UFC 115: Paulo Thiago — Getting To Know the Unlikely Contender
The fans are finally starting to take notice of Paulo Thiago, and it's not hard to see why.
Thiago started his UFC career by blasting Josh Kosecheck and thwarting the UFC's attempt at giving Koscheck a tune-up.
He fought a highly entertaining bout opposite Jacob Volkmann, and then choked Mike Swick out cold earlier this year.
When we originally saw him, his win over Koscheck seemed like a fluke, and it looked as if he might be no more than a flash in the pan.
Since then, we've learned a lot more about Paulo Thiago.
He's Got Nerves Of Steel
When Thiago isn't training for a fight, he's part of Brazil's elite military police force, BOPE.
As part of BOPE, Thiago faces his own mortality on a regular basis when he's part of operations involving hostage situations, bomb defusions, and drug busts.
Thiago's day job has hardened his nerves to the point where no MMA fight could possibly shake him.
Most fighters would have hesitated in facing Josh Koscheck, especially since Koscheck was just coming off a brutal knockout against Yoshiyuki Yoshida.
Rather than hesitating, or attempting to turn the fight into a grappling match, Thiago opted to stand and trade punches with the powerful Koscheck.
Here's Thiago putting an end to Koscheck's night.
Since that time, Thiago has done nothing but enhance his reputation as a fearless competitor.
He's Got Natural Power
When Thiago knocked out Koscheck, most people thought that the punch was a fluke.
His technique may still look a bit awkward, but when he punches people, he hurts them. He knocked down Jacob Volkmann twice, and knocked down Mike Swick before he finished with the submission.
Here Thiago knocks down Jacob Volkmann.
And here he is clobbering Mike Swick.
He's A Serious Grinder
Thiago's fights against Fitch and Volkmann proved how tough Thiago really is.
Fitch and Volkmann are both high-level wrestlers with the capability of grinding their opponents into the mat.
Even though Thiago went 1-1 against this pair, the fights were both gruelling affairs that proved that even if Thiago can't get the quick finish, he's not going to be mentally beaten, and can hang around and compete even against elite level wrestlers.
He's An Ever-Improving Prospect
Thiago has been improving with each and every fight.
It's clear that Thiago has worked on improving his physical fitness and striking technique to compliment his grappling prowess and natural punching power.
Thiago was noticeably larger in his fight with Jon Fitch and has looked even more ripped and shredded since then.
In his fight with Volkmann, he showed that he'd been improving his boxing technique as he no longer dropped his hands, correcting the mistakes that were so noticeable in the Koscheck fight.
In his fight with Swick, Thiago showed off powerful kicking techniques, and perhaps most impressive, some great killer instinct in seamlessly transitioning from strikes to an instantly tight submission.
Here is the finish from that fight.
What's Next For Paulo Thiago?
Given the kind of improvements that he's been making from fight to fight, it shouldn't be surprising that Thiago opened up as a sizable favorite over his next opponent, Martin Kampmann.
Kampmann should own a significant advantage over Thiago in terms of striking technique, but Thiago should have the power advantage, and given the technical improvements that he's been making, it'll be interesting to see how the striking battle plays out.
On the ground, the battle should be very evenly matched, as both are good scramblers, and though Thiago is a submissions expert, he'll need to be very wary of Kampmann's dangerous front headlock series.
If Thiago wins over Kampmann, it will be his third win over a top 10 opponent, and should finally solidify Thiago's status as a UFC contender, and continually rising prospect.
Here is a promo video showing Paulo Thiago as a member of BOPE.
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