Is New and Improved Thales Leites Contender Material?

Thales Leites has found a way to bring his mixed martial arts career full circle. A little more than five years ago he was jettisoned from the Ultimate Fighting Championship and an afterthought in the middleweight division. Now, not only has he returned to the largest stage in MMA; he’s put himself into a position where he should begin to receive consideration as a potential name to watch in the 185-pound group.

After his split-decision defeat at the hands of Alessio Sakara at UFC 101, Leites found himself outside of the UFC and looking for work. From that point forward, the Rio De Janeiro, Brazil native turned his career around in a way that very few individuals can after receiving a UFC pink slip. Leites has put together a 10-1 record, that includes four straight wins since being brought back into the promotion in 2013. His current run has allowed him to reach the 11th spot on the current UFC rankings.

However, one must wonder if this new and improved Thales Leites is a true contender in a new-look middleweight division. According to his stats provided by Fight Metric, Leites is much of the same fighter that earned a title shot years ago; except for one recent new wrinkle. The Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu black belt has found the ability to finish opponents by knockout to go along with his high-level grappling. When he knocked out Trevor Smith at UFC Fight Night: Minotauro vs. Nelson, he earned his first KO victory in nearly 10 years. He then followed up that performance months later by becoming the first man to knockout Francis Carmont in a decade.

Quite the resurgence for a fighter that could have faded away to obscurity. Leites recognizes the importance of finishing fighters at this point in his career.

“I will always try to finish the fight before the decision,” Leites said to Guilherme Cruz of MMA Fighting. “We’re fighting in a big promotion, with high-level athletes, and sometimes it won’t happen.”

Leites has taken the opportunity to seize the moment as he’s started calling out bigger-named opponents in the middleweight division. He took to that same interview to reiterate his thoughts about facing Michael Bisping next.

“He’s [Bisping] well ranked, has a big name, and I think it would be great if we fight,” Leites said. “It can be in Brazil or England. I think it would be an interesting fight” (via MMA Fighting).

Since then, Bisping has been paired with Luke Rockhold (via Sherdog) but that still leaves a number of other interesting matchups for the Brazilian competitor. With one or two more victories, Leites can find himself on the short list of men ready to face the champion, or be placed in a title-eliminator in 2015. Not many fighters have found a way to turn around their career in such a dramatic way after being cut by the UFC. Thales Leites has proved that it’s possible and his story is yet to be complete.

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Bellator 125 Results: Melvin Manhoef Earns Title Shot with Knockout Win

Bellator‘s final stretch of weekly shows continues plugging on, this time with Bellator 125. 

The main event featured Doug Marshall and Melvin Manhoef in an intriguing middleweight tilt. Both fighters are renowned for their savage knockout skills and when the two came together, the fight ended as one would expect; shortly after it began and in devastating fashion.

Manhoef stalked Marshall right from the get-go, peppering him with punches and landing his signature devastating leg kicks. A kick to the cup interrupted the action, but shortly after things restarted, Manhoef suckered Marshall with a feint and landed a devastating right hand to the back of his foe’s head. Marshall flopped to the mat face-first from the impact, and the fight was immediately waved off (you can see the finish yourself here).

After the official decision, it was announced that Manhoef had earned a shot at Bellator‘s middleweight title opposite the winner of next week’s championship bout between Alexander Shlemenko and Brandon Halsey. A fight between Manhoef and Shlemenko would be a tantalizing matchup between contrasting strikers, while a match with Halsey could result in an overnight star for the promotion.

Outside the headliner, it was a huge night for Bellator prospects.

In the co-main event, Rafael Carvalho impressed with his win over Bellator favorite Brian Rogers. While Rogers, like Marshall and Manhoef, is notorious for his lethal striking, it was Carvalho who walked away with the knockout victory, rocking the veteran standing before finishing him with punches from behind.

Rounding out the main card, Japanese BJJ hotshot Goiti Yamauchi earned a great first-round submission win over Martin Stapleton while Julio Cesar Neves advanced to 30-0 by knocking out WEC veteran Poppies Martinez. 

The full results are as follows (h/t CagePotato.com):

Main Card

Melvin Manhoef def. Doug Marshall via KO (punch), 1:45 of round 1.
Rafael Carvalho def. Brian Rogers via TKO (punches), 3:06 of round 1.
Javy Ayala def. Raphael Butler via submission (rear naked choke), 1:03 of round 1.
Goiti Yamauchi def. Martin Stapleton via submission (rear naked choke), 4:37 of round 2.

