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UFC 97: Thales Leites Believes He Can Beat Anderson Silva

The web site currently lists the odds for more than 30 upcoming MMA fights, and the single biggest underdog in any of those fights is Thales Leites, who will challenge world middleweight champion Anderson Silva at UFC 97 on April 18. But while the odds makers don't have much faith in Leites, he has plenty of faith in himself.

On a call to promote UFC 97 Tuesday, I asked Leites whether he thought there was anything in particular he thinks he does better than Silva. I figured he'd mention his Brazilian jiu jitsu skills -- and he did -- but he also came across as feeling confident that he can beat Silva no matter where the fight goes.

"I don't think I have something special that I do better than he does," Leites told me. "Fighting is fighting, and Anderson as a fighter is one of the best martial artists in the world. But I believe in my game. I believe in my jiu jitsu skills and I know that I can do it."

Leites is an accomplished jiu jitsu practitioner who has won most of his fights by submission, but he said he isn't necessarily approaching this fight with the idea that he has to get to the ground to beat Silva -- especially because he has a healthy dose of respect for Silva's abilities on the ground.

"It will be very tough," Leites said of fighting Silva. "It doesn't matter if it's a stand-up game or a ground game. He's a jiu jitsu black belt and he already has shown to the world how great he is."

Still, when I asked Leites to discuss his preparation, he acknowledged that he has trained with sparring partners who can attack him in the stand-up game because that's how Silva wins most of his fights.

"I've been training for all the martial arts, but mainly Muay Thai and boxing," Leites said. "I've been training a lot of Muay Thai becauase he's an awesome Muay Thai fighter. He's very aggressive."

But as aggressive as Silva is, Leites says he's ready. We'll see on April 18.