UFC 121 Fight Card: What Paulo Thiago Must Do To Beat Diego Sanchez

Jon LeeCorrespondent IOctober 19, 2010

Since Paulo Thiago and Diego Sanchez are each coming off a loss in his last fight, the desperation in this contest will be palpable.

If Diego loses, it would be his third loss in a row, which usually spells getting cut in the UFC.

If Thiago loses, he will certainly fall from his top-10 rank in the Welterweight division, and he'll be just one loss away from being cut entirely.

Since winning the first season of The Ultimate Fighter, Sanchez has been on a roller-coaster ride through the Welterweight and Lightweight divisions. Though Sanchez was once thought of as a future champion, his future now looks hazy.

Paulo Thiago is a certified badass. In addition to competing in the UFC, he's a member of Batalhão de Operações Especiais, the elite unit of special forces police in Brazil.

He burst onto the scene with a surprising knockout of current No. 1 contender Josh Koscheck. He then lost to Jon Fitch, who shockingly took Thiago down and controlled him but didn't finish. Since that loss, Thiago has submitted Mike Swick and lost a decision to Martin Kampmann.

If Thiago is going to win this fight, he must keep it standing. As we saw when Sanchez fought B.J. Penn, if you can stuff his takedown attempts, he becomes a much easier fighter to beat. Thiago should work first on defending or avoiding takedowns with his speed. If he is taken down, he needs to fight the urge to try for a submission or to pull guard and get back to his feet.

Sanchez's fight with John Hathaway turned on a huge knee landed by Hathaway. He was able to land that knee because Diego came in wildly and made a huge mistake: He put his head down. If Sanchez gets sloppy like this again, Thiago must capitalize with knees and uppercuts.

Sanchez's pure strength gives him a noticeable advantage when it comes to wrestling, so Thiago should avoid trying to use his judo unless the perfect opportunity arises. Sanchez is not quite the wrestler that Fitch is, but he is better than Kampmann, who dominated Thiago on the ground. Thiago has got to be careful when attacking to avoid getting taken down and controlled.

Overall, I expect Paulo Thiago to be able to keep this fight standing long enough to either knock out Diego Sanchez or win an unanimous decision.