There's an intriguing main event on tap this weekend between former welterweight champion Matt Hughes and up-and-comer Thiago Alves at the O2 Arena in London, England.
The 170-pound pits two men who are going in two different directions in their careers -- one is relatively close to calling it an amazing career and the other is hoping to follow in his footsteps. It will also determine who is heading toward a title shot in the near future.
For Alves, a win over Hughes could be the fight that solidifies him as a legitimate contender in the stacked welterweight division. As for Hughes, a win here could lead him to at least two more fights, another shot at championship glory, and another accolade to tack onto his Hall of Fame career.
It’s no secret by now that tomorrow night is do or die for Matt Hughes.
He only -- by his own admission -- a handful of fights left in him. He has no intentions of fighting into his early 40s like Randy Couture ... for now. Heading into this fight, Hughes has promised that he will return to the Matt Hughes of old who dominated the welterweight division for years.
For him to win this fight, he’s going to have to take Alves to the mat and keep him down. There is no way that Hughes can win this fight trying to trade shots with Alves -- a very skilled striker.
The problem with Hughes’ game, however, is the fact that his striking is essentially ineffective. He uses it to set up his aggressive takedowns and monster slams. Hughes is not going to knockout anyone standing and probably never will.
He has to force Alves to respect his striking to the point where he can secure takedown after takedown. If Hughes can’t take Alves down, it could be spell trouble.
Look no further than his last fight with Georges St. Pierre. "Rush" knew that Hughes could not hurt him when the two were trading shots, so he decided to takedown Hughes and punish him from there. In a sense, he beat Hughes at his own game.
Hughes didn’t look comfortable on his back and really never has. His first fight with BJ Penn and third fight with St. Pierre also shows that Hughes isn’t as effective if he’s on his back.
Put simply, Hughes' bread and butter -- the skills that propelled him to the highest level of the sport -- are when he uses his strength and wrestling to overwhelm opponents.
And when he can't get those going it translates into another "L" in the loss column.
Alves, on the other hand, knows that this is the biggest fight in his career. He is riding a five-fight winning streak that includes two impressive victories over Chris Lytle and Karo Parisyan.
Even though the fight with Lytle ended because of a cut, it was clear that Alves was well on his way to winning that fight outright. Yet it was his victory over Parisyan that proved to be the most impressibe to date in his young career.
Karo knew heading into the tilt that a win would guarantee him an eventual title shot. Jon Fitch -- who had already defeated Alves -- was also looming in the background; however, Parisyan accepted the bout with Alves instead and it backfired.
Alves proved to be no stepping stone for the "Heat."
He stuffed most of Paryisan’s Judo attempts and kept the fight where he wanted it -- standing. Alves then fustrated Karo with his sprawls and the use of his Muay Thai to keep him guessing. Then when Karo finally had a chance for another takedown, Alves used his impressive stand up skills to deliver a big knee that later ended the fight.
Alves will have to do the same thing to Hughes to win this fight.
"The Pitbull" has to bring the fight to Hughes and use his effective leg kicks early to wear Hughes’ legs down. The reason being that Hughes will not have the strength in his legs to attempt takedowns. Alves is by far the superior striker and if he can keep Hughes at bay, Alves could very well find an opening and can knockout Hughes.
In short, Alves will have to let his hands go early and often to fustrate Hughes and win this fight.
Both men clearly need to win this fight for different reasons. Even with news that win, lose or draw Hughes is guaranteed to fight Matt Serra in the fall, he will still have to win both fights to earn a title shot. A win for Alves puts him one step closer to possibly fighting the winner of St. Pierre and Fitch at UFC 87: "Seek and Destroy."
So much intrigue. And we’ll get plenty of answers tomorrow night at UFC 85.
Quick picks for UFC 85
- Hughes -- I see him weathering the storm early and taking Alves down at will to win via decision.
- Michael Bisping -- I’ve enjoyed Jason Day’s commentary heading into the fight here on the site, but Bisping is too well rounded for Day.
- Marcus Davis -- I’m not a big Mike Swick fan and he should’ve stayed at middleweight. Davis is for real and will show it tomorrow.
- Brandon Vera -- He’s going to exploit the striking advantage over Werdum with his kickboxing and take him out in the second.
- Thales Leites -- He’s a beast on the ground and I think he can catch Marquardt in the second with an armbar.
MMA news and notes
Alves misses weight and fight at UFC 85 will be fought at catch weight: This isn’t the first time Alves has had a problem making weight and it’s cause for concern. He can’t expect to have St. Pierre or Fitch fight him at a catch weight nor can his boss trust him to not ruin a possible championship bout like Travis Lutter did back at UFC 67. Ultimately, four pounds isn't going to make a difference in this fight -- it's more of a psychological blow than anything else.
Donald Trump an equity partner for Affliction MMA: It's difficult what to make of this, but if it helps the sport in the long run then I’m all for it. I’ve got to admit though, now Affliction can make the case that it has the deepest heavyweight division in the sport today. With Sylvia, Barnett, Fedor and now Andrei Arlovski, the class is deep. Really deep. Perhaps Affliction can showcase the heavyweights like boxing in its heyday. That would be something.
If there’s going to be Lawler-Smith 2, then the same for Slice-Thompson 2: Elite XC did its job, considering it wasn’t the best showcase of the sport. But the stoppages of both fights weren’t justified to me. I felt that if Thompson was rocked, then let him be until he got knocked out. By the same token, the fight should’ve been stopped in the second round because of Slice’s inability to improve position from the bottom and the shots that were unanswered. As for Lawler-Smith, Scott should’ve gotten his five minutes … PERIOD!
Faber-Pulver was entertaining, but Torres-Maeda stole the show: Last week, we predicted right here that WEC 34 was the show to watch for great MMA action. Faber surprised everyone with his impressive display of power and technique in outstriking Pulver for five rounds. Granted, he was getting tagged as well but he just kept coming and frustrated Pulver all night. But I have to give praise for Torres-Maeda because that back-and-forth war tore the building down. I was literally standing on my feet when both men had ankle locks on each other. It is an instant classic.
That’s it for this week folks, next week I’ll have a recap of UFC 85 and thoughts on the fights. Other than that, I’ll see you guys right back here in the Throwdown!