Is Thiago Alves Too Ring Rusted to Beat Jon Fitch?

Brandon HinchmanCorrespondent IAugust 2, 2010

Thiago Alves had won his last seven fights before stepping into the Octagon to face Georges St. Pierre for the welterweight championship at UFC 100.

He lost five consecutive rounds, but afterward he was eager to improve a few things and get back into the Octagon.

Before that seven-fight win streak, Alves lost to Jon Fitch by TKO in round two. Alves has been repeatedly scheduled to fight Fitch in a rematch, though due to medical issues, he's been unable to get cleared to do so.

Now that Alves has been cleared, he and Fitch will fight at UFC 117 for a rematch. The trouble? Alves has been out of the game for over a year.

How will ring rust affect Alves? Fitch has a four-fight win streak, his last loss also being to GSP. That being his only loss in some time, Fitch is still a mainstream competitor.

Fitch is as tough as they come. He has a 22-3 record, and other than losing a couple of times very early in his career and once to GSP, he has won against other very tough opponents.

The only potential sign of weakness is that Fitch hasn't finished a fight since 2007. Otherwise he's still a very strong opponent, and he's certainly a legitimate threat.

Due to the inherent subjectivity of ring rust and Alves' prior loss to Fitch, it seems, on paper, Fitch should hold the advantage here. But that's only on paper.

Brock Lesnar is a good example of how ring rust may indeed not be a factor; however, when it is a factor, it's a big one. Will Alves be susceptible to what others have fallen prey to?

Alves was probably the strongest and most well-rounded he's ever been prior to going into the UFC 100 match with GSP. But maintaining that condition and, more importantly, that state of mind is a tough thing to do.

For Alves to win this, he will have to do quite a bit.

1) He needs to be a better fighter than he was the first time he faced Fitch.

2) He needs to be at least as well conditioned as his fight with GSP, which might be the simplest of necessary tasks, but which certainly is not easy.

3) He needs to thwart ring rust, which is completely subjective and could very easily hinder him. Ring rust affects some of the toughest fighters, and it is a very real phenomenon that should be taken seriously.

On paper, Fitch holds the advantage. The gap between his not being able to finish the last few of his fights in comparison to Alves's potential mental, physical, and technical decline from the time he was a top-of-the-line competitor is not great enough to consider Alves to hold any advantage at all.

Prediction: Fitch by unanimous decision.