a head hunter these days. He looks to have put on a few pounds of muscle, but he's also much smarter than he used to be about when and where to throw that sharp overhand right. While he was always a versatile puncher, he could never commit to a sustained attack. Now he keeps his attacks varied, works angles, and has even developed a killer instinct that was otherwise absent in his last UFC stint.
Could Tim "get lucky"? Of course. Any discussion about luck is not a criticism, nor is it meant to take away from Boetsch's tangible qualities. There is nothing random about Tim's durability, for example. That durability is precisely what earns him opportunities to be "lucky" in the first place. But that same durability has been around for tough losses too, and with Leites trending up, I can't help but think that Tim's "luck" will finally run out.
Thales Leites by TKO, round 3.