Thiago Alves showed poise and composure in his UFC 138 victory. | Photo: Sherdog.com
Papy Abedi wasn’t doing too badly. In fact, for a UFC newcomer with only eight bouts to his credit going up against a 15-time Octagon veteran, he was faring better than expected. Unfortunately for Abedi, the man stood across the cage at Saturday’s UFC 138 happened to be a very patient Thiago Alves.
Competing for the first time at 170 pounds, ex-middleweight Abedi brought an extra two inches of height and four inches of reach to his more experienced opponent, tools ostensibly useful for stifling Alves’ fearsome standup. And while the 33-year-old judo black belt had previously demonstrated his own punching power by racking up five stoppage wins, as it turned out, Abedi’s striking was simply no match for the more polished “Pitbull.”
From the onset, Abedi welcomed the sort of offensive exchange which would eventually prove his downfall. After monkey-crawling to meet Alves at center cage, Abedi deftly checked a low kick and forced Alves to cover up with a flurry of punches. Alves found some success with body and low kicks in the opening minute, but was unable to get inside and put punches on the larger southpaw. When Abedi stunned him with a snapping front kick, Alves took a moment to reassess the situation.
“I was just taking my time to figure him out,” said Alves, 28, during the UFC 138 post-fight press conference. “He got me with the upkick. I wasn’t expecting that, but it’s just how you do. You wait a little bit and then you get to work.”
Alves was forced to wait a little bit when Abedi leaned him into the fence to strike with elbows and knees in close quarters. When Alves used underhooks and a knee up the middle to exit, Abedi gave chase with rangy combinations, backing the Brazilian against the cage again and loading up on a pair of big left hands. But as Alves backpedaled, dodging punches from the oncoming Abedi and offering chopping kicks in return, the American Top Team representative began to identify his opening.
“Every time he threw a left hand or would throw something, he would drop his hands, so I was just timing,” Alves explained in an interview with UFC.com. “I noticed every time I would look down, he would drop his left hand. So, I came up with the right overhand and got him dizzy, and I just went for the kill, baby.”
Breaking away from Abedi’s clutches again midway through the round, Alves pressed on with renewed confidence. This time, when Abedi moved him back with a pair of long punches, Alves quickly pushed forward again. With Abedi’s hands still low from his last combo, Alves zapped his foe with a hard right hook, then another. The second punch sent Abedi tilting to his right, where he was met by the left hook of Alves, further rubberizing the Swede’s legs. One more right hook had Abedi flopping to his back, and heavy follow-up punches from the posturing Alves had referee Dan Miragliotta hovering nearby, ready to halt the contest.
Despite coming in contact with the flurrying Alves’ shoulder, Miragliotta backed away and allowed the fight to continue when he saw that Abedi was still conscious. By the time Alves hopped into full mount and begin slicing Abedi’s face with vicious elbows, however, the outcome was all but official. Abedi covered and attempted a last-ditch effort to post and escape, allowing Alves to take his back and sink in the fight-ending rear-naked choke.
Although the win will be recorded as the first official submission victory of Alves’ 27-fight career, it was the Pitbull’s poise, timing and crisp strikes which once again won the day. In other words, the 6-year Zuffa employee showed up, punched in and got to work.