Preliminary Card

Matt Ramirez def. Oscar Ramirez via submission (armbar), 0:42 of round 1. Chris Honeycutt def. Aaron Wilkinson via TKO (punches), 4:45 of round 2.
Julio Cesar Neves def. Poppies Martinez via TKO (strikes), 2:16 of round 1.
Jonny Bonilla-Bowman def. Art Becerra via split decision (28-29, 29-28, 29-28).
Jesse Juarez def. Ron Keslar via unanimous decision(29-28, 29-28, 29-28).
George Zuniga def. Granson Clark via TKO (punches), 0:34 of round 1.

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UFC Fight Night 52: Results and Recap from Saitama, Japan

UFC Fight Night 52 delivered in the wee hours of the morning. From the undercard to the main card, the card from the land of the rising sun gave fans of MMA action throughout.

The card was capped off by a heavyweight tilt between Mark Hunt and Roy Nelson.

It was everything people wanted it to be and more, complete with a walk-away KO from Hunt.

In the co-main event, Myles Jury announced himself as a legitimate contender in the lightweight division. He dispatched the former PRIDE champion in quick order by TKO. He looked phenomenal against a solid competitor.

Four more main card bouts were on the slate as well. UFC Fight Night 52 had a little bit of everything for the audience.

This is a look back at the fantastic card that came your way on early Saturday morning.

 

Mark Hunt vs. Roy Nelson

The two heavy-handed heavyweights had a tentative first round, but they got into a few exchanges. It was relatively even. They seemed to be trying to find their range in the opening five minutes more than anything else.

Nelson got a takedown early in the second, but Hunt was able to work back to his feet without issue. Nelson was able to open up more with his strikes, and Hunt appeared to slow down. Slow or not, Hunt still possesses big power and top-level technique. He utilized his counterpunching effectively to touch up Nelson as he pressed forward.

Finally, Hunt landed the uppercut that torched Nelson. The referee saved him from further punishment.

An outstanding KO.

 

Myles Jury vs. Takanori Gomi

If you were on the fence about Myles Jury, now you are not. He took out Gomi with ease in under a round.

Jury dropped Gomi, followed up with ground and pound and got the stoppage. Jury has silently built a good resume. There is little doubt he is a true contender in the lightweight division. Now it is time for the UFC to book him against a top-five fighter to build a challenger.

 

Yoshihiro Akiyama vs. Amir Sadollah

Two fighters coming off long layoffs is usually not a recipe for an exciting fight, but on Saturday it was.

Akiyama looked sharp in the first round, but Sadollah was not out of his depth. Sadollah has always been a crafty fighter who can stun his opposition in areas where they are stronger. Akiyama was not able to continually take him down for threat of a submission.

In the second round, Akiyama’s power came out. He rocked Sadollah on the feet and pounced. Sadollah covered up well to avoid getting stopped, but it was the biggest bit of offense in the fight to that point. The clean punches were enough to put the fight firmly in Akiyama’s favor.

Akiyama was in full control in the third frame and rode out the round until the judges rendered their decision. A solid return performance from Akiyama where he battered Sadollah the deeper the fight went.

 

Miesha Tate vs. Rin Nakai

Tate showed the difference between an elite bantamweight and a one with a padded record in the first round. It was dominance. In the second, however, she got into a bit of trouble by allowing Nakai to take her back. She was able to shrug her off and got into top position.

Once on top, she continued to show her superiority. She got tossed to the ground again in the third but was able to defend easily. Tate has some work to do to avoid these positions against more accomplished fighters, but she was never in any real danger.

This was a mismatch and it showed. A good win for Tate.

 

Kiichi Kunimoto vs. Richard Walsh

Walsh came out like a ball of fire. He hurt Kunimoto early, but the Japanese fighter was able to quickly recover. However, it wasn’t long until Walsh hurt Kunimoto again and busted him open. Kunimoto showed his toughness and stayed alive in the fight.

Walsh dared Kunimoto to strike him. He sensed he could get the finish, but Kunimoto was able to do enough grappling to survive the first round.

Kunimoto tried to get his grappling going in the second frame, but Walsh showcased outstanding takedown defense.

Kunimoto finally was able to do some successful grappling in the third. He got Walsh’s back, and locked in a body triangle to maintain position while seeking a submission. Unfortunately for Kunimoto, Walsh’s submission defense was on point.

In spite of that performance, the judges gave Kunimoto a split decision win. Highlighting, seemingly on every card, just how poor MMA judging is.

