Thiago Alves was on top of the world not too long ago.
On a seven-fight win streak, which included five (technical) knockout finishes, "Pitbull" and his ferocious fight style would be put to the test against UFC Welterweight Champion Georges St. Pierre in the co main event of the biggest pay-per-view (PPV) event in the promotion's history at UFC 100 back in 2009.
"Rush" neutered Alves' dynamic striking advantage, taking down the Brazilian frequently and dominating him to earn a lopsided unanimous decision victory. Jon Fitch would add insult to injury in Alves' next fight, routing him for 15 minutes, en route to another decision win.
Despite a decision win over John Howard in his next outing, Alves was clearly not the same. This was evident in his most recent fight against Rick Story, during which he was completely beat to the punch and outstruck by an opponent whose biggest strength is his wrestling.
Alves, 28, is now booked to fight Papy Abedi at UFC 138: "Leben vs. Munoz," taking a backseat to the bantamweight brawl between Brad Pickett vs. Renan Barao as the co main event on a fight card starving for star power.
It begs the question: Are Alves' best days already behind him?
If he is, Alves certainly won't admit it, either because he really isn't, is too proud or is just in denial. He constantly talks about "how he is in the best shape of his life" and that he is hungry to get back in the thick of things atop the crowded, and talented, welterweight division.
Sure, he lost to arguably the two best 170-pound fighters in the world during this recent bumpy patch (St. Pierre and Fitch), but he didn't look good at all in either fight. He performed decent, but not great, against Howard, and turned in a stinker against Story.
Currently, Alves has rightfully fallen out of the top 10 best welterweights in the sport, according to the USA Today / MMA Nation consensus rankings. And he's going to fall much further if he can't turn in a vintage performance against Abedi, a relative unknown, undefeated super prospect who himself is known for finishing fights, later today.
Alves has dug himself a deep hole, which Abedi will bury him in if he's not careful.