After scoring consecutive big wins over Matt Hughes and Josh Koscheck in 2008, many thought that Thiago Alves was the future of the welterweight division.
Alves was thrust into a title fight against Georges St-Pierre at UFC 100, and many thought that he would be the toughest test of St-Pierre’s career, as Alves had completely shut down the wrestling of Koscheck in his last bout and was a force to be reckoned with on the feet.
As it turns out, St-Pierre was on a completely different level than the rest of the welterweight division, (and still is), and Alves was left to try and crawl his way back up the welterweight ladder.
Since that bout, Alves has gone 2-2 in one of the promotion's deepest divisions, but his two wins are against a couple of very average welterweights and he has yet to prove that he is still the same fighter that we saw wrecking everyone in sight a few years ago.
Now with his return to the main event scene against Martin Kampmann at UFC on FX 2 on the horizon, Alves has left fans with more questions than answers about his potential to rise to the top of the division once again.
Even before he steps inside the cage on any given fight night, Alves has already fought a battle that his opponent wouldn’t even want to think about.
Alves is one of the biggest welterweights in the UFC, reportedly ballooning up to almost 200 pounds in between fights, and it is has been a problem for him to make the required 170 pound weight limit in the past.
His last three bouts have come and gone without any issue at the scale, but after missing weight twice in his UFC career, and once getting suspended for taking banned diuretics, it’s obvious that Alves has a lot to worry about before the fight even starts.
Making weight without any issues is going to be huge against Kampmann, as “The Hitman” has shown that he has great stamina, and if Alves ends up a bit sluggish due to the weight cut he will likely pay for it in the later rounds.
There has never been a question regarding Alves’ takedown defense, but his defensive grappling had hindered his progress as a mixed martial artist for a long time now.
St-Pierre was able to repeatedly drag Alves to the mat and pummel him, and his subsequent bout against Jon Fitch saw Fitch use a similar strategy to wear down “Pitbull.”
Alves hasn’t been able to defeat a wrestler since that bout against Koscheck, clear back at UFC 90, and after getting mauled against the fence by Rick Story at UFC 130, one has to wonder if Alves still has the gas tank and grappling skills to survive in the wrestling-heavy welterweight division.
While Kampmann isn’t a strong wrestler like some of Alves’ previous opponents, he still has a very good ground game and if he is able to take Alves down he could pose a lot of problems on the mat.
Since the fight against St-Pierre, Alves hasn’t beaten a single opponent who would be considered one of the best in his division.
Wins over John Howard and Papy Abedi are fine for someone near the middle of the division, but with the talent and name value that Alves has, he should be fighting bigger names and looking impressive in those big fights.
It’s not Alves’ fault he’s been matched up against inferior opponents, and he did make sure he looked the part in those bouts, but this fight against Kampmann is crucial for his career.
If he is able to smash Kampmann the way he did Matt Hughes during a UFC 85 main event that seems like it was 20 years ago, we’ll know he is back in top form and ready to make some noise in a suddenly very interesting welterweight division.
If he comes out and gives the fans a lackluster performance and loses his momentum, then it’s probably time to remove Alves from our welterweight rankings for good.