UFC 163 Preview: Tom Watson vs. Thales Leites Head-to-Toe Breakdown

James MacDonaldFeatured ColumnistJuly 31, 2013

UFC 163 Preview: Tom Watson vs. Thales Leites Head-to-Toe Breakdown

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    With Jose Aldo and “The Korean Zombie” gobbling up most of the UFC 163 column inches, the underrated Tom “Kong” Watson vs. Thales Leites scrap has flown under the radar.

    While most no doubt remember Leites for his painfully uneventful fight with Anderson Silva at UFC 97, he's been gone three years on a spin outside of the UFC and, in Tom Watson, is facing a fighter who will force him to engage.

    The Brit is nothing if not exciting inside the cage. By his own admission, leaving a lasting impression on the viewers is his No. 1 priority, with winning coming in a distant second.

    That attitude might not secure him the 185-pound strap, but it’ll be music to Dana White’s ears.

    Without any further delay, let’s see how this one breaks down.

Striking

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    While Leites’ striking in the past could at best be described as “functional,” it remains to be seen how much he has improved since he was sent packing from the UFC three years ago.

    Watson, on the other hand, is very much at home on the feet.

    Although he didn’t necessarily put his best foot forward in his fights against Brad Tavares and Stanislav Nedkov, the 32-year-old Brit is one of the most skilled boxers in the middleweight division.

    Should Leites fail to drag this fight to the ground, he’s either in for a short night or a long and painful one.

     

    Edge: Tom Watson

Wrestling

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    This is perhaps the closest category to call.

    Leites’ bread and butter has historically been the ground game, but his issue has always been how to get the fight there.

    His overall MMA record of 20-4, with 12 submissions, would seem to suggest that he’s no slouch in the wrestling department. However, his record probably says more about his opponents' wrestling than his mastery of the double-leg takedown.

    Similarly, Watson has decent wrestling by MMA standards—to be fair, it would probably be considered outstanding by British standards.

    Like Chuck Liddell, the Englishman tends to use his wrestling in reverse, keeping the fight on the feet whenever possible. He does occasionally mix things up, employing some ground-and-pound to complement his stand-up and keep his foes on their toes.

    But if I have to call a winner on this one, I’ll give Watson the slight edge.

     

    Edge: Tom Watson

Submissions

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    This should be Leites' clearest path to victory.

    That being said, Watson is no Lavar Johnson on the ground.

    The former BAMMA middleweight champion has a deceptively slick ground game, so it would be foolish to think that Leites will lock in a fight-ending submission the moment the fight hits the deck.

    Still, the Brazilian has the clear advantage in this area.

     

    Edge: Thales Leites

Experience

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    Neither fighter could in any sense be considered green, so it’s tough to separate them in this area.

    Having said that, Leites has been around for a few more years than the Brit and has fought at the highest level for longer.

    While I doubt experience will be a factor in the fight, I have to give the nod to the former No. 1 contender for the UFC’s middleweight title.

     

    Edge: Thales Leites

Intangibles

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    Watson’s mental strength is arguably one of his best assets.

    The Brit has been in countless career-shortening contests, some of which he looked destined to lose only to come out with his arm raised.

    It’s difficult not to compare this with Leites' submissive performance against Anderson Silva. Unlike Watson, the Brazilian isn’t the type to go all in when it seems like he's overmatched.

     

    Edge: Tom Watson

Prediction

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    I expect Tom Watson to show the kind of form that got fans so excited to see him in the UFC in the first place.

    The Brit’s fights are rarely straightforward, so he may have to battle through some adversity. However, he should have too many tools for the relatively one-dimensional Leites to deal with.

     

    Prediction: Tom Watson by second-round knockout.