Photo via Jon Kopaloff
MMAmania's Brian Hemminger takes a closer look at Saturday's UFC Macau main card fight between welterweights Dong Hyun Kim and Paulo Thiago. What's the best path to victory for both men? Find out inside.
Record: 15-2-1 (1 No Contest) overall, 6-2 (1 No Contest) in the UFC
How he got here: Dong Hyun Kim actually retired from his promotion in South Korea after winning his second professional fight. He would reemerge nearly two years later in Japan fighting for the Deep promotion where he would go 7-0-1 over the course of one and a half years.
After fighting to a draw in his last fight in Japan, Kim was signed by the UFC to fight Jason Tan at UFC 84 where he would win his UFC debut with big elbows on the ground.
After fighting to a close split decision victory over Matt Brown, Kim would lose a decision to Karo Parisyan but would have the result overturned when the Armenian tested positive for banned painkillers.
After the Parisyan fight, Kim scored three consecutive unanimous decision victories. He's primarily used his judo and improved wrestling to stifle fighters and take them out of their games, most notably in his two bouts against Amir Sadollah and Nate Diaz.
His improving resume earned him a shot against Carlos Condit at UFC 132 but "Stun Gun" would be caught by a huge flying knee via "The Natural Born Killer" and would be finished for the first time in his career. Kim responded well to his first loss, beating Sean Pierson from pillar to post in his Octagon return last December, but Demian Maia.put him in his place earlier this summer.
How he gets it done: Kim primarily used his wrestling and judo to defeat his opponents to start out his UFC career, but the improvements in his striking that he showed in his fight against Sean Pierson are a very good sign.
Expect to see Kim using his grappling and judo skills offensively to keep Thiago on his toes and get this fight to the ground repeatedly. Once there, expect to see the taller, longer Kim go to work with constant pressure and ground and pound while riding out top control.
Kim has a pretty solid grasp on judo and balance to either reverse a bad position against the Brazilian and land on top or to simply fend him off and stay standing if he pleases. Time is on Kim's side as Thiago has shown a tendency to fade in fights while Kim only gets stronger as his opponents wilt.
Record: 14-4 overall, 4-4 in the UFC
How he got here: Paulo Thiago has been fighting professionally since 2005, but he's also been a part of Brazil's special police, which has garnered him added attention in his home country for the dangers he would face every day.
He won his first 10 fights and went on to face Josh Koscheck in his UFC debut where he pulled off one of biggest upsets of the year with a first round knockout victory. He was quickly thrown to the wolves against Jon Fitch at UFC 100 where he would win the first round but lose a decision.
Thiago has continued to face top competition, defeating Jacob Volkmann and Mike Swick impressively while dropping decisions to Diego Sanchez and Martin Kampmann.
He soundly defeated David Mitchell in his native Brazil and was hoping to continue that momentum against the very dangerous UFC newcomer in Siyar Bahurdazada, but Thiago was caught on the knocked unconscious. Now, he's left picking up the pieces against Kim.
How he gets it done: Thiago isn't the most aggressive fighter in the stand-up portion, but his technique has progressed over time. Unfortunately, he went away from those counter striking tendencies in his last fight and he paid the price.
Kim is likely going to be very aggressive in trying to take this fight to the ground with his wrestling and judo. He will also try to utilize his length on the feet while he can, so Thiago should be trying to counter effectively whenever given an opening on the feet.
If Kim does put him on his back, Thiago needs to aggressively look for sweeps, similar to what Carlos Condit did against Kim last year. Thiago should avoid throwing submission attempts at Kim unless he's certain he'll be able to finish them.
Fight X-Factor: The biggest X-Factor for this fight is how both men will react to their most recent loss. Both fighters were stopped early in the first round of their fights against Maia and Bahurdazada respectively, but Kim's loss was more of a fluke injury while Thiago was not only soundly beaten, but knocked unconscious for the first time in his UFC career. If this forces him to be less aggressive overall, or perhaps unwilling to pull the trigger when it counts, it could lead to an advantage for Kim.
Bottom Line: While Kim has fought in the stand-up in one of his two most recent fights, MMA fighters tend to go back to their bread and butter when they really need a victory, and that is Kim's ground game. Expect to see him attack with takedowns early and often. Unfortunately, Kim is not the most entertaining or active ground fighter so this one could slow down to a crawl potentially and get a bit ugly.
Who will come out on top at UFC Macau? Tell us your predictions in the comments below!
Who will get back on the winning track with a solid welterweight showing on Saturday?
Dong Hyun Kim (42 votes)
Paulo Thiago (12 votes)
54 total votes