In this exhilarating UFC 111 installment of B/R Roundtable Discussion , myself and my two colleagues, Robert Gardner and E. Spencer Kyte, will systemically break down, peel back, dissect, and digest the grit and glamour of Jon Fitch vs. Thiago Alves.
This consequential welterweight melee, a Mastodon vs. Mammoth arrangement at 170 pounds, will determine the next No. 1 contender for the title—which will be contested on the same night between champion Georges St-Pierre, a Canadian mythological god of war, and challenger Dan Hardy—a modern day Richard the Lionheart looking to become king.
Roundtable: Fitch vs. Alves is the first of three parts of our UFC 111 installment—Mir vs. Carwin will follow, and St-Pierre vs. Hardy will conclude.
So, grab a beer—or 12—and let’s nudge this small snowball downhill and watch it cause an avalanche…Robert?
What can you say about Jon Fitch and Thiago Alves, other than they are the two best welterweights in the world not named Georges St-Pierre. It's been more than three years since these two first met—when Fitch caught Alves with a wicked up kick in the second round to win the fight. I'm really excited to see how this fight plays out, as both men are not the same fighters they were back in 2006.
E. Spencer Kyte:
This is a huge fight for both guys, as they each want another crack at the welterweight crown. You know what you're going to get with Fitch—blue-collar, lunchpail wrestling and grappling to wear you down and grind you out. Alves has always been a fighter of interest to me, because there are so many things he does well. Of the two, I'd say he's improved more since the last meeting, but mostly in his approach to the day-to-day elements of the sport.
Not only will this fight determine who will be next in line for a shot at the welterweight title, but it also has "Fight of the Night" written all over it. It's exciting to have a No. 1 contender and championship fight from the same division on the same card—perfect timing, Mr. Silva! Both fighters have certainly improved since their first meeting, and I think both will be looking to prove something. I agree with Spencer that Alves has improved more than Fitch—and I also feel like he's hungrier after suffering that five-round domination from GSP last July.
I'm going to have to agree with you guys about Alves being the more improved of the two. Besides that the guy in an absolute monster for a welterweight, Alves is a very powerful and explosive fighter—but even with all of that, I don't know if it will be enough for him to get past Jon Fitch. While Fitch may be a somewhat boring and lackluster fighter, all the guy does is win. His first win over Alves may have been a bit of a fluke, but this time around, I think Fitch will be better prepared for Alves' speed and power.
E. Spencer Kyte:
The thing that always amazes me with Fitch is exactly what we're doing right now: You tend to forget about how great a fighter he is because he's got that blue-collar mentality. He doesn't give you flash and flare, but the dude dominates every time out. Make no mistake about it, Fitch has improved—and he's super-hungry heading into this fight. I got the sense in talking to him last week that he's out to prove beyond a shadow of a doubt that he's the only guy who should be fighting GSP this summer.
Fitch is an incredible welterweight who definitely gets the job done in a very "efficient" way—maybe boring to some casual fans, but his grinding style is appealing to the "working-man" fans. Unfortunately for Fitch, though, this grinding style won't cut it against Alves—who will be looking to finish the fight. I don't completely buy the idea that each fighter is only as good as his last fight, but Fitch struggled with a less experienced Mike Pierce despite the win—and there's something to take away from that performance. Alves will bring the pressure and overwhelm Fitch with his superior striking.
I think Alves is a phenomenal fighter. But to me, Fitch is just a little bit better at imposing his will on opponents—and that is key at this level of MMA. Fitch will survive the opening onslaught of Alves, then take him down and grind his way to a victory. Alves is far and away the more dangerous fighter, but Fitch is the better all-round fighter—and Fitch just has more tools in the box.
E. Spencer Kyte:
Fitch has the ability to dictate the pace of this fight. If he sits back and allows Alves to come forward, he's in for a long night. But if he presses and can work his wrestling game, he's positively suffocating once he's got you in his world. That’s exactly what we saw in the Mike Pierce fight. For two rounds, he controlled Pierce completely. The one point where he let up a little—whammo—he got caught in the jaw, put on a pair of jimmy legs, and had to survive to the finish. If Alves catches him like that, there will be no surviving.
Fitch controlled most of the first round, but Pierce had his own takedown and stuffed one of Fitch's takedown attempts at the end of the round. During Round Two, Fitch took Pierce down twice and took his back each time—an excellent position. That all looks good, but Pierce defended very well and stood up each time Fitch had his back. Also, the stand-up portion of the fight was pretty even—I'd even say Pierce connected with harder shots. Those were the rounds that Fitch "decisively" won—not incredibly impressive. Considering the caliber gap between those two, that was the fight Fitch was supposed to finish instead of adding yet another decision victory. I just don't think that's going to be enough to beat Alves. The longer the fight goes, the more opportunity Alves will have to catch Fitch and put him away.
I really think that the longer the fight goes, the more it’s going to swing into Fitch’s favor. While he was not as impressive in the Pierce fight—as everyone was expecting— Fitch did get the win, and his lack of dominance was more a testament to just how tough and game Pierce really is. I see Fitch eating some shots in this fight, but ultimately dictating the pace and suffocating Alves with his grappling.
Fitch by unanimous decision
E. Spencer Kyte:
That's my call, too. Alves has all the tools to put Fitch away if he catches him, but I see Fitch coming out and making this a wrestling match from start to finish.
Alves had the luxury of experiencing GSP's wrestling and preparing a game plan from that to defend or sprawl against a lesser wrestler in Fitch—not to mention the success he's had over top-notch wrestlers in the past: Hughes and Koscheck. Fitch is a tough, elite fighter—no doubt about it—but his progress has flatlined compared with Alves. Their first fight was too long ago for it repeat itself this Saturday.
I'm taking Alves by dog-bite mauling—I mean, TKO—in the third.