Josh Koscheck had lost to Thiago Alves four months prior which quickly put a damper on his title aspirations. He bounced back with an insanely brutal knockout over Yoshiyuki Yoshida and put himself back in the championship hunt two months later. With the lack of fresh title fights for welterweight kingpin Georges St. Pierre, another win for Koscheck would likely be all he needed to secure a shot at the French Canadian.
But a debuting Brazilian had other plans.
UFC 95 saw the Octagon debut of rising prospect Paulo Thiago. Undefeated at the time, most of his wins came by way of submission. A quick glance at his win-loss record wouldn't indicate he had the firepower in his hands to put a top 10 welterweight to sleep. The Ultimate Fighter (TUF) 1 cast member would learn the hard way how wrong that assumption would be.
Thiago is set to step foot inside the Octagon at the promotion's Swedish debut, UFC on Fuel TV 2: "Gustafsson vs. Silva" on April 14. In many ways, he'll be in the same situation Koscheck was in back in 2009 when he faces off against a debuting Siyar Bahadurzada.
Before he does battle with "The Great," however, let's take a look at Thiago's explosive and impressive debut.
Koscheck takes the center of the Octagon while Thiago opts to circle the outside. Nearly half a minute passes before either man takes a swing and both end up doing so at the same thing with little success. The TUF veteran is still the aggressor, walking his opponent down and doubling up on a hook that catches the Brazilian on the jaw.
They continue pawing at each, throwing out single punches more so to find their range it seems than with actual intentions of connecting. A solid leg kick from the Brazilian turns the previously all boxing affair into more of a mixed martial arts (MMA) contest and Koscheck answers back with another pair of doubled up hooks.
More inaction from the pair and the London crowd begins to voice their displeasure. The TUF veteran throws out a snapping jab. And then another. He feints a third and comes across with a monster of an overhand right which finds a home on Thiago's jaw. The Brazilian feels it, for sure, but continues undaunted. A similar punch put Yoshida to sleep but the Octagon newcomer walks right through it.
Koscheck doesn't go in for the kill and allows Thiago time to recover. They once again begin to circle around the cage and the Brazilian hits another leg kick. He attempt a front kick which is nearly countered by the American who then grazes Thiago with a second, equally heavy handed, overhand right.
The two exchange jabs and once again inaction comes to the forefront. More than halfway through the opening round with only a few blips of action, a few exchanges have the English crowd growing more and more unruly. The Octagon begins to be showered in boos as the two welterweights circle and circle.
A leg kick from Koscheck lands as he begins to pressure his opponent ever so slightly towards the cage. Thiago inches backwards, avoiding another haymaker and blocking a headkick. It's obvious Koscheck is looking to bully his opponent, just as he did Yoshida in order to secure a second consecutive highlight reel knockout. The Brazilian strikes back, however, keeping Koscheck at bay and affording him the room he needs to circle away from the cage and back towards the center of the Octagon.
Standing toe to toe in the center of the cage, Koscheck hops in slightly with a jab which Thiago dodges. The Brazilian answers immediately with an uppercut which catches his opponent flush on the chin. His body goes limp and begins its descent to the canvas below. On the way down, a hook from Thiago connects with the top of Koscheck's head.
The American's body hits the mat violently and his head bounces like a basketball off the canvas. Thiago, for a second, looks to let his guard down, thinking his opponent is out cold. Koscheck very well may have been but he soon seems to be back in something resembling fighting form. But before Thiago can continue his attack, the referee jumps in and stops the fight. It seems half the London crowd is content with the violence on display while the other half felt the stoppage came a hair too quick.
Regardless, the once submission heavy Thiago earned his first UFC win that night and by knockout of all things. While future opponents would have been wise to focus on grappling, they now had to worry about the Brazilian's unexpectedly heavy hands.
Thiago would go on to face -- and lose to -- Jon Fitch in his second appearance inside the Octagon. Koscheck and Fitch might very well be the most difficult two-fight combination for anyone not immediately looking for a title shot. For a debuting fighter, the difficulty is almost absurd. Going into his fight in Sweden, the Brazilian boasts a 4-3 Octagon record. Not great by any means but Thiago has been facing some of the best 170 pounders in the world.
Will his experience be enough to spoil Bahadurzada's debut?
Or will Thiago find himself in Koscheck's shoes the night of UFC 95 with a up and comer spoiling his evening?