"The Pitbull" will take on "The Hitman" tomorrow night (March 2, 2012) as former welterweight title challenger Thiago Alves fights perennial contender Martin Kampmann in the main event of UFC on FX 2 in Sydney, Australia.
Alves is finally starting to return to form after a tough stretch which saw him miss weight and flounder a number one contender fight against Jon Fitch in 2011. He's coming off his first stoppage victory since 2008 and with the welterweight division currently in a state of flux, he's hoping to capitalize and get right back into contention.
Martin Kampmann was the recipient of some very bad luck. After a pair of controversial decision losses, he finally bounced back with a strong showing against Rick Story last fall and was immediately thrown into main event status again. A victory over a former title challenger will do wonders for his divisional placement at welterweight.
Will Alves' adjustments help him overwhelm his Danish foe tomorrow night? Can "The Hitman" ice Alves with his well-rounded game? How does each man secure a victory in the main event of UFC on FX 2?
Let's find out:Thiago Alves
Record: 19-8 overall, 11-5 in the UFC
How he got here: Alves has been fighting under the UFC banner since 2005. In 2009, he was at his peak and famously rode a seven-fight win streak all the way to a title shot against Georges St. Pierre at 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.
On his return to the promotion, he earned a rematch against consensus number two ranked welterweight Jon 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.
Under Dolce's guidance, the American Top Team (ATT) fighter made weight easily and looked fantastic in pounding John Howard at UFC 124, winning via unanimous decision. He was hoping to continue his resurgence against Rick Story but got overwhelmed by the wrestler's tenacious takedown attempts and "in your face" striking style.
He entered his last fight with Papy Abedi in desperate need for a victory and he got it, scoring his first legit submission of his career after knocking the judo player down. Alves is hoping to re-enter contender status if he can win a high profile fight against Kampmann.
How he gets it done: To get a victory on Saturday night, Alves will need to channel his 2008 self again when he built a reputation as being an absolute buzz-saw with his striking. The Brazilian has the nastiest leg kicks in the business and also mixes in excellent knees and short, crisp punches.
He's been very inconsistent ever since losing a title shot to GSP, getting outwrestled in all three of his losses. He needs to do a better job of controlling distance in this match. While Kampmann doesn't have the wrestling of a Rick Story or a Jon Fitch, he does have some sneaky takedowns of his own so Alves must be wary of letting "The Hitman" get too far inside on him.
Look for Alves to either keep his distance and pepper Kampmann with leg kicks or, if the fight gets inside, Alves will want to throw his vicious knees from the clinch. If he can take out Kampmann's legs with repeated kicks, that's going to slow him down and make him an easier target.
Record: 18-5 overall, 9-4 in the UFC
How he got here: Martin Kampmann was very successful on the European circuit and he made his UFC debut as a middleweight in 2006. He won his first four UFC fights before getting overpowered by the bigger, stronger Nate Marquardt.
This motivated his decision to drop to welterweight where he won his first two fights including a thrilling decision over debuting WEC welterweight champion Carlos Condit to instantly become one of the top contenders in the division.
He was slated for a number one contenders match against Mike Swick but unfortunately had that bout derailed with an injury to the AKA fighter. Instead, he found himself facing UFC newcomer Paul Daley, who overwhelmed Kampmann on the feet, repeatedly landing heavy shots to force a standing TKO.
Kampmann got back on track with impressive consecutive wins but then was on the receiving end of two extremely close decisions against Jake Shields and then Diego Sanchez earlier this year. His return to the Octagon was delayed this summer after a knee injury but he's healthy again came back with a vengeance in defeating Rick Story via unanimous decision last fall.
With the victory, the UFC put him right back into the spotlight to headline a big FX show against Alves.
How he gets it done: Kampmann may be relatively even with Alves in the striking department, but if he's got an advantage at all, it's in his crisp technical boxing. While he normally doesn't have reach advantage, he's still been able to outstrike his opposition and this time around, he'll actually have an opportunity to keep Alves at bay with his punches.
I expect Kampmann to try to find that perfect balance in distance where he's a little too close to get hammered with leg kicks but just an inch or two out of Alves' punching range. If he can find this middle ground, he's going to have some success.
Another factor in this fight is Kampmann's overall well-roundedness. While I expect most of this fight to take place on the feet, if it goes to the clinch or on the ground, Kampmann could have an advantage there as he's got some sneaky takedowns with judo and trip techniques. I can definitely see him catching Alves off guard with a takedown or two if he can get inside.
Fight X-Factor: The biggest X-Factor for this fight is power. Kampmann has some terrific technique in his striking, and while he can bust his opponents' faces up at times, he doesn't have that one-punch or one-kick power which can put someone away. Alves, on the other hand, is still extremely dangerous with both his hands, his knees and his shins.
Because of this, I can definitely see Alves wading through Kampmann's reach to try and tag him with a big shot. It would be worth getting hit multiple times if he can connect with power and stun "The Hitman." His leg kicks can be equally devastating and he could definitely hamstring the Xtreme Couture fighter's ability to move effectively if he can land enough of them.
Bottom Line: This is a very evenly matched main event which features two of the most entertaining strikers in the UFC's welterweight division. While both men have different areas in the striking realm where they have an advantage, the potential for both men trying to impose their will and creating an exciting fight is through the roof. I can see Kampmann teeing off with punches while Alves batters away with deep leg kicks that stagger him. This fight should be extremely fun to watch and it's some terrific match-making by Joe Silva.
Who will come out on top at UFC on FX 2? Tell us your predictions in the comments below!