(Thales Leites in action against Anderson Silva. Zuffa/Josh Hedges image)
It has been just over a year since Thales Leites left the UFC following back to back losses. One of those losses was for the middleweight title when he took on Anderson Silva, and he received his marching orders after dropping a split decision to Alessio Sakara. Since then, Leites has posted a 3-1 record with wins over the likes of Jesse Taylor and Dean Lister.
The Brazilian was eager to return to winning ways after a loss to Matt Horwich, and he stepped up to the plate to face top Swedish middleweight Tor Troeng when Murilo Bustamante was forced to withdraw.
Leites impressed after dominating the first round and finishing in the second. Following the bout he told FIGHT!, “I was ready to fight fifteen minutes,” despite the late notice.
Troeng hadn’t lost a fight since April of 2008 and had seven wins from his last eight outings, with six finishes in that time. Leites knew that he would be a formidable adversary and took every precaution in his game plan.
“Anything could have happened in this fight,” he noted. “Nobody knows the future and nobody could say ‘this fight will end in the first or second round’, but in my mind I didn’t want to leave the fight in the judges’ hands.
“I was trying to knock him out or submit him. Fortunately, in the second round, when he took me down I could sweep him. Then I took the mount and the back and didn’t let him escape this time. I kept it tight and waited for the opportunity to choke him.”
Leites was in the line of fire for criticism after the loss to Silva for the title, with his unwillingness to engage with the champion being the key issue. As bouts with Nate Marquardt and Martin Kampmann showed, however, it wasn’t the Brazilian’s nature to shy away from a fight.
It’s something he has tried to rectify since and now he is adamant that he’s working hard on all areas of his game to come out and perform up to the standard we know he is capable of.
“I was trying to prove my stand-up game but he’s tall and it was quite difficult to close the distance because he has long arms and legs,” Thales noted of his game plan.
“I knew on the ground that he’s pretty dangerous too,” he continued. “I had my strategy with my coach. Once we’re on the ground with this guy, don’t let him have any space. Tight game every time.”
The approach worked as the pair tussled on the mat. Leites came close to locking on an arm-triangle and Troeng was saved by the bell when he was caught in a very tight armbar at the end of the round. The Nova Uniao middleweight noted, “I could feel it going. I just needed another two or three seconds.”
Ultimately, Troeng’s defensive Jiu Jitsu couldn’t match Leites’ offence, and the end came after 3:33 of the second round. It puts Leites back on the winning track and now he is gunning for a Superior Challenge title, after being impressed by the quality of the top European show.
“Man, I dunno what’s next,” he mused when asked about his future. “I want to fight here again for the belt. I don’t know who has it at 84kgs, but I definitely want to fight for it.
“I want to fight everywhere. I’m young, I don’t have any injury to make me stop and I want to fight until God says I can’t.”
At 29-years old and looking like there are many years left in the tank, it won’t be long until Leites is fighting in one of the major promotions once again if Friday night’s performance can serve as any measure of his conviction. He has the skills to make an impact within the middleweight elite and he wants to put a couple of disappointing performances in the UFC’s Octagon behind him and prove that he’s a true fighter, willing to put on a show for the fans.