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Alvarado vs. Provodnikov an Action-Packed Alternative to Velasquez vs. Dos Santos III at UFC 166

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COMMENTARY | This weekend, fight fans of all kinds will have plenty of fistic-fury to look forward to. While MMA fans are geared up for the Heavyweight championship rubber-match between Cain Velasquez and Junior Dos Santos, which headlines UFC 166 from Houston, Texas, in the Sweet Science, Junior Welterweight titleholder Mike Alvarado puts his strap on the line against the rugged Russian Ruslan Provodnikov in Denver, Colorado.

Alvarado vs. Provodnikov doesn't have the prestige of Velasquez vs. Dos Santos III, but it doesn't come with a pay-per-view price tag, either, and it's a fight which promises nothing but fireworks. This is a can't miss type of battle with two warriors who are going to lay it all on the line.

Alvarado (34-1, 23 KOs) is coming off a two fight slugfest of a series against Brandon "Bam Bam" Rios. In their second fight, in March, he handed Rios his first ever defeat, and avenged an earlier stoppage loss from the pair's first electric meeting.

Two weeks before Alvarado fought Rios for the second time, Provodnikov (22-2, 15 KOs) went toe-to-toe with Timothy Bradley, nearing upsetting him and knocking his head off in the process. Bradley, who just defeated Juan Manuel Marquez, unwisely allowed himself to be dragged into a brawl, and he paid a dear price for it, barely making it to the final bell and fighting throughout much of the match in a concussed haze.

Now they'll face one another in what's going to be a true mettle test. You can be certain that at the end of the night, whomever has his hand raised will have earned that victory.

Nobody would mistake either Alvarado or Provodnikov for one of the best fighters in the sport. They're not the top two fighters in their own division, either, with those honors belonging to Danny Garcia and the man he just defeated, Lucas Matthysse.

Yet, the fight has great appeal thanks to the frenetically-paced action which is sure to unfold. There's plenty at stake for the winner as well, with lucrative potential matches - or rematches - on the line against Bradley, Rios, Marquez, or Manny Pacquiao.

On the other hand, Velasquez vs. Dos Santos III at UFC 166 does indeed feature two of the best in the sport, the two best in their division, and one of the best rivalries in all of mixed martial arts right now.

In their first fight, at UFC on Fox 1 in November 2011, Dos Santos obliterated the defending champion Velasquez, quickly knocking him out and ending the organization's first network card sooner than they would have hoped. The rematch came a little more than a year later, in December 2012, and this time Velasquez dominated Dos Santos over the course of a full five rounds, earning back his title.

That seems to be what you could expect in the third fight, as well. Dos Santos has the devastating power to make any night's work a quick one, but should Velasquez avoid those looming bombs, he's the more well-rounded and complete fighter. There's plenty of intrigue, the tantalizing possibility of a surprise or dramatic finish, and the likely conclusion of an intense rivalry between two of the sport's best.

With all of that said, if you're a fan of both the UFC and boxing, you still wouldn't go wrong by choosing Alvarado vs. Provodnikov. That's the kind of fight you can expect between these two. It's not a pairing of the caliber or quality of Velasquez vs. Dos Santos III, but it's likely to be an old-school donnybrook you'll want to say you saw.

Jake Emen runs the boxing news website, where you can find breaking news stories, interviews, rankings and more. You can also follow Jake on Twitter, @DCJake.

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