Bellator lightweight champion Eddie Alvarez will make his return to the cage for just the second time in the past year when he faces Roger Huerta in a nontitle affair Thursday at Bellator 33. Here is MMA For Real's preview of the fight:
Record: 20-2 overall, 4-0 Bellator
Key wins: Joachim Hansen (DREAM.3), Tatsuya Kawajiri (DREAM.5), Toby Imada (Bellator 12)
Key losses: Nick Thompson (Bodog Fight: Clash of the Nations), Shinya Aoki (K-1 Dynamite!! 2008)
How he got here: Alvarez made a name for himself during DREAM's 2008 lightweight grand prix, taking down Joachim Hansen and Tatsuya Kawajiri before having to bow out of the final against Shinya Aoki due to a cut sustained in the fight with Kawajiri. Later that year, Alvarez got his highly-anticipated fight with Aoki, but fell in 92 seconds to a heel hook. Alvarez has fought five times since that fight, going undefeated, but only once this year. He beat Toby Imada at Bellator 12 to capture the promotion's lightweight championship. He has yet to defend that title.
How he gets it done: Alvarez made a name for himself by knocking people out through the early part of his career but has reinvented himself during his last five fights, winning all of them via submission. Prior to his Bellator run, Alvarez had only two submissions to his credit, both via punches. For his career, 11 of his 20 wins have come by KO or TKO, seven by submission and two by decision. Alvarez has the ability to finish the fight anywhere, an invaluable skill.
X-Factor: Alvarez was always an active fighter but has taken a step back in that respect this year. He's only fought once in nearly the last calendar year, beating Josh Neer by rear-naked choke at Bellator 17 in May. Will ring rust be a factor for SB Nation's No. 6 lightweight?
Record: 21-4-1 (1 NC) overall, 1-1 Bellator
Key wins: Matt Wiman (FFC 15), Clay Guida (TUF6 Finale)
Key losses: Kenny Florian (UFC 87), Gray Maynard (UFC Fight Night 19), Pat Curran (Bellator 17)
How he got here: Huerta's career has taken a strange turn ever since he jumped on the scene as a UFC poster boy. After getting a much-needed step up in competition in the Octagon, Huerta faltered, dropping decisions to Kenny Florian and Gray Maynard and making his way out of the UFC. Huerta, a heavy favorite in Bellator's season 2 lightweight tournament, again faltered, dropping a decision to Pat Curran at Bellator 17. He got this fight with Alvarez because Curran had to drop out with an injury.
How he gets it done: Huerta has multiple ways of getting the job done in the cage, winning 11 fights by TKO, five by submission and four by decision. Huerta's UFC run saw him win six fights, three by TKO, two by decision and one by submission. Huerta's fights has been more wars of attrition than anything, though, as he has just one first-round finish in the last five years.
X-Factor: Is Huerta there mentally? That's the big question. He made big headlines recently for his involvement in an Austin, Texas street fight and has taken extended layoffs from the cage for various reasons in prior years. This is a big statement fight for Huerta. He needs a strong performance to avoid being written off.
Bottom line: I fail to see Huerta winning this fight. Alvarez is too good and Huerta has not looked the best against stiff competition. Alvarez takes this one by a rather dominant decision.
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