Thales Leites wants to stand and bang in Tulsa.
Primarily a jiu-jitsu black belt with 13 of his 23 professional victories coming by way of submission, Leites wants to prove a point against Francis Carmont. The middleweights are set to collide at the UFC Fight Night 49 card in Oklahoma, and the Nova Uniao fighter won’t go for takedowns on Saturday night.
"Carmont is a versatile fighter, he likes to stand and fight and take to the ground when he has to, but I think it’s going to be a brawl," Leites told MMAFighting.com. "It’s going to be a brawl. Jiu-jitsu is my best weapon, but the fights starts standing and it’s really hard to take people down and keep them there nowadays. Let’s see what happens."
Leites improved his striking over the years, and he proved it at UFC Fight Night 39. The grappling specialist needed only 45 seconds to knock Trevor Smith out with punches in Abu Dhabi, and Carmont could be next.
"I’ve been doing this for a long time," he said. "I fought Tom Watson standing (at UFC 63), I knocked Ed Herman down (at UFC 167), but I decided to use my jiu-jitsu instead of going for the finish with punches. I’m confident in my striking and we’ll see what happens on Saturday night. I’m ready for a brawl."
"It’s my fourth fight in one year since I returned to the UFC. I won three in a row, and I’m going for the fourth," he added. "Francis Carmont is a tough athlete, and I’m really happy to be facing a guy like him. It doesn’t get any easier when you’re moving up the rankings, but I’m confident and ready to do my job."
Carmont entered the UFC two years after Leites was released from the promotion. The Tristar Gym talent won six in a row after suffering recent decision losses to Ronaldo Souza and C.B. Dollaway, and he’s one of the examples that Leites points out as the new breed of the sport.
"The UFC has way more fighters and does more events now compared to my first run in the UFC. Everything changed," the Brazilian said. "The technical level of the fighters is higher now. Weidman made his MMA debut when I was fighting Anderson Silva for the UFC title, and he’s the champion now. He did a great job, fought some great fights. The sport evolves so fast, you have new talents coming up every day. Weidman is the champion in a division that Anderson dominated for so long. You have to reinvent yourself all the time."
Leites is reinventing himself at Nova Uniao, and a win over Carmont would be the next step on his way to another shot at the middleweight title.
"I don’t know if I’ll be at the top 10 with a win (over Carmont) because it’s really close. There are a lot of fight cards, so the top 10 and top 15 rankings change a lot all the time," he said. "It depends on who you beat, how you win. My goal is not to be at the top 10, my goal is to win no matter what and make some noise in the UFC.
"I know that I’m far from a title shot now, but I will slowly get there, step by step. I’m 100 percent focused on this fight, so we’ll think about it later."