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Crave MMA Sunrise FL
Thiago Alves understands all the hype for Saturday’s UFC 100. ”It’s going to be a beautiful night,” he said.
But then, Alves has a personal stake in the evening, as he will challenge Georges St. Pierre for the UFC welterweight title. He’s a 16-5 underdog at the Mandalay Bay Events Center in Las Vegas, but he sees things differently. When asked what his plans would be if he wins, he immediately offers a correction: ”When I win.”
”I don’t really care about what the public thinks is going to happen,” said Alves (22-4). ”The people who know the sport and people who fight know I’m going to win.”
St. Pierre (18-2) is considered by many the top pound-for-pound fighter in the world, tied with Fedor Emelianenko for the top spot in the latest Yahoo! Sports poll.
Yet, even people who think St. Pierre is No. 1 acknowledge he may not get through this fight because of how his style matches up with the 10th-ranked Alves.
Alves will go into the cage about 30 pounds heavier than St. Pierre’s last foe, lightweight champion B.J. Penn, was in St. Pierre’s most high-profile win. Alves has more knockout power as a striker, more weapons as a striker and better takedown defense. But Penn was a bigger name and seen a week before his fight with St. Pierre by the general public as a more credible challenge. Within the sport, the general feeling is the opposite.
”I truly believe that if you put Thiago Alves and B.J. Penn in a fight, I’d bet all my money on Thiago Alves,” St. Pierre said. ”No doubt about it. Some people think he’s less dangerous because Thiago Alves in a gentleman. That’s what makes him more dangerous. Skill-wise, he’s bringing more to the table than anyone I’ve faced. When I fought B.J. Penn, it was the main event. In some ways, this is more low-key because we’re not the only big fight focused on the card, but I’m fighting in the best match on the card.”
Alves has quickness and power as a striker, having started fighting in Muay Thai at age 15 and training in mixed martial arts at 17. He’s particularly dangerous with his fists and his knees. He’s also a powerhouse in the welterweight division; he swells his body by nearly 30 pounds between weigh-ins and fight time. He was right at 200 pounds in the cage when he beat Josh Koscheck in his most recent fight Oct. 25, and will be near that Saturday night.
After cutting carbs out of his diet over the past week, Alves was down to about 187 pounds one week before fight time, several pounds lower than usual at this stage. Making 170 is not expected to be a problem, although he admits that it’s never fun and has had issues making weight in the past. St. Pierre has gone into every fight for the past four years with an edge: No one has been able to stop his takedowns, and he has been the bigger and stronger fighter in most of those fights.
If Alves can’t finish the fight early, he will have to answer a big question in the championship rounds. Generally, those who change their body weight as rapidly as Alves can pay a price in a longer fight. St. Pierre is known for conditioning and has been dominant late in every fight that has reached round three.
”The cutting weight is never an easy thing to do,” Alves said. ”Nobody likes to lose weight. It’s part of the game. You have to do it. It’s not a mystery or nothing you’ve never done before. If you do it wrong, you aren’t going to perform very well. It is what it is.”
In Alves’ last two wins, he stopped every takedown attempt from Koscheck, a former NCAA champion wrestler, and got up easily after a takedown by Matt Hughes, the classic power wrestling welterweight, to win in the second round.
He claims he has a secret for St. Pierre if the fight gets to the ground, and will beat him standing.
”I train with people as good in wrestling and as good in jiu-jitsu as GSP, and better strikers,” said Alves, who was born in Brazil and came to the United States in 2003, at age 19, with $100 to his name, $7 in his pocket and no knowledge of English, to train at the American Top Team in Coconut Creek, Fla.
”I eat, sleep and train, there’s nothing else I do. But I love it.”
He said it’s the lesson he got out of his last defeat, three years ago at age 22, when facing Jon Fitch, who finished him in the second round.
”I just grew up,” he said. ”After my loss to Jon Fitch, I thought, ‘What are you doing?’ I can’t do that. That’s not the way to take the sport.
”Either you’re in 100% or you won’t succeed. That’s what I did,” Alves said. ”I live this sport. I’ve been living it since I was 14. The last few years I’ve been clearer what my goals are and I’ve worked harder to get there. I’m too tired to go out on the weekends. I don’t have time. I want to rest. Training is hell. I can’t wait for the day of the fight. I can party after the fight. The party is always going to be there.”
Should Fitch, fighting on the same event, beat Paulo Thiago, and should Alves win, it sets up a natural rematch with the belt at stake. ”It’s not if I win, it’s when I win, and it doesn’t matter,” Alves said. ”I’d like a rematch with Fitch. Hopefully he wins so we can do a rematch.”
Alves said wins over Chris Lytle and Karo Parisyan in 2007 and ’08 made him realize he had championship-caliber ability. He knocked out Parisyan, who had been a top contender for years and hadn’t been stopped in a fight in seven years.
Since his loss to Fitch, Alves has won seven in a row, the fourth-longest winning streak in UFC history.
”When I got to America, I knew both [St. Pierre and Hughes] and I was in awe of them,” Alves said. ”Matt Hughes was the man. I always looked up to those two guys. TV makes you fear those guys. They’re great fighters, but when you see them on TV, it makes them seem unbeatable. After my last four fights, I realized they aren’t really special. They have two arms, two legs, just like I do. I’ve got all of the tools and a great camp.”
He expects a little bit of everything in the match.
”I think it’s going to be a well-rounded fight because GSP is the complete fighter and he’s the champion,” Alves said. ”I’m ready in every situation, stand up, wrestling and on the ground. I have a lot of respect for him as champion and I’m ready 100% for what he throws at me.”