Thales Leites waited four years for his return to the UFC. Saturday night, he made the second chance count.
The Brazilian jiu-jitsu specialist, who once headlined a UFC event challenging Anderson Silva, dominated England's Tom "Kong" Watson for a unanimous-decision victory in a middleweight bout at UFC 163 in the HSBC Arena in Rio.
"I would like to say to all the world that I'm back, I'm back in the UFC where I belong, Leites (21-4) said. "I've been four years away from this cage. I had some problems, surgeries on both my knees. This is my home."
Leites smothered Watson on the ground in the first round, keeping him on his back for more than three minutes. In the second he scored a tight armbar, but couldn't get the submission. Toward the end of the round, Leites appeared to slow considerably.
But just as questions were being asked about Leites' conditioning, which was a problem during his first UFC stint, Leites turned it back on in round three. Leites opened a gruesome cut over Watson's left eye with a left hand early in the round, then dominated the final stanza.
Leites has won seven of his past eight bouts. Watson dropped to 21-6.