Thiago Alves managed to outlast Max Griffin, earning his second victory in six fights, with a split decision win in his hometown at UFC Fortaleza.
Coming into the fight, many fans were wondering what 35-year-old veteran Thiago Alves had left in the tank. Debuting in the UFC at UFC Fight Night 2 in 2005, Alves had gone 14-10 in MMA’s premier promotion, fighting (and defeating) some of the best welterweights in the world.
Lately, things had been a little rough for the Brazilian. The Fortaleza-born legend was a +170 underdog going into the event. He’d lost four of his last five bouts, which featured a failed drop to lightweight. In that attempt to compete at 155-pounds, Alves missed weight and lost to Jim Miller. Leaving many wondering if he’s the same guy we watched defeat Matt Hughes and Josh Koscheck in 2008.
While not nearing the end of his career, Max Griffin was looking for more consistency as well. Since joining the UFC in 2016, Griffin had gone 2-3 ahead of UFC Fortaleza. In 2018, the 33-year-old earned an impressive win over Mike Perry. Unfortunately he’d follow-up that performance with a loss to Curtis Millender in July. Now, after some time off, Griffin was faced with one of the most experience fighter’s he’s ever fought.
There were some fiery exchanges early in the first round, with the crowd exclaiming at every landed kick from Alves. Griffin quickly took control, blitzing the Brazilian with a flurry of strikes that sent Alves staggering backward toward the cage. Covering-up, Alves absorbed the strikes, and after stuffing a takedown, was able to get the fight back to the middle of the cage.
Griffin controlled the center of the Octagon for the majority of the remainder of the round, landing a few straight rights while taking intermittent leg-kicks from Alves. The hometown hero looked stronger as the round went on, continuing to throw and land a variety of kicks. But Griffin would answer, dropping Alves in the final seconds of the round, taking the lead into round two.
Round two was more of the same: strong counter-attacking from Griffin and intelligent kicks while pressing forward from Alves. Alves then led with a blitz of his own after dropping Griffin with a leg kick. An incredible exchange followed, which featured both fighters throwing, and landing, heavy haymakers. It left both fighters breathing heavy for the final 90-seconds of the second round. Alves’ strikes landed more, and harder, throughout round two, as the momentum shifted toward the Brazilian in the second stanza.
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Alves came out the aggressor early in round-three, landing some punches and setting the pace for the final frame. Griffin stayed calm, survived the storm, and eventually took Alves to the ground. Controlling from the top, Griffin worked hard to keep the Brazilian on the ground for a sizable chunk of the third round. Not to be outdone, Alves worked even harder to get the fight back to the feet with a little more than a minute remaining in the fight.
Alves worked the clunch and forced Griffin to the cage, but was unable to do anything with the position. Griffin worked for a kimura from his back, using the submission to take top control and end the fight on top of Alves. The judge’s didn’t see the gound game from Griffin in the final round as the deciding factor, as Alves took the incredibly entertaining split decision win over Griffin.
Thiago Alves def. Max Griffin via split decision (29-28, 29-28, 28-29)