Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) Lightweight knockout artists Eddie Alvarez and Justin Gaethje will brawl this Saturday (Dec. 2, 2017) at UFC 218 inside Little Caesars Arena in Detroit, Michigan.
Alvarez’s position at pounds is looking uncertain once more. It took a three-fight win streak that saw him capture the title for Alvarez to really prove himself to UFC’s fanbase, but an ugly loss and controversial “No Contest” have since destabilized the rule of “The Underground King.” It’s not going to get any easier for Alvarez here. Gaethje is an undefeated master of violence, who could be knocked out at any time, but is probably going to keep dominating until that happens.
Let’s take a look at the keys to victory for each man:
Record: 28-5 (1)
Key Wins: Rafael dos Anjos (UFC Fight Night 90), Anthony Pettis (UFC Fight Night 81), Michael Chandler (Bellator 106), Gilbert Melendez (UFC 188), Shinya Aoki (Bellator 66)
Key Losses: Conor McGregor (UFC 205), Donald Cerrone (UFC 178), Michael Chandler (Bellator 58)
Keys to Victory: Alvarez is a slick boxer with a wrestling background, but that’s not a true description of his strengths. The bottom line is that Alvarez won fights and titles by being tougher than opponents, getting rocked and then hanging in the fight way longer than he had any right to.
That won’t work against Gaethje.
Alvarez has to keep this a technical match. He just cannot afford to brawl with Gaethje, one of the few men in mixed martial arts (MMA) history who can match his heart. Unfortunately for Alvarez, both men may have their respective “will to win” stats maxed out, but Gaethje far exceeds Alvarez in durability and power. Luckily, this contest is three rounds. That actually favors Alvarez quite a bit, as he only has to out-point Gaethje for ten minutes to potentially win a decision. Alvarez is quite good at circling the outside and picking shots, a strategy that has worked against Gaethje before.
The only problem with that approach is that Gaethje eventually stalks his foe down and brings the hurt. If the clock runs out before that happens, Alvarez’s hand will be raised if he stays smart.
Key Wins: Michael Johnson (TUF 25 Finale), Luis Palomino (WSOF 19, 23), Melvin Guillard (WSOF 15), Brian Foster (WSOF 29)
Key Losses: None
Keys to Victory: Gaethje is the sport’s best brawler. That term tends to imply a lack of technique, which isn’t entirely the case. Gaethje gets hit, sure, but that’s a part of the game when aggression is your style. What matters is that Gaethje hits his opponent way harder and is usually in good position to absorb his foe’s punches.
Since avoiding the brawl was Alvarez’s overall key to victory, it makes sense that forcing the brawl is Gaethje’s goal. Gaethje generally does so by walking forward with his hands high, presenting his foe a target to hit and then clubbing them for daring to try.
Alvarez will plant and counter, but his ability to angle off afterward is better than most. Therefore, tracking Alvarez down and pinning him in place will be important, and luckily Gaethje already has answers for that. From the beginning, Gaethje should be destroying his foe’s legs with kicks — a proven strategy opposite the boxer — and stopping him in place with body shots.
Bottom Line: The winner is firmly in the Lightweight division’s crowded title picture.
For Alvarez, it’s a chance to get back in the Lightweight title mix. A win has no chance of earning him a title shot, but it could see Alvarez compete in a title eliminator next time. However, it also seems like a rematch with Dustin Poirier is in his future should Alvarez come out on top. On the other hand, a loss pushes Alvarez out of the title picture ... and there’s a fair chance he won’t get back.
This is a massive bout for Gaethje, a chance to add a former champion’s name to his unbeaten streak. By the end of December, there are potentially two men who very clearly deserve a title shot: Gaethje (if he wins) and the victor of Khabib Nurmagomedov vs. Edson Barboza.
Conor McGregor really needs to attempt to unify his belt opposite Tony Ferguson, because any of those three contenders will deserve a shot at the title. Meanwhile, a loss would definitely hurt. Part of Gaethje’s appeal is his undefeated record, which is an easy selling point toward a title shot. If he loses that, it will take much longer to earn a shot at the strap.
At UFC 218, Eddie Alvarez and Justin Gaethje will throw down. Which fighter will remain standing when the dust settles?