Thiago Alves’ mixed martial arts journey finally brought him home Saturday night.
“Pitbull” had not fought in his hometown of Fortaleza, Brazil since his pro debut at age 18, embarking on a journey that’s had him as a fan favorite in the UFC since 2005.
But proving you can go home again, Alves competed at UFC Fortaleza and had his hand raised. While the decision was questionable, the American Top Team welterweight won a split decision over Max Griffin, getting the better end of two out of three 29-28 scorecards to earn the win.
“It was a tough fight, it was a great fight, but I’m here,” Alves said.
Griffin appeared to win the opening round as he pushed the pace and landed the harder shots. At one point early on, he had Alves rocked and appeared to be only a few shots from finish the fight. But Alves cleared the cobwebs in the clinch, and before the round was out, he landed often enough to let Griffin know he was still in the battle.
Then came the second round, one of the most exciting five-minute periods of the new year.
Alves demonstrated the ferocity with which he rose to UFC welterweight title challenger status a decade ago, as he stalked Griffin and peppered him with brutal body kicks, elbows, and combos of punches, eliciting a roar from the crowd. Griffin, for his part, landed enough to keep Alves from going in for the kill, but it was a clear Alves round.
In the third, it appeared Griffin had made the necessary adjustments, as he spent much of the round in top position smothering Alves, although admittedly not doing much with it. When the bout was on the feet, Alves wasn’t able to get his offense untracked like he had in the second.
With a victory in his 25th career UFC fight, Alves improved to 23-13 and ended a two-fight losing streak. Sacramento’s Griffin (14-6) has now lost two straight and three of four.