(He owns at least one working bicep. That’s a good sign, right?)
Let me be real, son. Anderson Silva vs. Thales Leites is, on paper, the most one-sided UFC title fight since Georges St. Pierre vs. Matt Serra I. And yes, we know how that one turned out, but there’s still no plausible reason to believe that the Thales Leites we’ve seen in the Octagon could beat even the uninterested Anderson Silva we saw against Patrick Cote…or is there?
In the interest of trying to make UFC 97’s main event seem a little more competitive than the oddsmakers think it is, here’s our best attempt at making the very difficult case for Thales Leites.
1. Aside From His UFC Debut, He’s Never Lost an MMA Bout
Losing your Octagon debut is almost a rite of passage for young fighters, like getting screwed by a sponsor or doing something so cool it makes Joe Silva leap out of his chair. Leites lost his first UFC bout via decision to the very credible Martin Kampmann in 2006. Since then, dude’s been hanging nothing but W’s. Okay, his win over Nate Marquardt was highly suspect, but his quick submission over Drew McFedries wasn’t. (Sidenote: how did he go from a win over Marquardt to a bout with McFedries, anyway? Not exactly a step up in competition there.)
2. He Can Take a Shot
Perhaps the only positive for Leites in the split decision win over Marquardt, besides the win bonus, was that he put to rest any questions about his chin. Marquardt kneed him in the face illegally at one point, landed some heavy shots throughout, and still Leites kept coming. That’s important against Silva, because unless you win via flying heelhook in the opening seconds, he’s going to hit you in the face really hard with something sooner or later. Leites has never been knocked out, so maybe he’s the man to stand up to Silva’s power.
3. He Has Nothing to Lose
The good thing about being such a heavy underdog is the complete lack of pressure. Should Leites manage to go the distance with Silva, that would be considered an accomplishment for him. That’s how little anyone expects of him.
4. His Opponent May Not Be 100% Focused on Him
In some dark corner of Anderson Silva’s mind, this fight is not about Leites at all. It’s about sticking it to all the people who blasted him after the Patrick Cote debacle. He’s got to be at least partially motivated by proving his dominance all over again and erasing that bizarre night from people’s memories. That means he may not really be thinking about Leites, or worse yet, might get careless in his quest to end things in devastating fashion and end up getting caught. Between the lingering Cote hangover, his designs on boxing Roy Jones Jr., and the constant jabbering about other potential opponents, there’s a good chance he might be overlooking to very overlookable Leites.
5. It Would Totally Screw the UFC If Leites Became Champ
For some reason, whenever the UFC lays out future plans for fighters that are too specific, or makes fights with the hope that a specific fighter will win, something goes wrong (Cro Cop/Gonzaga, anyone?). To their credit, they’ve learned from that and have mostly veered away from that philosophy. But let’s not kid ourselves, no one in the UFC is excited about the prospect of Leites as the middleweight champ, with the exception of Demian Maia. You think Anderson Silva can’t sell pay-per-views? If Leites is champ even his relatives will decide to save the money and catch the highlights on the internet the next morning. The fact that this fight has such a big potential downside for the UFC only increases the odds that their worst case scenario will come to fruition.
There now, anyone convinced?