It didn’t take long for the UFC to find a replacement to square off against Ed Herman at UFC 167 as Thales Leites has stepped in for Rafael Natal. Natal, who was originally slated to fight Herman, was shifted to the UFC’s Fight for the Troops 3 event to battle Tim Kennedy next month. The new matchup was announced on UFC Tonight.
The flurry of middleweight shuffling began late last week when Michael Bisping was forced out of his Fight Night 30 main event bout against Mark Munoz due to an eye injury. Kennedy’s original opponent, Lyoto Machida, was moved from the November 6 date in Kentucky to the October 26 card in England to fight Munoz.
Leites made a successful return to the UFC after a four-year absence by recording a decision victory over Tom Watson in what was a bloody battle at UFC 163 in Brazil. The most surprising thing about Leites’s performance in that fight was that the submission specialist showed a much improved striking game against the hard-hitting Watson. Leites is currently riding a four-fight win streak.
Herman, interestingly enough, is fresh off a terrific fight as well. He secured a split-decision victory in a back-and-forth brawl with Trevor Smith that earned Fight of the Night distinction at UFC on Fox 8. It was a good bounce-back for “Short Fuse” after a first-round submission loss to Ronaldo “Jacare” Souza in the last Strikeforce event ever held.
Herman is a proven Octagon veteran, having fought 14 times for the promotion. His UFC record is a 8-5-1.
Leites is hoping to build off a solid return to the UFC, and a victory over Herman would likely draw him a top-10 middleweight opponent in his next fight. Leites is no stranger to strong competition, having been a previous title challenger. He lost by decision to then-middleweight kingpin Anderson Silva in their rather bizarre title fight at UFC 97 in Montreal. Leites is 6-3 in his nine tests in the Octagon.
The matchup is a solid one between a pair of middleweight veterans hoping to move on to bigger things. Both competitors have serious ground games. Leites has 13 submission victories in his 21 career wins, and has never been knocked out. Herman also has 13 submission finishes in his 21 career victories. He’s only been knocked out once, but has been submitted six times.
It has the makings of a serious ground affair come November 16, but as we saw in their last fights, both men can stand and trade shots if they need to.
Rick LaFitte is an MMA Writer for Rant Sports