In one of the most compelling contests at UFC on Fuel TV 6, welterweight mainstays Paulo Thiago and Dong Hyun Kim will rush to step over one another en route to the division's upper echelon.
The two fighters are unofficially ranked pretty close to one another and there is no reason to suspect a blowout, but there is cause to anticipate a win for Kim this Saturday.
Since debuting in the UFC with a knockout win over Josh Koscheck back in 2009, Thiago has posted a 3-4 record, most recently suffering a 0:42 knockout to promotional newcomer Siyar Bahadurzada (the circle of life continues).
A 4-4 record is pretty underwhelming for a name like Paulo Thiago, is it not?
Granted, the Brazilian is probably one of the best .500 fighters in the UFC, his strength of schedule having been what it is. However, hard road aside, looking at Thiago's resume reveals a telling trend.
Since defeating Koscheck, he's been unable to dispatch any highly-regarded fighter over the past three years.
Thiago's wins have come over Jacob Volkmann, Mike Swick and David Mitchell. A couple of solid names there, but no contenders.
His losses, on the other hand, have come almost exclusively against perennial contenders. Jon Fitch, Martin Kampmann, Diego Sanchez—all guys near the top of the division (the jury is still out on Bahadurzada).
So what does that mean for Thiago's UFC on Fuel TV 6 chances?
It means that if Kim is a contender—one of those guys good enough to make the top and stay there—Thiago is in some real trouble.
At 6-2 in the UFC (one loss via unfortunate injury), Kim has often looked like the type of contender Thiago tends to struggle with. While he may not be as accomplished as some of the fighters who have bested Thiago in the past, he isn't far behind. What's more, a win on Saturday just might get him to that next level.
Stylistically, Kim is about as bad as it gets for Thiago. As a smothering grappler and takedown specialist, don't expect Thiago to find many opportunities to sink in a submission or land a big uppercut.
Instead, expect a few rounds of Kim putting Thiago on his back and keeping him there, and to ride that control to a decision win.
The Korean fighter is just too strong to be tossed aside, too wily to be submitted in Thiago's guard and too in need of a W to let this opportunity pass.
What we'll see at UFC on Fuel TV 6 is two good fighters—one just a touch better than the other and the style to nullify his opponent, the other unable to take that next step in his career.
It may not be complete annihilation.
It may not be a barn-burner of a fight.
However, it will be a victory for Kim.
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