There are so many TUF seasons these days, that you really can't be blamed for not keeping up with them all. TUF 19 may still be in full swing and TUF Latino America and TUF 20 may be in in production right now, but TUF Brazil 3 has just wrapped up. And, as with the end of every TUF season, that means we have season finalists and potential TUF tournament champions. I'm going to be covering the two middleweight finalists here, as they gear up for their fight on this weekend's card in Sao Paulo Brazil. Team Sonnen teammates Warlley Alves and Marcio Alexandre Jr. Face off to find out who will be the next TUF Brazil champion.
Who is Warlley Alves?
If you followed Patrick Wyman's Search for Future UFC Champions series Warlley Alves will be a name familiar to you. He just barely missed the top 25 cut, and frankly a lot of people were surprised to hear that he'd agreed to take a spot on TUF as his way into the UFC. Essentially, he's been pegged as the odds on favorite from the start. The 23-year old X-Gym product trains alongside Erick Silva, Jacare Souza, and Alan Patrick among many other notables. He'll be making his way to the UFC with an unblemished 6-0 record, obtained mostly through Brazil's Jungle Fight organization. His level of competition hasn't been the best so far, a lot of win/loss regional vets. Solid experience for someone early in their career, but no strong tests.
What you should expect:
Alves is really a bright talent, outside of a tough opening round bout on TUF, against his best opponent to date in Wendell Oliveira Marques (a fight I really still don't understand on any level) he's been blowing away his fellow TUF cast members. He strikes well from the outside, with a more kick heavy arsenal. He can be pushed around a bit, because he's not much of a puncher at range, but he shows signs of being a terrific infighter with brutal clinch knees and a fast powerful, striking game. He also has a great transition submission offense, cinching up tight chokes in scrambles. This means that he occasionally puts himself in some bad grappling positions, but seems to be adept enough at continuing to scramble both when on the bottom and with a fighter on his back. It will be interesting to see him face someone who can challenge him at range and keep him there, as his outside striking is probably his biggest weakness, both offensively and defensively.
Who is Marcio Alexandre Jr.?
25-year old Mario "Lyoto" Alexandre, is a Karate stylist, training out of Team Tavares under the tutelage of Thiago Tavares and alongside UFC lightweight Ivan Jorge. He comes from a family of Karatekas, and has a lot of tournament experience in the art. He'll enter the UFC with a 12-0 undefeated record with all wins by stoppage and eleven in the first round and eleven by TKO. That said, his level of competition is exceptionally poor, and given that many of his fights were promoted by Tavares Combat League, his match making is pretty highly questionable. The fact that he's been taken to split decisions in two of his three TUF fights is probably a better example of his talent.
What you should expect:
While his kicks are fast and hard on the outside, comparisons to his moniker, "Lyoto" end pretty quick. Alexandre Jr. fights a pretty cautious fight at range, circling, kicking, and generally staying on is back foot. This means that he's open to getting bullied against the fence and swarmed by aggressive fighters. When he wants to close distance, he does so behind a flurry of punches, often leading with his head up and arms down. He does throw a nice straight left on closing opponents on occasion, but his kick variety is really his bread and butter at range. Give him lots of space and time and he can get something going. He's shown some flashes of decent wrestling and grappling as well, and will often look to clinch and throw opponents to work on his grappling, but neither appear to be skills that set him apart, simply not liabilities.
What this means for their debut:
Most likely it means that "Lyoto" is merely the latest victem of the the Warlley Alves wrecking ball. Alexandre Jr's success is predicated on getting lots of space and time to work against predictable opponents. Alves will allow him none of that. He's a better infighter than Alexandre, and a reasonably equivalent range fighter. And thus far Alves has shown a much more complete ground game. The TUF title should be his to lose.
To get us better acquainted, here is Alves' recent bout against Mike Jackson:
And Marcio Alexandre's recent bout against Felipe Rosa from Tavares Combat 5: