UFC 163 fight card: Tom Watson vs Thales Leites preview

How can either Tom Watson or Thales Leites walk away with a victory in Brazil this weekend? Find out below.

Two veteran middleweights will square off this Saturday night (Aug. 3, 2013) as Tom Watson takes on the returning Thales Leites on the UFC 163 main card in Rio De Janeiro, Brazil.

Watson is a former BAMMA middleweight champion. His UFC debut was spoiled by Brad Tavares but he more than made up for it in a brutal slugfest against Stanislav Nedkov earlier this year, finishing the wrestler with a vicious flurry of elbows and punches.

Leites returns to the UFC after nearly four years outside the promotion, where he managed to go 6-1 while avenging his lone loss during the stint to Matt Horwich in his most recent bout. The former title challenger is hoping to make a big second impression.

Tom Watson

Record: 16-5 overall, 1-1 in the UFC

Key Wins: Stanislav Nedkov (UFC on Fuel TV 7), Jack Marshman (BAMMA 9)

Key Losses: Brad Tavares (UFC on Fuel TV 5)

How he got here: Watson had a background in boxing, but wanted to expand his skillset, transitioning to mixed martial arts and making his professional debut in 2006. He struggled at the beginning of his career, losing three of his first seven fights, but a strong eight fight winning streak spread across the Cage Rage, UCMMA, MFC and BAMMA promotions really put him on the map as a top prospect.

After a tough loss to The Ultimate Fighter finalist Jesse Taylor in MFC, he returned to BAMMA and began another stellar run, defending his middleweight title three straight times before getting an invite to UFC in 2012.

In his promotional debut, he would get outworked by Brad Tavares, losing a split decision to the Xtreme Couture prospect. He returned with fire earlier this year, surviving some early power shots to obliterate Stanislav Nedkov in the clinch and take home both "Knockout of the Night" and "Fight of the Night" honors.

Now, he has his sights set on the former title challenger Leites.

How he gets it done: Watson has two clear methods to victory. He can either stand on the outside and try to pepper away at Leites with rangy kicks and jabs, or he can close the distance and try to work Leites over in the clinch with elbows, knees and short punches.

Both methods present their own level of risks. Leites could catch a kick on the outside and take him down, or he could score a trip takedown in the clinch and secure top position. The last place Watson wants to be against the Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt is on the canvas.

If Watson wants to finish this fight, he has to get inside and start pounding Leites with elbows and knees. He has a very nasty clinch attack, perhaps the most impressive in the UFC and he can really do some work if he gets the fight up close and personal.

Thales Leites

Record: 20-4 overall, 5-3 in the UFC

Key Wins: Nate Marquardt (UFC 85), Tor Troeng (Superior Challenge 6)

Key Losses: Anderson Silva (UFC 97), Matt Horwich (War on the Mainland)

How he got here: Leites already possessed a solid ground game when he transitioned to mixed martial arts nearly 10 years ago, winning his first nine professional fights via stoppage before earning an invite to UFC.

His streak would be ended by Martin Kampmann via unanimous decision in his promotional debut, but he started a new one immediately afterwards. With three wins including two more submissions under his belt, he was given an opportunity against top contender Nate Marquardt. During that bout, he actually lost two of the three rounds, but a pair of point deductions for Marquardt surprisingly handed Leites the split decison.

After submitting Drew McFedries, Leites was thrust into a title fight against champion Anderson Silva and the bout was an absolute snooer, seeing Leites repeatedly flop to his back and motion for the champion to enter his guard, getting punched and kicked in the legs for five awful rounds.

Despite having just fought for the title, Leites was released from the UFC following his next bout, a controversial split decision loss to Alessio Sakara, Since his release, he's gone 6-1, scoring victories over veterans like Jeremy Horn, Dean Lister and trading wins against Matt Horwich. His recent three fight winning streak earned him a second chance with UFC against Watson.

How he gets it done: Leites can't afford to sit back and let this fight come to him. Far too often, he has not been aggressive enough on the feet or in taking the fight to the ground. Even in his stoppage victory over Tor Treng in his recent stint, the two times the fight went to the ground were a leg sweep and when Treng shot in for a takedown himself.

Leites needs to be more active in trying to get the fight to the ground, and that doesn't mean flopping to his back and trying to coax Watson into his guard. That's not going to happen. He needs to be aggressive with takedown attempts, trips, and sweeps.

If and when he can put Watson on the canvas, he should really focus on control, position and then the submission. Mixing in some ground strikes to soften the Brit up wouldn't be a bad idea either. If he can return to the UFC with a stoppage victory, he would be doing himself a serious favor.

Who will come out on top at UFC 163? Tell us your predictions in the comments below!

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