Anderson Silva is set to defend his UFC MW title against Thales Leites at UFC 97. I've read all type of comments in regards to this match up being signed, some I agree with and some are down right pathetic. Would I like to see Anderson Silva against Chuck Liddell instead? Damn right! Do I think Yushin Okami is the legitimate #1 contender? Absolutely, but he has a fight coming up in a couple of days and would not be ready to face Silva in such a short time span more than likely. Do I think Thales Leites deserves a shot at Anderson Silva? No, not really. So why am I saying that Leites has a shot at defeating Anderson Silva? Check it:
Anderson Silva has ran through a who's who list in the UFC MW division. He's taken out brawlers, well rounded fighters, a guy well versed in submissions, and a strong wrestler. Out of all of those fights, the one fighter that had Silva in a tough predicament is the guy that was well versed in submissions. Guess what Thales Leites specializes in? Submissions. In fact, submission victories account for 64% of his entire win total and he is a legitimate BJJ blackbelt.
The Marquardt fight tells me all I need to know about Leites. Marquardt is one of the larger more athletic guys in the MW division, and he couldnt' put Leites away with a relentless barrage of ground and pound. Leites proved that he is extremely durable and difficult to put away, surviving that huge illegal knee in the first round that would have put most guys out of the fight. He showed a serviceable stand up game against Marquardt, but that's not where he wants to fight Silva.
Anderson Silva loves to feel out his opponent for the first couple minutes of the fight. He uses that time to gauge distance and get a sense of timing for his opponents. Then he explodes with a variety of moves, sometimes it's a flying knee or the straight left. Silva likes to entertain and if he goes for a flying knee or something spectacular Leites could get the take down to work his magic. Leites had Marquardt mounted a couple of times only to let Marquardt either escape or reclaim half/full guard. As I mentioned earlier, Marquardt is one of the larger/stronger guys of the MW division and an accomplished grappler in his own right. So I'm not so sure that Silva would be able to escape being mounted by Leites. I would also like to think that Leites has watched the Marquardt fight and tighten up the errors that he made on the ground in that fight.
Not only do we have a dangerous opponent for Silva, it is a real possibility that Silva could overlook Leites. Those two variables are the main ingredients in the recipe for an upset. Silva has mentioned possible retirement, and only wanting to fight in big fights for the remainder of his contract. Could he come into this fight over zealous in his pursuit to correct the bad taste left in the mouths of fans, as a result of how his bout against Patrick Cote ended? Yep.
I'm not saying that Leites is going to come out and steam roll Anderson Silva to become the new UFC MW champion. What I'm saying is this. This fight is signed now and there's nothing you can do about it. Stop whining and complaining about who deserves this or that, and put your biases aside as to who you want Anderson Silva to fight. If you don't think Thales Leites poses a serious threat to Anderson Silva then you must be kidding yourselves. In fact, he's a much more dangerous opponent to Silva than Cote ever was.