Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) Middleweight veterans Thales Leites and Chris Camozzi will scrap this Saturday (Aug. 6, 2016) at Vivint Smart Home Arena in Salt Lake City, Utah.
After a sensational start to his second UFC stint, Leites has come up short in his last two bouts. While he’s not likely to be cut (again), this bout is a must win for the Brazilian if he’s to remain a player in Middleweight division. Camozzi has looked better than ever in his last three bouts, as the 29-year-old may finally be hitting his stride. Offered a step up in competition that was not "Jacare" Souza, Camozzi was hoping to impress.
Let’s take a look at the keys to victory for both athletes:
Key Wins: Tim Boetsch (UFC 183), Francis Carmont (UFC Fight Night 49), Tom Watson (UFC 163)
Key Losses: Michael Bisping (UFC Fight Night 72), Gegard Mousasi (UFC Fight Night 84), Anderson Silva (UFC 97)
Keys to Victory: Leites is a very dangerous jiu-jitsu fighter with 14 submission victories to his credit. In addition, Leites' striking skill has greatly improved in the last few years, as he's learned to put some pop behind his clinch brawling.
In this bout, however, it should be Leites' grappling that carries him to the victory.
While Leites has definitely improved on the feet, he's more of an aggressive slugger than refined technician. Simply put, Leites may be able to punch and low kick pretty hard, but he's not likely to knock out or out-point Camozzi on his feet.
Luckily, the Brazilian's improved striking can still play a factor. As the quicker man, Leites can threaten with his power punches and use those strikes to enter the clinch or set up a takedown.
Once in close, Leites should be able to take down and control the American. That's his strong suit, and it's a style that Camozzi has struggled with in the past. Plus, if he's in top position, it shouldn't be especially taxing on his conditioning.
Key Wins: Vitor Miranda (UFC Fight Night 88), Joe Riggs (UFC Fight Night 83), Nick Ring (UFC 158), Luiz Cane (UFC 153)
Key Losses: Ronaldo Souza (UFC on FX 8, UFC on FOX 15), Rafael Natal (UFC Fight Night 50), Bruno Santos (UFC 175)
Keys to Victory: Camozzi first fought in UFC at age 23, utilizing a tough chin and well-rounded skill set to push passed his opponents. That's still a fair description of what he brings to the table, but Camozzi has grown significantly in each aspect of the game.
In his last bout, Camozzi showed off excellent movement. Over and over, the Southpaw worked past his opponent's lead leg and landed hard combinations and slick clinch trips.
It was the best performance of his career, and Camozzi will need to rely on similar skills in this match up.
Leites is a close distance puncher who wants the takedown; distance is the obvious answer for both of those issues. Plus, Leites was simply confounded by Mousasi's disciplined movement and stiff jab, so it's a strategy proven to work.
In Camozzi's case, he needs to keep Leites turning to face him. While attacking from an angle, Camozzi should focus on digging kicks to his opponent's legs and body. Leites definitely slows down as the fight wears on, and Camozzi will have a much easier time defending takedowns if his opponent is gasping for air.
Bottom Line: Both men are fighting over a spot in the Top 15.
Leites has already earned that position, but now he must defend it. If the Brazilian comes up short for the third time in a row, he’ll be on the outside looking in once again. Should Leites successfully repel Camozzi, he can take another look at those ranked ahead of him. While it seems unlikely that Leites can climb into the title mix, there’s a definite chance he could make his way back to the Top 10.
This is a very important bout for Camozzi as well. He’s worked his way from the bottom of the division to earn a chance like this before, but it began a four fight losing streak instead.
Luckily, he’s not fighting Souza for the third time.
With a win here, Camozzi has won his last four bouts and is a Top 15-ranked fighter. Like Leites, that doesn’t mean he’s ready for a Top 5 opponent, but someone along the lines of Uriah Hall sounds right.
At UFC Fight Night 92, Thales Leites and Chris Camozzi will duel. Which fighter will have his hand raised?