Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) Welterweight strikers Thiago Alves and Curtis Millender will throw down this Sunday (Feb. 18, 2018) inside Frank Erwin Center in Austin, Texas.
Alves has been doing this thing for a long time. The mixed martial arts (MMA) veteran made his debut back in 2001 at the age of 17 years of age, earning a title shot eight years later. In the near decade since, Alves has struggled with injuries, resulting in inconsistency as of late. Luckily, the silver lining here is that when Alves is on, he’s still one of the most dangerous kickboxers in the division. Millender, on the other hand, is a UFC newcomer just five years into his professional career. Luckily, he has quite a bit of high-level experience in Bellator and Legacy, and Millender enters this bout on the heels of two straight head kick knockouts.
Let’s take a look at the keys to victory for both men:
Key Wins: Patrick Cote (UFC 210), Jordan Mein (UFC 183), Josh Koscheck (UFC 90), Matt Hughes (UFC 85)
Key Losses: Carlos Condit (UFC Fight Night 67), Rick Story (UFC 130), Martin Kampmann (UFC on FX 2)
Keys to Victory: Long ago, Alves was described as a “Muay Thai wrecking machine,” and that holds true today. Alves is a potent kickboxer both at range and in the clinch, best known for his brutal low kicks, tight combinations and powerful knees.
As usual, Alves will be faced with a height and reach disadvantage. Luckily, he’ll actually be the better wrestler/grappler, which should allow Alves to to open up with his strikes. If he’s particularly smart, he could even plant Millender on his back.
Alves’ game works far better when the low kick is landing. Opposite rangy kickboxers, Alves has successfully used a couple strategies in the past to make the low kick work. For one, Alves will catch body/head kicks and return to the leg, which is a really great strategy opposite a lanky kickboxer. In addition, Alves does a great job kicking from his back foot. One of the best ways to close distance is to allow the rangier fighter to lead, and Alves has used this strategy to dig kicks on the way in.
If Alves can land to the lead leg consistently, everything tends to work out for the Brazilian.
Key Wins: Nick Barnes (LFA 30), Matthew Frincu (LFA 24), Dominic Waters (Fight Club OC)
Key Losses: Brennan Ward (Bellator 134), Fernando Gonzalez (Bellator 137)
Keys to Victory: Millender is a rangy kickboxer who seems to have found his power, scoring three knockouts in his previous four bouts compared to just two in the preceding 13. While submission defense proved his downfall a couple years back in Bellator, he’s managed to keep it standing against stiff opposition recently.
In this match up, Millender’s biggest advantages are likely youth and range. Alves is a very skilled kickboxer, but he can be thrown off his game by fighters who start fast or who keep constant pressure on him. That’s not to say Alves is weak in brawls, but 17 years of training camps and brutal fights will wear a fighter down.
With that in mind, Millender would be best-advised to keep the pace high. If the kickboxer is able to work behind his kicks and break his foe down a bit, it should payoff over the course of 15 minutes.
Bottom Line: It’s a kickboxing match that features an interesting new prospect at 170 pounds.
Until Alves can find consistency, his role in the division is to provide fun fights and test up-and-comers. This match up is a perfect example, as it’s likely to be rather fun to watch and will give us a good look at how Millender stacks up in the Welterweight division. Ultimately, it will take more than second win in a row here to push Alves up the ladder, and a loss will keep him in his current position.
The stakes are much higher for “Curtious,” who will make his first impression opposite the Brazilian. That’s a risky proposition, seeing as Alves can occasionally look like a world-beater. Luckily, that also means Alves’ name still commands respect, so a debut victory over “Pitbull” could lead to a high-profile match in his second bout.
At UFC Fight Night 126, Thiago Alves and Curtis Millender will scrap in a 170 lbs. bout. Which man will have his hand raised?