As Thiago “Pitbull” Alves prepares for his 24th fight in the UFC at UFC Fight Night 126, it is safe to say he has been a staple in the world’s leading mixed martial arts company.
Having debuted for the company in 2005, Alves has put together a robust resume. He has two “Fight of the Night” accolades to match one “Performance of the Night” and one “Knockout of the Night” bonus. “Pitbull” has consistently fought the highest level of competition, including a knockout win over one of the greatest welterweight’s of all time, Matt Hughes. Alves was a vital part of a card many fans revere as the best the company has ever compiled, UFC 100, falling short to Georges St-Pierre in a welterweight championship fight.
Despite numerous milestones in his rearview mirror, “Pitbull” is still only 34-years-old, and this can still be considered the prime of a fighter’s career. In recent interviews, Alves seems to share this sentiment and plans for a big 2018 starting with his bout against Curtis Millender in Austin, Texas at UFC Fight Night 126.
Can you teach an old “Pitbull ” new tricks?
In an interview with Portal do Vale Tudo, Alves lays out his ambitious plans for 2018.[perfectpullquote align=”full” bordertop=”false” cite=”” link=”” color=”” class=”” size=”16″]“One fight at a time. I have one battle coming up this Sunday, then I’ll go after my next victim. It’s going to be at least three fights and three wins this year. I’m still going to be a f—king champion. You better believe it. This is my year, I’ll have three or four fights and I’ll be in the mix. I never felt this good and I’m going after it.”[/perfectpullquote]
At his best, Alves has been – and remains – a tough day at the office for his opponents. He is a Muay Thai machine with absolutely crippling kicks to the leg or body of his foes. To add to his lethal legs, the stocky Alves generates a ton of power in his hands. In total, Alves has finished his opponents due to strikes or doctor stoppage a total of 12 times in his career. However, in the welterweight division in 2018, Alves will need to break past habits and evolve even further to reach his goal of being a champion.
In Alves’ case, the amount of mileage on his body is much more of a concern than his age. Top level fighters like heavyweight champion Stipe Miocic, light heavyweight champion Daniel Cormier, top middleweight contender Yoel Romero and the champion of the division Alves hopes to win gold in, Tyron Woodley, are all finding success while older than Thiago. It is completely plausible for a fighter at the age of 34 to reach the top, however, trends in Alves’ career will be his biggest hurdle.
The two biggest hindrances to Alves’ success have been his health and his conditioning. Alves has missed weight three times in his career. In addition, he has also been caught using a banned diuretic, most likely to aid in weight cutting. These rough weight cuts, along with the mass he carries on his 5’9″ frame have caused him to fade in fights in the past. As the body ages. logic tells us that it will only be more difficult to drastically cut weight and keep itself healthy, which has been another Achilles’ heel of Alves.
Since 2012, injury has been Alves’ fiercest opponent. He has had to withdraw from almost as many fights (five) as times he’s actually fought (six). This spell of injuries includes a more than two-year layoff between 2012 and 2014.
In order to reach the top once more, Alves will have to learn some new tricks when it comes to weight cut and preserving a body that has seen nearly two decades of professional mixed martial arts combat.
One fight at a time
While a prime “Pitbull” being atop the welterweight rankings is an image that most fans can easily envision, the process of returning to glory will be examined on a fight-to-fight basis. At the age of 34, Alves is still a threat, especially on the feet, to anyone who shares the Octagon with him. His vicious kicks, matched with his powerful hands, are proven fight finishers. No UFC welterweight, past or present, would be wise to stand toe-to-toe and absorb punishment from “Pitbull”.
If Alves can evolve his already stellar game, including working on his conditioning and body maintenance, “Pitbull” can begin to turn back the clocks at UFC Fight Night 126.
A 28-year-old MMA nut. Paralegal by trade, and heavyweight champion in my mind.