Don't expect a little thing like brain surgery to keep Thiago Alves out of the Octagon.
The former welterweight number one contender underwent minor surgery back on March 31 to correct a brain "irregularity" that prompted his withdrawal from last month's UFC 111 fight card at the Prudential Center in Newark, NJ.
The Brazilian was pulled from his scheduled rematch against Jon Fitch after failing a pre-fight CAT Scan and immediately sought out additional tests from brain specialists to help determine what action needed to be taken -- if any.
In his absence, Ben Saunders stepped up on short notice to replace him but went home on the wrong end of a unanimous decision after Fitch overwhelmed him with a mixture of wrestling and ground and pound.
Follow up tests prompted Alves to have an angiogram at the Hyman Newman institute for Neurology and Neurosurgery located at Roosevelt Hospital in New York.
The outpatient procedure was successful in separating an artery from a vein in his brain and "The Pitbull" is expected to be cleared to resume training in as little as three weeks.
Not only that, but he's also hoping to return to action as quickly as UFC 114 on May 29, according to Malki Kawa, who represents the 170-pound smashing machine.
"We prefer 114, but not for sure yet. Nothing is set in stone. Thiago wants to get into the cage as soon as possible. If UFC 114 means fighting someone [other than Fitch] then he’ll fight someone else ... He wants to fight anybody that is willing to fight him, as soon as possible. UFC 114 is the target date, but if he has no choice then he’s going to do UFC 115. I think Fitch is a fight he would have to fight eventually anyways. For either to get a title fight, especially since they both already had one with GSP, they would have to eliminate one guy. Thiago’s feeling is that whoever wins between him and Fitch will be the next person in line for GSP."
This would be the third time the promotion has tried to hook these two up for a long-overdue rematch.
Originally pegged for UFC 107 in Memphis, Tennessee,"The Pitbull" had to withdraw due to a knee injury. Fitch remained on the card and defeated Mike Pierce via unanimous decision.
Fitch scored a convincing second round technical knockout of the Brazilian at UFC Fight Night 5. He would go on to win his next five fights and earn a crack at division champion Georges St. Pierre at UFC 87: "Seek and Destroy" in Aug. 2008.
He was overwhelmed by the Canadian for 25 minutes, losing a lopsided unanimous decision.
Alves, too, went on a tear after the loss to Fitch with seven consecutive victories over top-ranked opponents such as Matt Hughes and Karo Parisyan, as well as outpointing Josh Koscheck on all three judges scorecards at UFC 90 in October of 2008.
However, St. Pierre would also end Alves’ run with another five-round clinic at UFC 100 back in July.
On the other hand, Fitch exacted revenge against submission specialist Paulo Thiago with a unanimous decision at UFC 100 and notched a similar result against Akihiro Gono earlier this year. He also outworked Mike Pierce (Alves' replacement at UFC 107) to earn the nod from all three judges sitting ringside.
So is Fitch still better than Alves more than three years later or has Alves matured to a point where his last loss is essentially meaningless because he is a totally different fighter?
We may finally get the chance to find out in a few months.