Success in the UFC's welterweight division is hard to come by these days. The division is filled with nineteen of the top twenty-five welterweights in the world on our USAT/SBN rankings, and that makes it a true shark-infested ocean of talent. So, believe me when I say it's very tough for anyone to come in at the bottom of the depth chart and find the motivation to work their way up through the ranks.
Mike Pierce is one of the few who have found success in the bottom rungs of the division, and he continued his progression toward the top of the division Saturday night on UFC 118's preliminary card. In a very intriguing style match-up that pitted Pierce against Nova Uniao prospect Amilcar Alves, Pierce had the opportunity to derail a heavily-hyped talent while simultaneously earning his third win. On paper, Alves looked like he may be a future destroyer in a division filled with wrestling talent. Great Muay Thai, solid grappling skills, and the knockout power that nearly every Brazilian striker possesses. Unfortunately, Mike Pierce stood in his way.
Pierce dominated Amilcar Alves for three rounds. While it wasn't a complete drubbing in the sense that Pierce was making mincemeat of Alves' face, Alves had no answer for Pierce's outstanding wrestling, strength, and clinch game. Furthermore, Pierce wore out Alves against the fence, dumping him repeatedly until Alves succumbed to a straight armbar from half guard in the third round -- earning Pierce his first win via stoppage in the UFC.
Pierce isn't going to be a fan favorite, let's make that clear. He's a grinding wrestler who has the strength, conditioning, and underrated striking game to be a Jon Fitch prototype. He's intelligent when it comes to his strategy, only resorts to striking when he's confident he can win exchanges, and relies on takedowns and wrestling to eliminate threats to him on the feet. He's the perfect blue collar, grind 'em out athlete, and while some fans will absolutely hate to watch him fight -- I can't help but appreciate what he brings to the cage.
Bigger fights should be on the horizon, and Pierce has already suggested who Joe Silva should put in the Octagon with him. While he's perfectly content with battling whoever the UFC puts in front of him, Pierce called out Jon Fitch's last opponent, Thiago Alves, when asked by MMAJunkie.com Radio:
"[Fitch] was all over him, man" Pierce said. "I don't know if it was the weight cut or something mentally that got to [Alves] maybe. He just did not look like the same fighter as in their previous fight.
"I felt I did a lot better against Jon Fitch than Thiago did his last time around. I think it would be a pretty good fight, a lot of fireworks. There would be a lot of excitement."
Surprising to most fans, Pierce was a very game opponent for Jon Fitch. Coming in on short notice, Pierce was able to wrestle with him for most of the fight, and he even stunned Fitch late in the third round, buckling him and nearly ending his run at title contention. Pierce lost the decision, but he certainly gained the respect of many fans who felt the bout was an easy win for Fitch.
Other UFC welterweights should be on notice. Mike Pierce is not a name you want to see being spit out of a fax machine on a fight agreement. I'm fairly confident that Pierce can beat most of the welterweights outside of the top 10, and I wouldn't be surprised if he can keep Thiago Alves on his back for 15 minutes either. Pierce's time has come, and he'll be taking the steps forward to solidify himself as a top ten welterweight within the next year.