It took some time for Alexey Kunchenko to warm up on Saturday. But once he did, he made sure he wasn’t leaving the Octagon for his UFC debut without getting his hand raised.
The undefeated 34-year old from Tyumen, Russia shook off a slow start and came on strong at the end of their main card welterweight opener against Thiago Alves at UFC Moscow. That was enough to earn a unanimous decision on scores of 30-27 and a pair of 29-28s.
The opening round was a tentative one, as both fighters felt one another out and tried to figure out their timing and range. Alves out-landed Kunchenko 10-9 in the round.
The second was Alves’ best of the fight. The Brazilian veteran, competing in the UFC for the 24th time, showed flashes of his Muay Thai prime, as he peppered Kunchenko with nasty leg kicks. Alves out-landed Kunchenko 29-19 in leg kicks over the course of the fight.
With the second round squandered and the first round close, Kunchenko went for broke in the third, pushing forward, landing punches in bunches, scoring a takedown, and generally keeping a hectic pace as Alves visibly tired. Kuncheko landed 34 head strikes to Alves’ 19 in the bout as a whole.
With the victory, Kunchenko improved to 19-0 with his fifth career decision win.
Kunchenko, a champion in other organizations before signing with the UFC, apologized to the crowd for what he perceived as a lack of action.
“It feels as business as usual,” Kunchenko said. “I am used to defending my title and I am used to five-round fights, so I apologize to the crowd for my boring fight.”
Alves (22-13) has dropped two straight and four of his past five.