Rafael Alves has only made two walks to the Octagon after his dominant Dana White’s Contender Series performance in August 2020.
Despite losing to Damir Ismagulov in his debut, Alves showed in the opening seconds that he was a force to be reckoned with in the lightweight division. Dropping Ismagulov 10 seconds into round one, “The Turn” sunk in a guillotine choke that nearly ended the fight until his counterpart was able to pull his head out and take control of the fight.
Criticized for being too explosive in the early stages of the fight, Alves silenced the doubters in his most recent bout against Marc Diakiese at UFC Fight Night: Holloway vs. Rodriguez. Under two minutes into the fight, a stiff jab followed by a flying knee stunned Diakiese, allowing “The Turn” to lock in his signature guillotine that forced the tap.
This performance showed Alves that he was capable of fighting ranked contenders in the lightweight division, and that if he had made a few minor changes in his debut, he could be 2-0 inside the Octagon heading into his UFC 277: Peña vs Nunes 2 bout against Drew Dober.
“I talked to my coaches after my last fight and said I wanted [Ismagulov] but he wouldn’t accept the fight against me,” the 31-year-old Brazilian native said. “He knows that he would get a harder rock now. Everything is experience. It was my debut in the biggest promotion in the world. I was a little anxious and a little nervous. He is used to beating up people, but he only grappled with me. I knocked him down and thought I was going to win. I felt that his neck was a little slippery, [I’m] not sure if it was just my impression, because I have a really strong guillotine, but that’s OK. It’s in the past.”
Win or lose, Alves has delivered exciting moments in only two fights under the UFC banner at the APEX in front of a limited capacity crowd. This weekend, however, “The Turn” competes in front of 20,000 fans at American Airlines Center.
“I’m very happy,” Alves said about fighting in a sold-out arena. “I’m very anxious, too, because this is my first UFC fight in front of the fans. So, whoever likes to see a show will see one now because I like to dance, and I like to fight. I’m born for this, so I’m ready.”
Despite residing in Florida and training at MMA Masters, Alves may be walking into enemy territory against the American Dober. But Alves’ goal is to have a highlight reel finish sway their opinions in his favor; something he feels is inevitable.
UFC 277 Countdown | Full Episode
UFC 277 Countdown | Full Episode
“The fans will definitely root against me because I’m fighting an American, but that’s OK,” Alves said. “I’ve been living in America for almost eight years now and I feel at home, so it makes no difference to me.
“The fans might be against me in the beginning, but they will be on my side after this great fight.”
Eager to get a number by his name, “The Turn” wanted to step in the cage with a ranked opponent. Dober, who just fell out of his No. 15 spot in the rankings, was the next-best option.
“The UFC, as I see it, is a promotion that has no bad fighters. All fights are good. There are some people that are not as talented, but their willpower makes up for it. These people are difficult to beat.
“I’m sure it will be one of the best fights of the night,” Alves said. “If it goes to a third round, it will be Fight of the Night. But, if it’s up to me, I think it won’t go past the first. I’m very focused and very confident. I’m always respecting him and being humble, but I’m in there to kill or be killed.”
UFC 277: Peña vs Nunes, took place on Saturday, July 30, 2022 live from the American Airlines Center in Dallas, Texas. See the Final Results, Official Scorecards, and Who Won Bonuses - and relive the action on UFC Fight Pass!