While the MMA media postulate on the success or failure that was UFC on FOX 3, there is a huge story that has gone ignored by almost everyone.
Leading up to the card, there was only one question on everyone's mind: Could Alan Belcher handle Rousimar Palhares' leg locks? It was a question that Belcher fielded twice at the open workouts and once more at the pre-fight press conference. It was a question he heard so often that he had a rehearsed answer.
If anyone paid attention to the pre-fight stories, you'd have expected Rousimar Palhares to grab hold of Belcher's leg and rip it clean off. It wasn't even a question of "if", it was almost as if it was predetermined that Alan would go back to Mississippi missing a limb.
"Well, I knew that if I'd fight on the ground it would be a mistake because even though you saw me fight on the ground and defend the leg locks pretty easy and was pretty close to submission on him, it would still be a mistake to try and force that."
He added, "I knew that if we got to the ground I was confident that I could stop whatever he had. I didn't know that I would beat him on the ground but I was pretty confident. I dreamed about proving something but never let that get to me to where that was what I was focused on. My main objective was to get the win."
The fact that Rousimar Palhares is such a "one-trick pony" actually worked to Belcher's advantage. Instead of having to game plan for a fighter with multiple ways to victory, he and his coaches only had to plan for leg locks.
"Sometimes you have to guess a little bit about what your opponent's gonna do and how they're thinking about fighting you. But he fights everyone the same. It definitely made it easy for me. It made a really hard fight easy to train for and an easy one to win because I was so focused and I respected so much what he could do."
Did You Expect Alan Belcher To Defend The Leg Locks?
The way that the fight played out, it shouldn't come as a surprise that Belcher, a BJJ blackbelt, planned to attempt his own submissions on the Brazilian Top Team representative. What should be surprising is the ease in which he transitioned between all of them.
"I didn't train specifically for him to do that stuff because I didn't think that he would do that kind of takedown. But the kind of takedown that he did with his head on the outside, head out twisting a leg...whatever you wanna call that position...I wasn't going to let him hold me down. I sometimes go to their back or get them in that kind of 'bananasplit/twister position'. It's called the 'truck' and I do that in training all the time. It's a really good move that I do there."
He'd add, "the crack down is often how anyone can get me down. It's a pretty high percentage for getting people to sit down on their butt. But it leaves you open for back attacks, guillotines, twisters...stuff like that. I'm pretty good at that kinda stuff and I have a lot of moves on the ground. I train with a lot of high level grapplers and BJJ fighters. I got my twister game tweaked up by Eddie Bravo a couple years back. I get people with that stuff all the time."
The term "biggest fight of your career" gets thrown around often and for the most part, it is accurate. However, for Belcher, the biggest fight of his career was when his almost ended due to an eye injury. Now following the biggest fight of his career, Belcher sees things with perfect clarity.
"I came into this fight with a lot of focus and I was really in the zone, more than ever. I did my job and now I feel I just need to continue what I'm doing. I know it's gonna take a few weeks to sort things out and talk to the UFC. They're probably gonna wanna wait and see what happens at some of these other fights. Right now I'm just trying to enjoy this victory and enjoy time with my family and recover mentally and physically."
Riding a huge win on network television over someone that everyone considered to be the top submission grappler in the division, Belcher reflects on this enormous win. He mentioned at the post-fight press conference that everyone counted him out and even joked that UFC President Dana White was one of those naysayers.
"Dana came to me and he admitted to me that he was excited about the fight and how it was a great fight. But he thought that Rousimar was just a beast on the ground and he was tearing people's legs apart. When it went to the ground he thought it was over. I kinda laughed. Then he said 'once you escaped everything and stayed inside his guard, I was thinking what is he doing? Why doesn't he back up?' I was like 'it sucks eat your words sometimes don't it?'"
I bet he won't do that again.
If we've learned anything from the last three years of Alan Belcher's career, it's that we can never count "the Talent" out in any situation.
From having his career potentially cut short from an eye injury to now a contender, Alan has made everyone a believer in what he can do in the middleweight division. At just 28 years old, we'll continue to see the evolution of Belcher for years to come.
If Saturday was any indication, we'll be seeing him challenge for a title soon.
Matthew Roth is a Lead Blogger for Bleacher Report. All quotes were obtained first-hand.