Another day at the office for Hughes--but it's now or never for Alves
Preview by Brady Crytzer
Photos: Chris Cozzone
Matt Hughes is, arguably, one of the strongest fighters in the world today, He has built a legendary reputation as a tough-as-nails, no-nonsense warrior who’s defeated all challengers with thunderous slams, takedowns and a brutal ground n’ pound.
Hughes, who lives and trains in Iowa at the now infamous Miletich Camp, is a former All American wrestler who is well versed in both stand-up and submissions. Since winning his title at UFC 34, against Canadian submission wiz Carlos “The Ronin” Newton, Hughes has racked up impressive victories over fighters like Hayoto Sakurai, Gil Castillo, Sean Sherk and Frank Trigg. Despite a shocking upset by Hawaiian Superstar BJ Penn, Hughes quickly rebounded by soundly defeating Renato “Charuto” Verissimo, St. Pierre, in a welterweight title bout, and Frank Trigg, in a rematch at UFC 52. In that fight, Hughes displayed outstanding recovery and resiliency when, after nearly being knocked out by a Trigg left hand, he amazingly slammed his game opponent to the mat and submitted him via rear naked choke.
After gaining some fame from The Ultimate Fighter Season 2, Hughes made quick work of challenger Joe “Diesel” Riggs in November of 2005, submitting him in less than 3:30 with a well executed kimura armlock. Now, after dominating the division for most of career, Hughes looked to cement his legacy by defeating a living legend when he took on Royce Gracie on May 27th. Hughes displayed his absolute dominance by successfully destroying the MMA pioneer in front of an energetic Staples Center.
The glory days of the Matt Hughes era have come and gone thanks to two devastating losses to Georges “Rush” St. Pierre in 2006 and 2007. When it looked like the former welterweight king was ready to hang up the gloves for good, a sudden fallout in the main event of UFC 85 allowed for the quintessential “company man” to step in and save the day possibly for one last time.
Now or never for Alves
Following his debut on the second installment of The Ultimate Fight Night in 2005, Thiago Alves has been making waves.
Known as an energetic young fight with an incredible level of athleticism, “Pitbull” has slowly transitioned himself from the label of well-rounded to altogether devastating. Though he lost to Spencer Fischer in his debut, Alves has used his incredible skill set to put together wins over Ansar Chalangov, Derrick Noble, and John Alessio. Alves first began to raise eyebrows in the welterweight division when he became only the second man in history to stop the very game Chris “Lights Out” Lytle in a true firefight.
While it appeared that the young scrapper from Fortaleza, Brazil, was just one superfight away from a title shot against welterweight champion St. Pierre, fate smiled on Alves in the form of Karo Parysian. Parysian, a judo expert known as one of the best welterweights never to challenge for the 170-pound crown, seemed on the fast track to the title until the still underestimated Alves knocked him out just moments into the second round. With the light heavyweight main event of UFC 85 falling out at the last second, this young prospect stepped up to the plate.
Alves will be looking for the homerun in his first, and possibly only, big chance.
How They Match Up
Hughes has led a Hall of Fame worthy career, and Alves could truly signal the end of it. While Hughes has a vast experience edge as the nine time champion of the world, youth and athleticism falls on the shoulders of the Brazilian.
The style match up is interesting to say the least. Though Hughes has been criticized for being one dimensional, the trained eye can readily refute that comment. Though he has never been a knockout artist on the feet, Hughes possesses a diverse ground attack combining strong wrestling with a very seasoned skill set of submission tactics. One-dimensional wrestlers don’t pull off armbars like Hughes’ 2004 victory over St. Pierre.
Alves, on the other hand, has a stacked deck with a very obvious wild card. Strong, fast, courageous and hungry are all words that can describe “Pitbull” Alves. He can readily knock Hughes out in this fight, but the great scourge of any young fighter is his ability to step up in the pressure situation. If Alves fights to the best of his abilities he can use his natural advantages to simply outclass Hughes ala St. Pierre. If he fails to live up to the hype, however, the experience and professionalism of the former champion Hughes will overcome once again.