Each fighter was coming off of back-to-back losses heading into UFC 196, so a victory was crucial, if not a necessity. Bahadurzada also hadn’t fought in a couple of years, taking some time off to heal injuries and move camps to Jackson-Wink MMA in New Mexico.
Thatch found his rhythm early and did a good job attacking Bahadurzada with a wide array of technical striking, but made a critical mistake. Thatch was doing a good job throwing Bahadurzada off with his punches, setting up some wonderful kicks, but decided to take Bahadurzada down late in the round.
When they hit the canvas, Bahadurzada was able to maneuver into Thatch’s full guard, ground and pounding him for most of the remainder of the opening round.
Thatch came out firing in round two, but again, Bahadurzada clinched, picked him up, and slammed him to the canvas, content to work his ground and pound game so that Thatch couldn’t get off any good shots on the feet.
They stalled out and the fight was restarted on the feet, but despite a couple of threatening attempts by Thatch, Bahadurzada returned the fight to the floor and pummeled Thatch for the remainder of the frame.
By the third round, it was evident that Bahadurzada’s approach was working as Thatch continued to slow down. Thatch continued to try and find his knockout range on the feet, but Bahadurzada took advantage of his slowing foe, landing some heavy shots.
But the Afghan born fighter continued with his takedown strategy, putting Thatch on the canvas twice in the third round. The second takedown was particularly effective, as Bahadurzada moved from ground and pound in full guard to slapping on a head-and-arm choke from half guard to slipping off to the side to finish the choke.
“I wanted to come back and make a statement. Unfortunately, I was really disappointed in my performance. I could have done much better,” Bahadurzada said after the fight, despite submitting Thatch with the choke.
Despite his self-criticism, Bahadurzada improved to 22-6-1 and ended his two-fight skid, but extended Thatch’s slide to three consecutive fights. Thatch’s overall record now stands at 11-4.