Their FOX Sports 1 fight is a huge proving ground for both fighters -- but for completely different reasons.
After starting out with an 11-0 record in mixed martial arts (MMA), Thiago has been on a slide as of late. Although he won his last fight over Michel Prazeres at UFC on FX 8, he's dropped four out of his past six bouts in Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC). While his losses have been against solid competition, Thiago absolutely needs a win against Thatch to retain any relevancy in a crowded division. That's going to be no easy task come Saturday.
Thatch is a surging prospect with finishes in his last nine bouts.
"Rukus" made a stirring UFC debut by defeating Justin Edwards with a brutal technical knockout at UFC Fight Night 27 last August. The Denver, Colorado-based Thatch receives a noted step up in competition in Goiania. Thiago is a seasoned veteran who has fought some of the best welterweights in the history of the sport.
Thatch doesn't care about the past. He'll be looking to put a stamp on Thiago and send notice to the top fighters at 170 pounds.
This fight has the potential to end in destructive fashion. Let's take a look at the keys to victory for Paulo Thiago vs. Brandon Thatch:
Record: 15-5 overall, 5-5 UFC
Keys to Victory: Thiago is an experienced Brazilian Jiu-jitsu black belt with eight submission wins under his belt. He has also shown knockout power in the past, most notably his "Knockout of the Night"-winning victory over Koscheck.
But those wins were light years ago in today's ever-evolving MMA landscape.
Thiago has appeared to be a shell of his former self in recent bouts. His motivation has been in question because he's not a full-time fighter. Thiago also serves as a member of a Police Special Forces unit in his homeland of Brazil. It's a very honorable position, but one not likely to allow him to focus solely on facing the best fighters in the world.
Because of that, mental preparedness is key to success for Thiago in Goiania. There's no doubt he has the technical skills to contend with top-level-fighter, he just has to prove that's he focused enough to do so. Showing up to UFN 32 with anything less than the sharpest mental acuity will undoubtedly have him staring up at the lights.
Thatch has proved that he's a ruthless headhunter who takes no prisoner when he steps inside the cage. His glaring skillset is his kickboxing, so Thiago's best bet is to take this fight to the ground. If he can earn some dominant positions on the mat, he'll neutralize Thatch's dangerous striking. "Rukus" has three submission wins, but he's never met a ground specialist of Thiago's caliber.
This fight will prove if Thiago still has what it takes to contend in UFC. In that regard, it's the biggest fight of his life.
Record: 10-1 overall, 1-0 UFC
Key Wins: Justin Edwards (UFC Fight Night 27)
Key Losses: None
Keys to Victory: Upstart Thatch is beginning to show up on the radar as one of the hottest prospects in all of MMA. This fight with Thiago is an excellent venue to showcase his skills.
"Rukus" has fought mainly in his home state of Colorado throughout his burgeoning career. He'll step way out of his comfort zone to fight in Goiania. Thatch will also be facing the toughest opponent he's ever locked horns with. For that reason, he can't get cocky.
There's a certain air of invincibility about fighters who have never been finished and Thatch certainly has it.
He believes that he can finish any man he steps into the Octagon with and for good reason. Thatch blends a vicious Muay Thai game with competent submission skills to put away opponents at an alarming rate. Although he's used his lethal rear naked choke to finish two out of his past three fights, using a different strategy will be more successful at UFN 32.
There's a small chance that Thatch could take Thiago's back and end the fight. However, there's no reason to fight Thiago where he is most comfortable. Thiago has shown he can take a punch, but his recent knockout loss to Siyar Bahadurzada suggests that his chin might not be as strong as it once was.
Thatch should capitalize on this by bringing the fight to Thiago with a barrage of punches, kicks and knees.
If he can end Thiago's night with strikes, he'll have his biggest win to date and another boost up in quality of opponent. "Rukus" has the potential to surge to the top as only the sharpest version of Thiago can derail his substantial hype.
Bottom Line from Goiania: The bottom line for this fight is that it will be an excellent gauge for just how far Thatch can rise. Thiago has been reeling lately and simply doesn't look like the fighter that garnered his "AKA Killer" moniker after wins over Koscheck and Swick.
Thiago needs to get back to that persona if he wants any chance of beating Thatch. "Rukus" is a headhunter, so showing up after a lackluster training camp will spell certain doom for Thiago. If he can drag this fight into deep water and stop Thatch from using his reach to land strikes, the tide will turn in his favor.
On the other hand, if Thiago stays tentative and allows Thatch to implement his gameplan on the feet, this fight could be over in the first round.
This bout is a classic match-up of a seasoned veteran versus an unproven but touted prospect. Thiago has the chance to prove that he still belongs in the Octagon. Fighting with his mind elsewhere will not serve him well. He needs to be aggressive and get in Thatch's face from the bout's outset.
For Thatch, UFN 32 presents a golden opportunity and he's known for his ability to rise to the occasion. Will he continue that trend in the biggest fight of his young career?
Paulo Thiago has a chance to rekindle lost fire when he faces an up-and-coming destroyer in Brandon Thatch. Let us know your predictions for telling bout below!