Eddie Alvarez and Anthony Pettis might not have put on the fight that most were expecting, but the man who had his hand raised in the end didn’t think the contest was as close as the final tally reflected.
Alvarez defeated Pettis via split decision in the UFC Fight Night Boston co-headliner on Sunday night, adopting a conservative, grinding approach that saw him take the Roufusport product down six times and consistently stall the action against the fence. It wasn’t necessarily cosmetically pleasing, but it was effective in limiting offensive opportunities for the flashy Pettis.
“I didn’t see a split decision,” Alvarez said at the post-fight press conference. “I‘m the type of fighter who assumes I lose every round. I need my coach to tell me how I did. That fight in particular I assumed that I won the fight, so to see a split that was a little shocking for me.
“I would’ve liked to let my hands go a little more. Anthony’s a dangerous guy. The idea was to wear him down, take all the pop off that fancy stuff and just scrape him off the cage and beat him up. He’s so talented; it’s tough to take risks against a guy like that.”
Since signing with the UFC late in 2014, Alvarez has faced a brutal schedule in the lightweight division: former WEC and UFC No. 1 contender Donald Cerrone, ex-Strikeforce ruler and two-time UFC title challenger Gilbert Melendez and now, recently displaced UFC champ Pettis. The Philadelphia native has won two out of three of those fights, which he hopes is enough to put him in the running to face the winner of the Rafael dos Anjos-Conor McGregor championship bout at UFC 197 in March.
“When I signed with [UFC CEO Lorenzo Fertitta] and [UFC President Dana White, I told them I would like the best guys in the division. I wasn’t trying to look to show the fans something that I wasn’t; I wanted the best guys,” Alvarez said. “They’ve given me the best guys. To be honest, I don’t know what I deserve. Hopefully it’s for the title. I would love, love, love a shot at the title.”
However, Sunday’s performance was a marked contrast to some of Alvarez’s most memorable work, like his brawls with Michael Chandler in Bellator MMA or even his Octagon clashes against Cerrone or Melendez. Instead, Alvarez intelligently followed the blueprint laid out by dos Anjos, who took down Pettis nine times en route to snatching the lightweight belt at UFC 185 last March.
Sometimes, Alvarez acknowledged, it’s better to be safe than sorry -- especially when winning and losing is involved. Whether that slows his path to the top of the weight class remains to be seen.
“I’m my biggest critic before anyone. I don’t need anyone to tell me what I should’ve did,” Alvarez said. “I want to be more exciting, trust me. I’m not taking guys who are ranked 25 and 30. There’s a real small margin for error at the top. You can’t be going out there being reckless. A guy like Anthony Pettis, he’s dangerous and he’s talented, but he has a deep hole and I need to exploit that. I’d be stupid not to.
“I definitely got the job done. If I was able to do some highlights in between, then that’s great. I want to do something huge here.”