Thiago Alves vs. Martin Kampmann Sleeper Candidate For Fight of the Year at UFC on FX 2

On the surface, Thiago Alves vs. Martin Kampmann doesn’t have any sort of long term consequences in the welterweight division. Kampmann always seems to be on the wrong end of split decisions whereas Alves had his chance at welterweight kingpin Georges St. Pierre at UFC 100 and walked out of that fight the loser of a lop-sided decision. Both fighters are still several fights away from getting back into the championship mix because of their recent history; this is a fight matching up two cagey veterans trying to get back into the title hunt.

Alves lost to the top two fighters in the division at the time in GSP and Jon Fitch whereas Kampmann has dropped decision losses to Jake Shields and Diego Sanchez that many felt he won. Both have righted the ship as of late with Alves coming off a dismantling of UFC newcomer Papy Abedi and Kampmann over Rick Story. Now on the way back up someone has to fall down; but it’ll be an absolute war in the process.

That’s the one thing we can almost be certain of with Alves vs. Kampmann on Friday night. Alves is an exciting striker and Kampmann is more than willing to trade on his feet with anyone. Whether or not he does will be the key to the fight; Kampmann’s desire to go to the ground with Alves, a brown belt in BJJ, is going to be the deciding factor.

Kampmann has a terrific ground game and strong takedown defense, as Diego Sanchez couldn’t get him to the ground despite chaining together takedowns en masse. It’s just that he doesn’t use it as often as he could, preferring to stand and trade on his feet as opposed to turn a fight into a grappling match. And it wouldn’t at all be surprising to see him turn this into another stand up fight against Alves; Alves won’t be in any rush to get him to the ground.

Alves has a brown belt in BJJ and trains with American Top Team, which has some great grapplers and wrestlers, but has a fairly stagnant game plan. He defends the takedown well, but not brilliantly as he is susceptible to takedowns from the very best in the division, but his strength lies with the power in his hands. Alves has the sort of raw power in his strikes that can finish fights quickly and violently; he has a finish of Matt Hughes back when Hughes still had a bit of an iron chin. Alves generally tends to win via the knockout as well; the longer the fight goes the more susceptible he is to losing.

The last time Alves lost by anything but decision was in 2006 by Jon Fitch, oddly enough, and Alves has a historical tendency to gas the longer a fight goes. He cuts a significant amount of weight to get to 170 but his work with Mike Dolce to cut it in a healthier manner has seemed to eliminate this weakness. But he hasn’t fought anyone who can push a good pace like Kampmann does; if Kampmann can drag him into the deeper waters and push a tough pace he can win later in the fiht.

A good comparison for this fight would be Kampmann’s fight against Paul Daley in 2009. Kampmann got into a standing matchup with Daley that wound up with Daley knocking out the Dutchman in spectacular fashion. If he comes out willing to trade in volume with an explosive striker like Alves odds are he’s going to lose the same way.

Kampmann’s key to victory is to pick and choose his exchanges with a striker like “The Pitbull.” He has a strong ground game with some nice takedowns he doesn’t use as often as he ought to. He needs to use his striking to set up his takedowns instead of engaging in a brawl with someone like Alves; a grappling match is something he can win. A standup fight is a much more dicey proposition.

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