After three years away to resurrect his career, Thales Leites returned to the Octagon at tonight's (Sat., Aug. 3, 2013) UFC 163: "Aldo vs. Korean Zombie" pay-per-view (PPV) event at the HSBC Arena in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Tasked with giving him a cold welcome was Tom Watson, himself coming off one of the strongest performances of his career in a double bonus winning knockout of Stanislov Nedkov.
Although his reputation is that of a submission fighter without the ability to win a stand up war, Leites quickly took the center of the cage and started unloaded bombs on Watson's dome piece. Sure, it was part of a larger strategy, one he employed to brilliant results.
The idea was to force defensive maneuvers that would allow him the time and space to clinch up and work a takedown. He achieved that within roughly one minute. That gave him four more to find a submission, a lifetime for a Brazilian jiu-jitsu specialist.
Eventually, "Kong" worked his way out of trouble and they went back to exchanging punches on their feet. Watson regained some ground but the round likely went to his opponent.
Leites was again aggressive to kick off the second, but this time Watson fought fire with fire. It made a difference, too, although it did lead to his getting tripped and mounted. That allowed Leites to continue threatening with submissions, from arm triangles to rear-naked chokes.
He was also landing punches throughout this process. That's a recipe for a victory on points, if nothing else.
As Watson writhed and writhed in increasingly difficult positions, Leites kept throwing whatever submission made the most sense with how his body was lined up. That included what appeared to be a fairly deep armbar, though Watson survived and backed off to get back to a standing position.
"Kong" fired off missiles to close out the round but failed to earn a finish, putting him in an unenviable position of being down on points and heavily fatigued heading into the final five minutes of the contest.
Knowing his situation was dire, Watson got uber aggressive in the opening parts of the third frame, but it cost him. A left hook cut him above his eye and he was leaking plasma all over the place.
From there, Leites once again went to his grappling attack and it was clear who was going to emerge victorious in this one. The only real question that remained was whether or not the Brazilian would earn a finish.
If nothing else, Watson can take solace in the fact that he didn't get stopped. He made it to the judges scorecards, if only to have them read in his opponent's favor 30-27 across the board.
For complete UFC 163 results and blow-by-blow coverage of all the night's action click here.