 

Kyoji Horiguchi vs. Jon Delos Reyes

Horiguchi took it to Reyes right out of the gate. Reyes looked to be a game opponent but when you get rocked the game plans go out the window.

Horiguchi stunned Reyes early, but he was unable to finish the fight. He hurt Reyes again later in the first round, and that time the referee was forced to step in to stop the bout. It was a big win for the Japanese fighter on home soil.

It was a fun way to kick off the main card after a stellar undercard that saw some fantastic fights excite the crowd.

 

Quick Results

  • Mark Hunt defeated Roy Nelson by KO at 3:00 of the second round
  • Myles Jury defeats Takanori Gomi by TKO at 1:32 of the first round
  • Yoshihiro Akiyama defeats Amir Sadollah by unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 30-27)
  • Miesha Tate defeats Rin Nakai by unanimous decision (29-28, 30-27, 30-27)
  • Kiichi Kunimoto defeats Richard Walsh by split decision (29-28, 28-29, 29-28)
  • Kyoji Horiguchi defeated Jon Delos Reyes by TKO at 3:48 of the first round
  • Masanori Kanehara defeated Alex Caceres by unanimous decision (29-28, 29-28, 29-28)
  • Katsunori Kikuno defeated Sam Sicilia via submission (rear naked choke) at 1:38 of the second round
  • Hyun Gyu Lim defeated Takenori Sato by TKO at 1:18 of the first round
  • Kyung Ho Kang defeated Michinori Tanaka by split decision (29-28, 28-29, 29-28)
  • Johnny Case defeated Kazuki Tokudome via submission (guillotine choke) at 2:34 of the second round
  • Maximo Blanco defeated Daniel Hooker by unanimous decision (29-28, 29-28, 29-28)

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UFC Fight Night 52 Results: Winners, Scorecards from Hunt vs. Nelson Fight Card

Mark Hunt’s record might not be impressive, but when he wins, you are entertained. Early Saturday morning, the Super Samoan knocked out “Big Country” Roy Nelson with an uppercut in the second round of the main event at UFC Fight Night 52 in Saitama, Japan.

The 40-year-old Hunt improved to 10-8-1 with the win and kept his name in the mix of “elite” heavyweights in the UFC.

Quite honestly, there isn’t very much to choose from when doling out the “e” word. There are Cain Velasquez, Fabricio Werdum and everybody else. It seems every other heavyweight is competing to see who is going to be beaten up next by the winner of the Velasquez vs. Werdum tussle at UFC 180 in Mexico.

Many of them have already proved to be inferior by the top two big men in the company.

In the co-feature, Myles Jury resoundingly announced himself as a contender by extinguishing the “Fireball Kid” Takanori Gomi in just over 90 seconds.

Here’s a look at the official results from every fight on the card:

  • Mark Hunt defeats Roy Nelson by KO at 3:00 of the second round
  • Myles Jury defeats Takanori Gomi by TKO at 1:32 of the first round
  • Yoshihiro Akiyama defeats Amir Sadollah by unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 30-27)
  • Miesha Tate defeats Rin Nakai by unanimous decision (29-28, 30-27, 30-27)
  • Kiichi Kunimoto defeats Richard Walsh by split decision (29-28, 28-29, 29-28)
  • Kyoji Horiguchi defeats Jon Delos Reyes by TKO at 3:48 of the first round
  • Masanori Kanehara defeats Alex Caceres by unanimous decision (29-28, 29-28, 29-28)
  • Katsunori Kikuno defeats Sam Sicilia via submission (rear naked choke) at 1:38 of the second round
  • Hyun Gyu Lim defeats Takenori Sato by TKO at 1:18 of the first round
  • Kyung Ho Kang defeats Michinori Tanaka by split decision (29-28, 28-29, 29-28)
  • Johnny Case defeats Kazuki Tokudome via submission (guillotine choke) at 2:34 of the second round
  • Maximo Blanco defeats Daniel Hooker by unanimous decision (29-28, 29-28, 29-28)

 

Biggest Winners

Hunt

Let’s face it: It doesn’t take much to be considered a top-notch heavyweight in the UFC these days. If Alistair Overeem has not only escaped the cut line but also continues to get fights consistently, it’s obvious there are slim pickings in the division.

Hunt’s win over Nelson not only gave him a win over a big name but it also solidified him as perhaps the most exciting fighter in the division.

He has only been in one fight since 2011 that didn’t end in a finish, and that bout was against Antonio “Bigfoot” Silva in one of the greatest heavyweight fights ever.

