This upcoming Saturday night (May 28, 2011) at UFC 130: "Rampage vs. Hamill," a fascinating welterweight tilt will kickoff the main card pay-per-view (PPV) action at 9 p.m. ET.
Former number one welterweight contender, Thiago Alves, will look to continue to right the ship after consecutive losses to the two best welterweights in the world, Georges St. Pierre and Jon Fitch. This will serve as the encore performance for Alves, who is coming off a win over the venerable John Howard, under the direction of weigh cut specialist Mike Dolce.
The diet difference for the beefy Brazilian has so far paid huge dividends.
His opponent this weekend, Rick Story, is currently riding a five-fight win streak in the division. The surging prospect capped off his streak by handing tough wrestler Johny Hendricks his first professional mixed martial arts loss ever.
Story is looking to jump into contender status with a big win on the main stage against a former title challenger.
Has "The Pitbull" put his weight issues behind him? Can "Horror" create a nightmare "Story" for Alves? Will this bout be the stand up war that everyone is hoping for?
Follow me after the jump to find out:
Record: 18-7 overall, 10-4 in the UFC
Key Losses: Georges St. Pierre (UFC 100), Jon Fitch (UFC 117, UFC Fight Night 5)
How he got here: Alves has been fighting under the UFC banner since 2005. He famously rode a seven-fight win streak all the way to a title shot against Georges St. Pierre, which at the time headlined the promotion's biggest event ever, UFC 100. Alves dropped a lopsided five-round unanimous decision to "Rush" and would be sidelined for more than a a year because of a knee injury and subsequent brain malformation.
He finally rematched Fitch this past August, but he failed to make weight for the second time in his career. Missing weight again caused "The Pitbull" to be in Dana White's doghouse, but Alves made a fantastic career decision when he teamed up with new wave nutritionist and weight cut connoisseur, Mike Dolce.
How he gets it done: Alves is known for being an absolute buzz-saw with his striking. The Brazilian has the absolute nastiest leg kicks in the business and also mixes in excellent knees and short, crisp punches. If he sees an opportunity, Alves can also take the fight to the ground with some tough clinch takedowns.
He looked amazing in his last fight -- no doubt a positive side effect of cutting weight properly. He had an extra bounce in his step and he was able to last the full 15 minutes without gassing despite pushing a much faster pace.
Look for Alves to either keep his distance and pepper Story with leg kicks to weaken his wrestling shot or, if the fight gets inside, Alves will want to throw his vicious knees from the clinch. "The Pitbull" is also capable of pounding the Washington-based fighter with his powerful hooks. If Alves can hurt Story with his leg kicks, expect him to go for the kill the second he smells blood.
He wants to be a contender again and to prove the doubters wrong.
Record: 12-3 overall, 5-1 in the UFC
How he got here: Story trained out of Team Quest rival, Brave Legion in his home state of Washington. He began his career fighting some of the toughest welterweights around like Nathan Coy and Jake Ellenberger. "The Horror" would lose his UFC debut to tough UK fighter John Hathaway, but has since reeled off five straight fights in the shark tank that is the UFC 170-pound division.
Story's first UFC victory was a "Fight of the Year" candidate against Brian Foster at UFC 103, a fight in which he pulled off an incredibly unique arm triangle submission from within his opponent's guard. He impressively scored two consecutive wins over notable fighters Dustin Hazelett and Johny Hendricks to earn his opportunity to score a career-defining victory over Alves.
How he gets it done: Story is a very well-rounded mixed martial artist. He had the power in his hands to hammer Dustin Hazelett and send him out of the weight class. He has the guts to go for unique submissions like his arm triangle from guard on Brian Foster and he has the defensive and offensive wrestling to stifle a two-time national champion college wrestler like Johny Hendricks and pull out a unanimous decision.
Story doesn't have the technique of Alves, but he's got the testicular fortitude to not know any better. He'll likely try to overwhelm "The Pitbull" with a big flurry of punches if he can corner the ATT product against the cage. Also, if he sees an opportunity to shoot for a takedown, he'll go for it, even though Alves' takedown defense is spectacular. Again, he just doesn't care. He's the type of fighter who will try to impose his will and force his opponent to fight his fight. That's what helped him against Hendricks and it's what could very well help him here.
This is a fight that Rick Story actually asked for, so don't expect him to give up unless he's physically unable to continue.
Fight "X-Factor:" This fight is all about inches, meaning the "X-Factor" in this bout is spacing. Story needs to find that perfect sweet spot where he's too close to get tagged by Alves' knee-buckling leg kicks, but still too far away to avoid his hooks and face-breaking knees. Story holds a reach advantage over Alves with his punches and he'll need to try to wear "The Pitbull" down with jabs and the occasional power strike mixed in. If Story can't find a comfort zone in his striking, he's going to be chopped down with leg kicks or kneed in the face until he's unrecognizable.
Bottom line: Be thankful that this bout was promoted as a main card replacement fight. Story and Alves are geared up to provide fans with the type of high-action fight that they've come to expect on fight nights. This match is going to be high-paced and action-packed for the full duration until either one man goes down or time runs out.
Who will come out on top at UFC 130? Let us know in the comment section below!