Whether you’re looking at records, resumes or just physical appearance, Alves looks like a dominant force when placed alongside Howard. Just two fights ago, the American Top Team product was standing across the cage from GSP with the welterweight title on the line.
A lot has happened to Alves since UFC 100, including brain surgery and a one-sided beating at the hands of Jon Fitch in a bout where the consensus Top 5 welterweight failed to make the 170-pound limit. There is a lot of pressure on the powerful, young Brazilian heading into this bout, and Howard has what it takes to hand Alves a third-straight loss if “The Pitbull” isn’t careful.
Coming in off his first UFC loss, Howard is hungry to get back in the win column and welcomes the opportunity to do that against a highly-regarded opponent. While Alves outscored Howard in almost all the measurable categories, Howard has the kind of lethal, one-punch power to collect a knockout win out of nowhere, just as he did against Dennis Hallman at the TUF 10 Finale.
With the upper tier of the welterweight division being a jumbled collection of capable challengers, this will be the first of what could be many matches that helps sort out who sits where in the pecking order.
Joe Stevenson (31-11-0) vs. Mac Danzig (19-8-1)
This meeting of two of the least memorable winners of The Ultimate Fighter could actually turn out to be a solid scrap, even though it means next to nothing when it comes to the lightweight rankings.
Stevenson hasn’t stepped into the cage since being defeated by George Sotiropoulos at UFC 110 last February, and the lengthy layoff could impact his performance this time around. Prior to dropping that decision, the welterweight winner from TUF 2 has put together a nice two-fight winning streak under the guidance of Greg Jackson.
As for Danzig, the fighting vegan dominated Season 6 of The Ultimate Fighter, a cast widely held as one of the worst in the franchise’s now-12-year run. He enters this fight in dangerous territory, having lost four of his last five fights. While the most recent of those defeats was the absolutely horrible stoppage of his bout with Matt Wiman at UFC 115, we were wondering if “one more loss” would be the end of the line after he was beaten by Josh Neer, and that was three fights and almost two years ago.
In case you haven’t picked up on it thus far, allow me to say it one more time: the lightweight division is loaded with talent, so expensive, middling fighters who hover around .500 aren’t going to get many kicks at the can. Both men need this win.
Jim Miller (18-2-0) vs. Charles Oliveira (14-0-0)
When he burst onto the scene with a pair of victories six weeks apart this summer, I didn’t think we would see Oliveira’s litmus test come this quickly.
The energetic, young Brazilian looked tremendous in submitting Darren Elkins early in his debut, and put on an all-around clinic against TUF 8 winner Efrain Escudero in what would be his UFC swan song. As great as he looked in those two outings, Miller is a very big step up the lightweight ladder.
The younger half of the New Jersey chapter of The Fighting Miller Brothers competes on the same UFC card as his big brother Dan for the first time, and looks to extend his winning streak to six at the expense of Oliveira.
Though he hasn’t faced the biggest names in the 155-pound ranks, Miller has done exceptionally well as of late, gutting out a victory over Mark Bocek and grinding away a win against the underrated Gleison Tibau in his latest outing. A strong all-around competitor, Miller is on the fringe of championship contention and a victory here would move him one step closer to fighting for the title.
Stefan Struve (20-4-0) vs. Sean McCorkle (10-0-0)
This one might not take very long.
Struve has the potential to be a nightmare matchup for everyone in the middle tier of the heavyweight division, as his size and kickboxing ability could be extremely valuable weapons. Unfortunately, the 22-year-old Dutch fighter really likes to trade power shots with his opponents, and while the tactic has worked a couple times, it’s also led to Struve eating some massive shots of his own along the way.
In addition to being one of the funniest dudes in the sport, McCorkle is a solid heavyweight and the kind of guy who could put a hurting on Struve if he tries to follow his usual gameplan. The unbeaten thirthysomething had an impressive debut, submitting Pride veteran Mark Hunt with an armbar off his back at UFC 119.
It’s entirely possible that these two heavies are going to walk to the center of the cage and keep chucking knuckles until one of them falls down. How awesome would that be?
Georges St-Pierre (20-2-0) vs. Josh Koscheck (15-4-0)
Four months of The Ultimate Fighter, an episode of UFC Countdown and all kinds of Koscheck trash-talk has everyone acutely aware of the situation here.
Instead of adding my two cents, I’ll just say that this is a tremendous way to end an great year of UFC events, with one of the best fighters in the world defending his coveted championship against his arch rival.