There are few mixed martial arts (MMA) fighters more unpredictably entertaining than Rousimar Palhares, who will make his Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) Welterweight debut tonight (Weds., Oct. 9, 2013) from Jose Correa Gymnasium in Barueri, Brazil.
"Toquinho" is a very good visual representation of his nickname (Portuguese for "tree stump") and his antics inside and outside the Octagon make him a fighter who can always trigger some kind of expression on faces of combat sports fans. He is unintentionally comical, but his fight style is one that demands respect, making him one of the more interesting characters in the sport.
Paul Harris started his career seven years ago, immediately making it known that he was a submission-based fighter. In his first eight career wins, six came by submission, the most impressive of which being an armbar victory in his promotional debut against Ivan Salaverry.
Since that win against Salaverry in 2008, Palhares has fought exclusively in UFC, compiling a respectable 7-4 record with the promotion. Unfortunately for the Brazilian, two of those four losses have been in his most recent bouts, forcing him to make a big decision to bring his abilities to the Welterweight division.
It would be a tough challenge for any fighter to successfully compete in a weight class 15 pounds lighter than their original division, but for Palhares, the pressure is at an all-time high. At this point, job security is not guaranteed, and even a five-year veteran of the promotion isn't safe if he (or she) are mired in a significant losing streak.
Palhares has to keep his mind right in this match if he has any hope of winning because his opponent, Mike Pierce, will not give him any margin for error. If he slips up like he did against Nate Marquardt or Dan Miller, it is very likely that Pierce will make him pay the ultimate price.
Gameplanning for this fight is of the utmost importance for Palhares. Pierce is a very good wrestler with solid striking; therefore, "Toquinho" will really have his hands full for his first bout at 170 pounds.
To win this fight, Palhares will have to be unpredictable. And it is essential for him to be cautious when striking. His defense is incredibly porous, and the only way I see him winning this fight is via submission, which is a tall order against a methodical opponent like Pierce.
In short, Palhares has no other option than to press the action for a takedown, and try to submit a very well rounded opponent.
Palhares is the UFC Fight Night 29 "Fighter to Watch" because his back is against the wall and he is taking on a very tough challenge for his Welterweight debut. He will have to remain composed and poised -- not a Palhares hallmark -- and perform his absolute best in front of a proud hometown crowd.
Because anything less will translate to a very uncertain UFC fight future.