Photo via UFC.com
Thiago Alves seems like he was created in a lab, genetically modified before birth to become a fighter.
He's built like a walking tank, standing at 5'9" and shredded in a way that would make Mr. Universe participants envious.
And while Royce Gracie shattered the stereotype that all tough guys had to be muscle-bound and imposing, Alves reminded fans that sometimes that cliché rings true.
Next Saturday (May 28, 2011), Alves returns to the Octagon at UFC 130: "Rampage vs. Hamill" when he faces off against Rick Story, so we'll take a look back at his 2007 fight from UFC 78: "Validation." This fight didn't air on the pay-per-view broadcast which is shocking considering it was Alves taking on fan-favorite Chris Lytle.
But the young Brazilian wasn't yet the star he was destined to be and Lytle had yet to perfect the exciting style that has netted him five "Fight of the Night" bonuses.
Let's check out this forgotten classic.
Thiago Alves made his Octagon debut in late 2005 at Ultimate Fight Night 2, a losing effort to Spencer Fisher. He won his next two fights, one of which was particularly sweet as it avenged a previous loss in the Absolute Fighting Championships promotion.
Then he ran into the welterweight Energizer bunny known as Jon Fitch.
He had lost his second fight in the UFC and worse, later that year was popped for diuretics, a banned substance used to shed water and in essence, help a fighter make weight.
He returned in late 2007 and easily dispatched of his opponent at UFC Fight Night: "Florian vs. Thomas."
Lytle had been given a second chance in the UFC thanks to The Ultimate Fighter 4: "The Comeback." He made it to the finals, losing a close split decision to Matt Serra who would eventually win the welterweight title.
The Indianapolis fire fighter would then lose to another former welterweight champ, Matt Hughes, before rattling off two straight submission wins.
Both fighters had exciting styles so the match-up was a no-brainer. Booked at the UFC's return to New Jersey, "Pitbull" took on "Lights Out" in what would be the "Fight of the Night."
Let's take a closer look.
The two meet in the middle of the cage and Lytle opens up quickly. He lands a body quick and closes in. Alves counters with a hook that slices Lytle open above his left eye.
The American presses him against the cage and attacks head, head, head, head, body. He is definitely keeping busy along the fence.
Alves shoves off and they're back to the center. They exchange and Alves catches Lytle on the jaw and in what feels like slow motion, "Lights Out" tumbles to the mat.
Alves follows but Lytle's grappling game is severely underrated. Perhaps forgotten among the sea of countless striking exchanges is the fact that he's a second-dress Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt. He's able to close his guard and keep the Brazilian from handing out any more damage.
They're back on their feet and blood is pouring down Lytle's face. Ignoring it, he throws a combination that is punctuated with another kick to the body that forces Alves to backpedal.
He may be bleeding but Lytle is far from done.
Another exchange and Alves' Muay Thai training peeks its head out as he begins to attack his opponent's legs with kicks. One and then a second smack against Lytle's muscle and bone.
A third is caught and Lytle comes over with a doozy of a counter that drops Alves to his back. He's startled but not hurt and as quickly as the American is able to dive down into his guard, the Brazilian uses those tree trunks he calls legs to kick him off.
The final 30 seconds of the round is the same as the previous four and a half minutes. The two are standing toe-to-toe, throwing punches with near reckless abandon.
In between rounds, the doctor takes a look at Lytle's cut. It's like a tiny chasm in his forehead. To Lytle, who barely reacts to it, it might as well be a scratch.
The second round begins and they exchange leg kicks. "Lights Out" immediately shoves his opponent against the cage again, hoping to grind out the stockier Brazilian.
Alves shoves him off, blocks a right from his opponent and delivers a leg kick that lands on the American's thigh with a sickening thud.
Lytle eats two more leg kicks and again, seeks a reprieve by forcing "Pitbull" against the cage. This break from the onslaught his battered legs are receiving is shorter than any of the others and within seconds, Alves is taking the center of the Octagon.
Another leg kick from the Muay Thai expert and then another. You can see Lytle grimace. Two more and he is visibly limping. Alves is systematically breaking his opponent down.
Bleeding from his skull and standing on one leg, Lytle continues to come forward. He cracks Alves and the Brazilian's eye begins to swell up.
An attempted leg kick from Alves gets countered by a front kick that drops the Brazilian onto his back. No damage is taken by Alves but it lets him know that he isn't fighting a normal man.
A normal man would have felt the blood trickling down his face, felt the muscles in his leg screaming in pain from multiple kicks handed out by a guy who is a professional at kicking and then given up.
Undaunted, "Pitbull" swings his leg around like a baseball bat and smacks it against Lytle's thigh for the last time. If he wants to go out on his shield, Alves will oblige him.
The second round ends and to the dismay of just about everyone -- the commentators, the fans, and both fighters -- the doctor stops the fight due to the cut over Lytle's eye.
It's a disappointing end to this burgeoning classic that robbed Alves of a definite finish, Lytle of a potential come-from-behind victory, and fans the excitement of either possibility.
Since that fight, Lytle seems to have given up on any dreams of holding championship gold and instead fights for fans and for himself. It's made him rich in the process, netting him nearly $300,000 in bonuses alone.
Alves eventually challenged Georges St. Pierre for the 170-pound strap but came up short. In his next fight, he once again lost out to Fitch, who had beat him for the first time four years prior.
Can "Pitbull" get back in good enough form to challenge for the title once again?
Or will Rick "The Horror" Story be the Brazilian's personal Jason Vorhees when he slices up any championship dreams Alves may have?