As long as Hunt keeps bringing the excitement, he’ll stay in good favor with the company, and fans will continue to enjoy his bouts.

 

Jury

In case you hadn’t noticed, Jury is 15-0. In his last five fights, he has defeated Michael Johnson, Ramsey Nijem, Diego Sanchez, Mike Ricci and now Gomi. This latest win was perhaps the most impressive yet.

Gomi is a little long in the tooth, but he’s known for his toughness. He had never been knocked out before Saturday. The fact that the fight took place in the Japanese legend’s home country makes Jury’s performance even better.

Jury found Gomi guilty of impeding his climb to legitimacy in the lightweight division. His fists dished a harsh sentence, and now Jury’s name is one of the hottest at 155 pounds in the UFC.

 

Horiguchi

At just 23 years old, Horiguchi is well on his way to higher placement on future UFC cards. If he keeps winning the way he did on Saturday morning, he might reap even sweeter benefits.

Horiguchi is now on an eight-fight win streak, and that includes a 3-0 run in the UFC. On Saturday, he finished Reyes inside the first round. Horiguchi added Reyes to a UFC-conquered list that includes Darrell Montague and Dustin Pague.

The bantamweight division is obviously one of the toughest to make a mark in, so a title shot is still a ways away. But we should keep our eyes peeled for this man in the future.

 

Follow Brian Mazique on Twitter. I dig boxing and MMA.

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UFC Fight Night 52 Results: 3 Fights to Make for Myles Jury

By crushing Japanese veteran Takanori Gomi at UFC Fight Night 52, Myles Jury advanced to 6-0 in the UFC and 15-0 overall. Jury is one of the hottest names to come off of The Ultimate Fighter in recent years, and he has looked utterly dominant of late. 

However, in spite of his success, Jury finds himself on the outside looking in when it comes to the lightweight title picture, courtesy of an overabundance of potential contenders. Because of that, the next fight for Jury is critical in terms of advancing toward the belt.

So who could he fight that will help him stake a claim for a title shot? Who could the UFC want to keep building him up? Who makes the most sense for him as an opponent overall? Find out right here!

 

Khabib Nurmagomedov

The young man from Dagestan may be recovering from knee surgery, but if the early projections are to be believed, we could see him get back into the cage relatively soon. With Gilbert Melendez set to fight Anthony Pettis for the belt in December and Eddie Alvarez and Donald Cerrone facing off in a possible top-contender bout, both Jury and Nurmagomedov will need to put in an impressive effort if they want to get a title shot in early 2015. 

So…why not just fight for it?

Nurmagomedov is already deserving of a title shot given his utter dominance over high-level competition. He is doubly deserving from an “MMA Math” perspective given how Rafael dos Anjos (whom he beat in April) just knocked out former lightweight champion Ben Henderson. Still, MMA is a “what have you done for me lately” business, and if Alvarez and Cerrone put on a good show, we could easily see both Jury and Nurmagomedov get lost in the shuffle.

For Jury, this fight is a great opportunity to trampoline toward a title shot. For Nurmagomedov, this is…well—he doesn’t care. He’ll fight anybody.

 

Joe Lauzon

So you might not have realized it, but the UFC has actually been quietly grooming Myles Jury. He showed himself to be a special talent from the get-go by beating Michael Johnson and Ramsey Nijem (both of whom have since gone on to prove themselves as solid fighters), and the UFC has been helping him to build his brand since…mostly at the expense of established veterans.

This is what some (and by “some” I mean “I”) like to call the “Jon Jones Treatment.” The UFC knows Jury could be a top talent for a long while, and rather than throwing him to the dogs, the promotion has been letting him organically expand his skill set while keeping him busy and in the news by feeding him recognizable names.

Joe Lauzon is a recognizable, popular veteran who is on a recent upswing. If the UFC wants to keep sharpening Jury’s teeth, a fight between the two makes sense.

 

Rafael dos Anjos

Rafael dos Anjos and Myles Jury are easily the two most underappreciated fighters among the top 10 in the lightweight division. Both of them own emphatic, impressive wins over high-level competition, yet they continue to toil in obscurity.

So why not have them fight one another?

The matchup is an intriguing clash between a young, athletic hotshot and a refined, crafty veteran. Both are formidable all over the cage and come from top-level camps (Jury from Alliance MMA and dos Anjos from Evolve MMA). The two would almost certainly combine for an exciting, technical matchup, and attaching such a fight to a blockbuster card such as UFC 182 would be a great way to help build them up.

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