A Necessary Step Back: (Alvarez v Poirier Preview) #UFC211

When UFC 211 was finalized fans were unanimously thrilled with the makeup of the card. But to the discerning eye there was one fighter who occupied a spot ill suited to his stature. The last time Eddie Alvarez did not fight in a main or co-main event was October of 2010. And on Saturday, May 13th “The Underground King” returns to relative obscurity fighting Dustin Poirier on the FX/TSN portion of the biggest Pay Per View card of the year.

Alvarez’s UFC run has been largely impressive though not without controversy. His 3-2 record is deceiving at best when considering a few points of contention. Two of is three wins were via Split Decision, one of which (versus Gilbert Melendez) was a fight in which many had his opponent winning.

His title-fight against Dos Anjos was clearly his best performance but that win too was muddied after it was revealed that Dos Anjos passed out for several minutes due to an intense weight cut before the bout. Despite the many asterisks surrounding the Philadelphian’s ascension to the Lightweight Championship the fact remains that he did win a belt in the UFC’s most talented and populous division.

The fact that Alvarez is now fighting on the undercard of the biggest event of the year (so far) is a testament to just how far he has fallen since losing the title in November.

Again it is important to note Alvarez’s last 12 fights were either main or co-main events. Coming off a single loss, even one as infamous as the one he suffered against Conor McGregor, should not have banished the former Champion into the badlands of the prelims but, in the case of his placement on UFC 211 appearances can be deceiving.

While Alvarez will not be fighting on the Payperview portion of the card he does occupy a place which often times garners a larger audience: the top of the prelims. Depending on a variety of factors (competition, date, time, demographics etc.) the headlining fight on a prelim card can draw exceptional numbers. So while “The Underground King” is not seated amongst those in the prestigious main card he may very well enjoy the fruits of a large fan base without having to deal with the increased media responsibility that fan base normally entails.

Even with this nuanced understanding many still view Alvarez’s fight on Saturday as a monumental step back. That assumption too is largely false. When a champion is dethroned, especially in devastating fashion, they are often matched up with a lower-caliber opponent (Alvarez faces #9 Dustin Porier).

This is a step backwards, of course, but it is a necessary one. If the UFC and organizations like it wish to keep their former Champions viable they would do well to nurture them back towards good health. This framework can be seen over and over again, when champs lose they face worse competition then we are accustomed to seeing. The fact that Alvarez is facing who he is facing is entirely unremarkable.

Eddie Alvarez has certainly suffered a tremendous blow by losing his belt to Conor McGregor in the manner that he did. But while the Internet trolls will deride him for “being sent back to the prelims”, the serious viewer will understand the truth.

Alvarez has the opportunity to fight against a very beatable opponent in a slot that could very easily attract more viewers than the main-event of the Pay Per View. It is true that he has come a long ways from headlining UFC 205 but the same can be said for almost any Champion who has recently lost their belt.

It is a given that who he lost to has exacerbated the situation but the fact remains, in the piranha filled waters of the UFC, fighters rarely descend gracefully.

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