Fialho is an exciting talent who has been fighting for major promotions for years but is just now entering his prime as he gets an opportunity in the UFC. He’s 27 years old now and made his pro debut at the young age of 19 back in 2014, where he destroyed the regional scene in Portugal on his way to 6 finishes in a 7-month span, with 5 of those coming by knockouts and almost all in the first round. That was impressive enough to earn him a contract with Bellator, where he continued his path of destruction with 1st-round KOs of 7-1 prospects Manny Meraz and Rick Reger to start 2016 before finally suffering his first defeat when equally lethal striker Chidi Njokuani knocked him out in less than 30 seconds to close the year. He rebounded with two relatively easy and more conservative wins on the prelims over regional veterans, then jumped to PFL for their 2019 season after fighting out his Bellator contract.
Unfortunately he went 0-2 with PFL, though one of those losses was later overturned to a no-contest when his opponent popped for PEDS, then lost his LFA debut by decision to UFC veteran Antônio dos Santos Jr., and it was looking like Fialho’s chance to make it big had passed him by. However, he turned his career trajectory around with a series of 4-straight explosive knockouts in 2021, starting with a 2nd-round flatline of UFC vet James Vick (13-5) as the main event of the first XMMA show then following that up with 3 1st-round KOs for UAE Warriors against Sang Hoon Yoo (6-1), Lincoln Puig (10-3), and Stefan Sekulić (14-4, 0-2 UFC). His performances were eye-catching enough that I gave him an honorable mention shoutout in my October prospect rankings update despite him not being eligible for the main list and the UFC evidently agreed and brought in him for an ultra-tough short notice fight against Michel Pereira.
Fialho’s biggest weapon is the dynamite he packs in his fists, as he only needs to land one clean shot to put someone’s lights out. He’s done a good job over the years of reining in his aggression and waiting for openings rather than trying to take his opponent’s head off right from the start, but he’s still definitely a fighter who prefers to be pushing the pace on the front foot. He’s well-built for the welterweight division at 6′ tall and packs quite a bit of muscle without losing flexibility, and he’s done a good job building up his stamina. My biggest questions about his skillset center around his grappling and especially his jiu-jitsu, as he’s shown the necessary strength to escape from wrestlers but hasn’t really been threatened on the mat by a top-level BJJ player. Of course, that’s mostly due to his habit of sending them unconscious before they ever get a chance to try to submit him, so it’s hard to mark him down too much for that.
Pereira is a very tough UFC debut for any fighter, and he has the striking skills to make this a very tricky fight for Fialho. I have the Brazilian winning a decision in what should be a firefight, but Fialho has enough knockout power to always be a threat until the final bell. If he does end up losing, I would hope he gets an easier matchup for his second booking, as I think he has enough power in his hands to win some fans and establish himself as a long-term member of the UFC’s welterweight division.
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