Ed Herman (21-9-1, 8-5-1 UFC) vs. Thales Leites (21-4, 6-3 UFC), at UFC 167
Aside from offering one of the most anticipated main events in a long time, UFC 167 also brings us some solid undercard bouts. This fight between the 2 veteran middleweights has the potential to be 1 of them.
Ed Herman, or “Short Fuse” is 1 of the 2 surviving members of TUF 3 still on the UFC roster, the other being Michael Bisping. He made it all the way to the show’s finale and came up just a tad short of winning the entire thing after him and Kendall Grove put on an incredible fight that might have even showcased more high level technique then the famous Forrest vs. Stephen finale at the end of the shows 1st season. Needless to say Ed got a contract despite losing to Kendall and has been a UFC fighter ever since. Ed is a tough, blue-collar, fighter whose strengths are clinch fighting, dirty boxing, decent wrestling, and good (not great) submission grappling. If the words “Team” and “Quest” pop into your mind when reading that skill set you are onto something, Ed trained almost all of his formative MMA years with the legendary fight team. Ed is one of these guys that haven’t changed much since his early days with the promotion but this is of less importance then whether he is “on” or not come fight night. He came back from a long, injury induced, lay-off in mid 2011 and surprisingly looked better than ever as he finished 3 tough guys in a row with a KO and 2 submissions. He cooled off some when he was beaten by Jake Shields (later overturned to a NC) in a lackluster fight and then was dominated by Jacare Souza in a 1 off Strikeforce bout. Ed recently got back in the win column against Trevor Smith in a “Fight of the Night” where Ed used solid grappling to win a decision. Ed shows an average level of conditioning and he has sporadically shown good power in his hands but neither of these elements are his best weapon and although rugged clinch fighting and grappling are his bread n butter, he has been out grappled and submitted by the most of the better grapplers he has faced.
Speaking of good grapplers, Ed’s opponent Thales Leites is a Brazilian Jiu-jitsu black belt from a great team in Nova Uniao and is currently in his second run with the UFC. Thales is obviously a ground specialist but he has held his own in brawls against guys like Nate Marquardt and the terribly under-rated Matt Horwich. For a guy that’s never gotten much press Thales fared pretty well in his 1st UFC stint winning 5 in a row at 1 point and challenged former 185 lb god Anderson Silva back when the MW division was quite thin. The title fight was a mess though and Leites managed almost zero effective offense. Thales was cut 1 fight later but has been impressive since then, going 7-1 including a thorough win in his UFC re-debut against tough guy Tom Watson. Thales’ striking is rudimentary at best but he lands the oddly effective haymaker here n there and he is a midsized MW with mid-level strength & conditioning. Since being cut from the UFC last time in 2009 Thales has concentrated on using his BJJ and he looks good doing it. It would be a wise strategy to continue that against “Short Fuse”.
The questions in this fight are “how much has Ed Herman tightened up his submission defense?” and “is Ed Herman going to show up with his A game?” Given this uncertainty I’m picking Leites to win this one, possibly by submission. Thales may not be as good as a Damien Maia or a Jacare, but he is just a level beneath in an MMA context and that is enough to win here.