UFC on Fuel 6: Is Paulo Thiago Anything More Than a Gatekeeper?

McKinley NobleCorrespondent INovember 9, 2012

Photo Credit: UFC/Zuffa
Photo Credit: UFC/Zuffa

It's the final countdown for Paulo Thiago.

At this very moment, he's rehydrating and resting in preparation for UFC on Fuel 6. He's also staring squarely down the barrel of a 1-3 record from his last four fights, with each one of those losses coming at the hands of the welterweight division's elite.

In fact, that's been the common thread between all the men who have beaten Thiago so far.

Martin Kampmann is sitting at the front of the 170-pound UFC title hunt. Diego Sanchez is riding an exciting 2-1 stretch with three "Fight of the Night" awards—one of them being a competitive loss against Jake Ellenberger.

Even Siyar Bahadurzada made a stellar UFC debut off Thiago, extending a seven-fight winning streak with a first-round knockout victory.

Are we seeing a pattern here?

Is Thiago's opposition really that good, or is the Brazilian special forces officer just a stepping stone for the top of the division?

Maybe it's both. Then again, the men who lost to him are no slouches, either.

Mike Swick and Jacob Volkmann have both revived their careers since being defeated by Thiago, while Josh Koscheck continues to sit at the division's peak. Only David Mitchell is the odd man out on an 0-2 slide, and he's not competing this weekend due to a medically unfit opponent.

But that much evidence alone, thankfully, answers the question for us right now.

For any UFC gatekeeper, the people they beat in the Octagon typically scrub out of the promotion in a matter of years or eek out a living at the bottom of their division. We haven't seen that pattern from Thiago's opponents, and despite his own losses, the strength of competition he's facing is a solid notch above what many other UFC welterweights have dealt with recently.

Thiago is definitely more than a simple gatekeeper, recent losses regardless. Even if he loses to Dong Hyun Kim, the welterweight division is too complex and too full of brilliant fighters to peg the Brazilian with that label just yet.

[McKinley Noble is an MMA conspiracy theorist and FightFans Radio writer. His work has appeared in GamePro, Macworld and PC World. Talk with him on Twitter.]