Alvarez vs Lapicus comes this Friday at ONE on TNT 1. At this crossroads of one man at the start of his career, and the other nearing the end, we take a look at the matchup between the two fighters and who gets the strategic advantage. Both men are big for the division (Alvarez reportedly reaching 185lbs between fights) and both bring excitement. This is a clear contender for the fight of the night. Read on for a skills breakdown of this lightweight bout.
Where you’ll find a wealth of footage on Alvarez, Iuri is something of a mystery. He has fifteen fights and only one has made it out of the first round. His only loss was his most recent bout versus Christian Lee, and the scarcity of video on him makes for a hard man to study. We do what we can though.
Iuri Lapicus is far from subtle. He has power, and he has aggression, and he comes forwards. Not in a rush, more in a controlled, unstoppable onslaught, blasting leg kicks and power punches into his opponent. He punches into the clinch and wrestles people down from there, and there’s really not too much subtlety about it. Iuri likes the hip throw, but there’s not much more we can say about his takedown game.
He’s had sixteen bouts but unfortunately only a couple is easily found online. Gafurov is a good example of Lapicus’s ideal fight, where Iuri landed so many devastating leg kicks on the Russian that he forced a rushed takedown. From there, he overwhelmed with grappling offence to secure the rear-naked choke, but the fight was over before it hit the canvas. A lot of people will point to this as a submission victory, but really the bout was won on the feet, with some precise grappling thereafter.
Wiratchai is the one opponent where we find a lengthier bout, even getting to the third round. Again, we saw punching into the clinch, but a good amount of patience thereafter; his clinch game is not at all like his striking. When he got that bout to the ground, I’d describe it as a wrestlers game, rather than Jiu-Jitsu – striking from the guard, without a great deal of pressure to pass. Effective, but it’s hard to say how that’ll play against the more BJJ savvy Eddie Alvarez.
It’s just very hard to say how good Lapicus’s grappling is from the limited footage. The one thing I would say about that bout is that there was a clear drop in activity towards the end. I’m not going to say after a single bout cardio is a weakness of Iuri, but it is something to watch out for.
So what went wrong in his one loss? He had Christian Lee on the back foot, clipping him with a punch and taking him down with a hip throw. It was initially Iuri’s inability to hold the champ down that created issue for him, and as Christian worked back to his feet, he took the Moldovan down himself, without any great trouble. Christan sliced through his guard, and Iuri went for a poorly executed Achilles lock to give up his back and lead to a G&P finish. Ultimately, it was poor grappling IQ that leads to his defeat.
Groundwork may well not be Iuri’s strongest point, and despite his decent takedowns and good ground and pound, he appears to struggle if he cant overwhelm his opponents immediately. Longer grappling exchanges, or being on the defensive in these positions, pose some trouble for Lapicus.
Eddie ‘The Underground King’ Alvarez
Former UFC lightweight champ Eddie Alvarez is clearly in the twilight of his career. He has moved on from the organization that was his home since 2014, to new challenges in Asia’s premier promotion and is looking to make a name for himself there. Alvarez has 37 fights to his name, to match his 37 years of age, but the template for beating this man is far from written. He’s thrown down with goliaths of the lightweight division such as RDA, Gaethje, and Poirier (twice) and never fails to deliver on excitement. Eddie is still a force to be reckoned with and is well on his way to a ONE Championship title shot. A win over number two ranked Lapicus could get him there.
Alvarez is something of an all-rounder with his background in both boxing and wrestling. He has developed that into something of a hybrid style for MMA, but as with the majority of fighters in the modern era has focused on the striking side of things, and has two definable modes that he strikes in. On one side is the mobile Alvarez. This is who was seen in his bouts against Poirer and Pitbull, focusing on darts and staying at a greater range to land straight blows and move into wider body shots as he enters.
The other effective range comes off of this, working dirty boxing and punishing the body for devastating short-range attacks. This was the man we saw versus Gaethje, In either case, his striking is that much better on the front foot – if you’re moving back versus Alvarez, you’re in trouble. It’s even coming forwards that the takedowns tend to take place, either on the fence or offensively with his striking. His cage wrestling is excellent but is not a frequently employed aspect of his game.
As for weaknesses? If there’s one error that Alvarez makes it’s that he admires his work. It’s led to troubles in his last few bouts. Versus Nastyukhin he stayed in the pocket too long, allowing the Russian to land a fantastic right hand. Versus Poirier was a similar story, and in the second bout, Eddie threw an uppercut that was met with a fantastic fade right hand. I don’t think that’s a problem here though. As said, Lapicus’s striking style is aggressive, and pressuring into clinches is where he works. It’s not the style of a careful counter striker and I don’t think that counter right is what Alvarez needs to concern himself with.
Much more of a problem might be the leg kicks. Folayang put him down with an excellent leg kick, and though Alvarez won that bout he was in serious trouble. Poirier showed him trouble with the legs, and so did Gaethje (although his leg kicks are something of legend). The mobile fighting style of Alvarez leaves him vulnerable to such strikes and it could be a clear path to victory for his Moldovan opponent.
Alvarez vs Lapicus: The Match-Up
So we have Lapicus, an aggressive striker with excellent leg kicks and overwhelming grappling, versus Alvarez, either excellent at dirty boxing or mobile, point-scoring striking. But what are the paths to victory for Alvarez vs Lapicus?
For Lapicus, he needs those leg kicks. Eddie has shown that they are a clear weakness of his game and Iuri needs to exploit that. With damaging leg kicks, he removes half of the Underground King’s game and prevents the mobile striking tactics. Once the bout moves to a more face and throwing of hands, it’s anyone’s game.
For Alvarez, he needs to be on the front foot. He always does better damage when he leads, and Iuri has shown nothing so far that indicates a dangerous counter striking game. That doesn’t mean just moving in on straight lines – his dart has been an excellent tool for moving out of the way of dangerous strikes – but it does mean pressure. I would love to see a reactive takedown from Alvarez if (or rather when) Iuri tries to pressure him, but it’s just not been a part of his game of late.
On the ground, Alvarez has a clear advantage. On top, I imagine he could finish the bout with superior BJJ, and even on the bottom, he has the experience and the grappling prowess to stay safe and frustrate his opponent.
Look for whoever moves back. That will signify whoever is more naturally fitting into their striking groove. So long as Alvarez vs Lapicus stays on the feet, whoever applies the pressure is the one who will be chasing down the win.
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Featured Image Credits to ONE Championship
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