"Training, training and more training, plus a different attitude, are the best medicines to cure any misinterpretation that fans and insiders had of me."
For the fighter nicknamed 'The Terminator', the plan was simple in his Octagon debut against powerful Mike Pierce last August in Massachusetts - make the American wrestler pay every time he shot in for a takedown.
The planner, Amilcar Alves - who returns to the Octagon on January 22 against Charlie Brenneman in a welterweight bout on the Fight For The Troops 2 card - had it all worked out in his brain regarding what his opponent would do and how he would react to it. If he did what he was supposed to, it would be enough to simply terminate Pierce. He even prepared to deliver a flying knee when a gap appeared, adjusting the timing and capitalizing on the moment the way Pablo Garza did against Fredson Paixao in the TUF 12 Finale.
But the whole plan, the strategy and the pace of the fight didn't go like the Brazilian wanted it to.
It was evident from the moment of the welterweights’ stare down at the weigh-ins that confidence and Alves were not partners, as he looked down while Pierce touched the Rio de Janeiro native’s forehead with his own. That was the first signal something was not okay for the Judo black belt.
"Friends and teammates asked me why I didn't look inside Pierce's eyes at that moment, and I barely remember that," Alves said. "At that instant I was more worried about recuperating from my weight loss than going eye-to-eye with someone, especially since the person in front of me wasn't my wife (laughs)."
The Alves everybody knew, the one who arrived in the UFC with an eight fight winning streak, is exactly the one you hear above, one who can keep his sense of humor while explaining the situation. However the smile on his face disappears when the issue is the lack of action during the 13:11 that the welterweight duel lasted.
"People say that the adrenaline of the first time in the UFC can harm your stamina and can break you in half, but what happened to me was that I froze, and it became worse round after round," Alves said. "What I had in mind happened and Pierce acted like a robot against me in the first round, shooting for a takedown, stalling the fight and being unable to cause damage. He scored points with the throws and Octagon control, but I was fine with the first five minutes."
Well, “fine” isn't the right word to be placed in the same sentence as Alves' performance or lack of it during his promotional debut. Landing strikes that you can count on one hand in the initial stanza, he started to yield to Pierce's game that night, ending up with a laceration under the right eye and a defeat by straight armbar at 3:11 of round number three. For a man who waited four years to get into UFC, Alves waited forever to show his effectiveness, without displaying what put him there - his ability to knock people out and his skills to submit foes from the bottom or from the top.
"I don't know if it's explainable," he says of his Octagon debut. "Pierce did what I expected, but I didn't react. You can see I was still light on my feet in third round, so gas wasn't a problem, but I was petrified. I said to myself, 'This guy can take me down and I can restore my guard easily; let's see if I can open a hole in his head with my elbows in second round.' But ask me if I did it? No, once I landed one elbow and the referee warned me, 'watch the back of the head’, and it sounded like, 'Amilcar, you can't elbow him.' So I didn't get to use them."
Alves heard a lot of badmouthing regarding his professional career after the UFC 118 bout, a "special one" he wants to use as an extra motivator for his fight against Brenneman. And despite people saying he doesn't belong in the UFC, he’s not worried about shutting the critics up - he's just ready to show that he's for real.
"Training, training and more training, plus a different attitude, are the best medicines to cure any misinterpretation that fans and insiders had of me. I can't say I had a bad preparation leading up to Pierce and I switched my solid training over to Brenneman. My workouts were superb for the first fight like they are for my second fight in the UFC. I’ve just controlled my nerves to face a tough opponent like Brenneman."
Eager to show a different “Terminator” against Brenneman, Alves expects to avoid the tilt of his machine last August. Asking the Brazilian what kind of problems Brenneman can present with his style, the Nova Uniao representative says that the key to glory isn't preparing for what his adversary is supposed to do; the question is what Alves will do.
"Comparing Brenneman to Pierce, we expect an exciting fight because he won't avoid the trading of bombs on the feet," Alves said. "He can try to take me down, like Pierce did, but this time I'll have an answer. Anyway, I was much too hesitant to set up things I couldn't catch in my last fight, so against Brenneman, he has to be worried about an angry and aggressive fighter that is going to fight him differently than what he was able to see last time. The word is action, not reluctant reaction anymore."