WelterweightsDong Hyun Kim (15-2-1, 6-2, 1 NC , UFC) vs. Paulo Thiago (14-4, 4-4 UFC)
The Matchup: Once known as an unbeaten welterweight and a matchup nightmare, Kim has suffered traumatic setbacks in two of his last three outings. A flying knee from Carlos Condit knocked the Korean from the ranks of the undefeated at UFC 132, and a bizarre rib injury ended his night in just 47 seconds against Demian Maia at UFC 148.
Meanwhile, Thiago suffered a similarly devastating loss to Siyar Bahadurzada at UFC on Fuel TV 2, when he was caught with a counter right hand and finished in 42 seconds. That makes three losses in four bouts for Thiago, who was once a world-ranked 170-pound talent.
With that in mind, there is plenty of incentive for both fighters to put forth a good showing in order to avoid sliding further down the welterweight rankings.
Kim’s formula for success has been pretty basic, as he uses constant pressure to force tie-ups and set up takedowns. Before he ran into Condit, his mix of judo and wrestling allowed him to dictate the action in many of his fights, most notably a three-round verdict over Nate Diaz at UFC 125. While “Stun Gun” displayed little to no standup earlier in his career, he has improved in that area. Nobody is going to confuse him with a K-1 level striker, but Kim is capable of countering effectively, and he can land low kicks and crisp, straight punches to keep his opponents off balance.
On the feet, Thiago is better as a counter striker, waiting to step in with power punches once his foe forces the action. That measured approach will not work as well against Kim, who will use his offense to close distance.
Kim’s judo background makes it difficult to think Thiago will be able to get the better of tie-ups – the Korean is a big 170 pounder who can toss him to the mat. Once Kim gets on top, he does a solid job of limiting his opponent’s offensive options. Thiago is composed and has an active submission game on the mat, but he must be opportunistic in creating scrambles and in reversals. Otherwise, he risks being blanketed by Kim.
The Pick: Unless either man can land something significant on the feet, this becomes a chess match on the ground. It won’t necessarily be thrilling, but a relentless Kim emerges with a narrow decision.
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