Without question the hair of UFC newcomer Brandon Thatch - a mix of Chuck Liddell, Dan Hardy, and Mike Pyle - will draw some attention. But for true fight fans, it’s the nine finishes in nine wins, all in the first round, six in less than a minute, that has the buzz getting pretty loud for Thatch’s UFC debut on Wednesday against Justin Edwards, especially in his home state of Colorado.
“I’ve been a name in Colorado for a few years now, so I have a lot of family and friends and people who are in MMA here that are excited to see me, so in Colorado I know I’ve made a name for myself, and people in Denver are very excited to see me fight,” said the 28-year-old Thatch, who believed that running off eight straight wins after losing his second pro fight was going to get him a call from the UFC.
“I had an idea that it was coming,” he said. “I was excited to try to get it a while back, but things happen when they’re supposed to, so I was patient.”
Patience isn’t a virtue “Rukus” has on fight night though. As mentioned earlier, he has ended each of his wins in the first round, with one 15 second victory and two 18 second finishes included in his path of destruction. But when you ask him if his intention is to take out his opponents early at all costs, he says that’s not the way he approaches the game.
“I let things happen,” he said. “I’m not looking for the quick choke or the knockout or anything like that. It’s one of those things that if I see an opening and something I can capitalize on, I’m gonna take that. But it’s not something I’m planning on or forcing by any means; I let it happen. If it comes, it comes, and if it doesn’t, then I’m willing to grind it out, knowing that I’m prepared and that I put in the time and the work in the gym.”
But getting guys out of there that quick can only “happen” a couple times. Do it consistently like Thatch does, and he’s either been blessed by good fortune or he’s a helluva finisher. I’ll side with the latter. And though most of his wins come by knockout, his last two have come by submission, making it a case of pick your poison with him. Either stand and risk the knockout, or test his ground game and get submitted.
“I feel like a lot of times people are gonna underestimate my ground game,” he admits. “But I think the quick victories have come because I’ve been able to capitalize on these mistakes, and when I see an opening, I take it. I’m not gonna beat around the bush and play around. I’m there to win and I’m there to finish.”
Luckily he’s found a kindred spirit in Edwards, a former Ultimate Fighter 13 competitor whose aggressive style led him to a 45 second submission of the similarly hard-charging Josh Neer in his last bout. Unfortunately, that win came back in October of 2012, and the fast starting Thatch has a prime opportunity to test Edwards’ level of ring rust in Indianapolis this week.
“I know he (Edwards) likes to come out fast and aggressive, and I’ve worked well under pressure like that,” he said. “So if he comes out hot like that, we’ll do what we do, and I know that I’m confident in my ability to start fast. It’s one of those things where I’m not intimidated by a fast pace at all, and I’m confident that I’ll come out on top.”
That confidence is evident, but it’s not cockiness, and there’s a difference. There’s also a calm in Thatch that you don’t see too often in first time UFC fighters. Yet the way he looks at it, he’s not only been preparing for this moment his entire life, but he’s already been here.
“I’ve grown up around the sport,” he said. “My father (Clarence Thatch) was a pioneer in Colorado for mixed martial arts and my grandfather was a professional boxer, so it’s something that’s been in our blood for a long time. I’ve grown up around the sport and my father has given me the tools to keep my mental fight as strong as my physical fight. I’ve gone through it (his UFC debut) in my head a million times, I played it out, and I’ve been there. I may not have physically gone to the UFC, but mentally I’ve been in this fight, I’ve walked down the runway, I’ve been in the cage, and I’ve seen the crowd, and I’ve seen Bruce Buffer. I’ve already played it out in my head, so when I get out there, it’s nothing new. And while I’d like to say the butterflies aren’t there, everyone gets them; it’s just how you make them work for you. I’m not gonna take these butterflies and let them control me. I’m gonna make them drive me and use them as a motivator, rather than something that’s going to deter me or distract me.”
Brandon Thatch: A New Finisher Arrives in the UFC
"When I see an opening, I take it. I’m not gonna beat around the bush and play around. I’m there to win and I’m there to finish." - Brandon Thatch