John “The Natural” Alessio’s luck when it comes to keeping his originally scheduled opponents in Superior Cage Combat isn’t that great.
For the second straight time, Alessio will face a replacement, as Rob Emerson has been forced out of their Friday night main event at SCC 3 in Las Vegas, and in his place steps former Pride star Luiz “Buscape” Firmino.
While he was initially unhappy about the change of opponent, Alessio now sees the upside in his new match-up.
“This time it happened two weeks out instead of two days,” he said. “I was a little bit mad that (Emerson) pulled out because I had been working so hard for this fight, but once Buscape’s name came up I was excited.
“This guy’s tough. His record is 20-5, and his only losses are to guys like (Luis) Azeredo and (Tatsuya) Kawajiri. This is a big fight for me. When I made the cut to 155 for my lightweight debut, I didn’t want an easy fight; I wanted to make a splash on the scene and let everyone know I was for real and that I mean business.”
Normally a transition to a smaller weight class comes with its share of problems, but Alessio’s move from welterweight to lightweight has been helped by a key addition to his training staff.
“I brought on Mike Dolce as my nutritionist for this fight and honestly I’ve never felt better when it comes to the conditioning I’ve done and the shape I’m in right now,” said Alessio. “He’s helped me tremendously. Fighters say that they’re in the best shape of their life a lot, but I honestly, truly believe this is the best shape I’ve been in for years.”
Alessio will need all the advantages he can get over a fighter who was at one time considered one of the world’s best at lightweight.
“He’s not just a jiu-jitsu guy,” Alessio told MMAWeekly.com. “He’s got decent stand-up and has better wrestling than some Brazilians have. I respect that. I feel like his top game is really good, but when he’s fighting off his back, he’s not very good. I saw Kawajiri ground and pound him pretty easily.
“I’ve had a full training camp specifically getting ready for this weight class. I’m ready for this and I just feel like I could win this fight wherever it goes. Don’t be surprised if I submit this black belt, that’s all I can say.”
While he’ll be larger and more powerful than Firmino, Alessio knows that conditioning could very well determine the outcome of their fight.
“I think strength will play a factor, but he’s quick, too,” said Alessio. “He transitions a lot and moves around a lot. He doesn’t just stay in one position; especially when he’s on top, he fights hard.
“He’s going to try to push the pace, but he’s had a shorter training camp, so I’m going to try to push the pace on him. It could be a really action-packed, fast-paced match, and Fight of the Night, in my opinion.”
A win over a top caliber opponent at 155 could be just the thing Alessio needs to achieve his singular goal of returning to the UFC.
“When I win this fight I will be 2-1 this year, with my only loss being to Siyar Bahadurzada, who just signed with the UFC,” he said. “It’s a fight I shouldn’t have taken, but I did, and it’s over now. I’m in a whole new weight class and I’m completely focused on being a lightweight and seeing what next year brings.
“I’ve got a bunch of offers on the table that we’re weighing out right now. I feel like a win over Buscape could bring a call from (UFC matchmaker) Joe Silva. I’m ready to make my mark at lightweight.”