The best Thiago Alves we've ever seen showed up and beat up on a game John Howard for three action packed rounds at UFC 124.
Alves took a unanimous 30-27 decision.
Alves scored first with a leg kick before opening up with punches and tagging Howard. There was an early exchange with both men scoring but Alves landed more and Howard shot in. Alves stuffed it. Then he shot in for a take down and put Howard on his back. He quickly threatened an arm but Howard shook him off and they got back to their feet. Alves peppered Howard with jabs and straights. Alves with a thudding leg kick. Then a flying knee followed by several knees from the plum. Howard took it and replied with a hard leg kick of his own. They clinched and Alves went for the Thai plum. They separated and Alves scored with leg and body kicks. Howard swung wildly but Alves continued to score with brutal leg kicks.
In the second Howard caught a low blow but only got a brief pause. Alves began to chop at Howard's legs again. Howard fired back with leg kicks of his own. Howard caught Alves with a punch then ate another hacking leg kick. Alves shot for a double leg and slammed Howard to the mat. From Howard's half-guard he fired elbows. But Howard got full guard. Alves bombed away from the top. Alves helped Howard up after the bell rang.
Alves caught Howard early in the third. Howard shot in with around four minutes left but got nothing. Howard began firing with leg kicks. Alves dropped Howard with a straight right but Howard fought back to his feet. More leg kicks from Alves. Howard traded desperately at the end but got out scored consistently.
This was a critical rebound fight for the highly regarded Alves. He hadn't tasted victory in the Octagon since beating Josh Koscheck in 2008. A loss in a title fight to Georges St. Pierre at UFC 100 was followed by a decision loss to Jon Fitch at UFC 117. Alves has been dogged by problems making the welterweight limit of 170lbs as well as a brain aneurysm scare that delayed the Fitch fight before it was surgically corrected.
For Howard facing Alves, the #5 ranked welterweight in the world according to the USAT/SBN Consensus MMA Rankings, represented a serious jump in competition. Prior to tonight he had reeled off four straight UFC wins before losing to Jake Ellenberger at UFC on Versus 2.