Mike Perry and Eddie Alvarez throw down Saturday night in a five-round bare-knuckle boxing match to crown a new King of Violence at BKFC 56, which takes place at the Maverik Center in Salt Lake City, and features a card lined with familiar UFC names. Ahead of the action, MMA Fighting’s Shaun Al-Shatti, Mike Heck, Alexander K. Lee, and Jed Meshew sidle back up to the roundtable to predict the winner of BKFC 56’s pay-per-view headliner.
Al-Shatti: In this season of thankfulness, let me just say that I’m so thankful BKFC exists because of weekends like this. Is the King of Violence belt dumb? Sure. Is there an air of circus nonsense to everything about this event? No doubt. But who cares! Dumb gimmicks are the spice of life in combat sports! In an era of cookie-cutter cut and paste, give me any attempt at making a matchup feel unique rather than the usual creative bankruptcy we’ve come to expect from most fight promotions. Remember promoters: Fun is good! It never hurts to try something a little different! Too often that tends to get forgotten in this space.
Another thing I’m thankful for? That The Platinum One™ actually re-signed with bare-knuckle boxing rather than jumping ship back to MMA. No one Earth was born for this sport more than Mike Perry. His dawg levels are simply too overwhelming. It’s the great equalizer. Throw Perry against Luke Rockhold and Michael Page in MMA fights and the chances he goes 2-0 are slim to none. But strip off those four-ounce gloves and turn it into a battle of who can out-crazy the other, and lordy lordy, you know the quintessential Florida Man ain’t wilting first.
My one wish is that Eddie Alvarez never signed with ONE Championship and we’d gotten Saturday’s main event sooner, because everything I just wrote about Perry applies just as hard to “The Underground King.” There’s 20 years of evidence showing that Alvarez is not a man to be trifled with in a battle of wills. This is the lunatic who stared down Peak Crazy Justin Gaethje and implausibly walked away with the self-created mantle of the UFC’s Most Violent Man in 2017. Even at age 39, we saw him still revel in that chaos in his bare-knuckle debut against Chad Mendes back in April. Alvarez was built for this, just like Perry.
Unfortunately, at this point, I just fear the old warhorse is up against too much. He’s the older, smaller, more weather-beaten fighter, facing one of the only men on the planet whose lunacy and tenacity matches his own. Mike Perry takes it via fourth-round knockout in a banger.
Heck: As everybody who is reading this knows, 2023 has been a year in combat sports where very few outcomes should be surprising. Heck, Francis Ngannou beat Tyson Fury in Pride rules when they met in a boxing match, Alexa Grasso tapped out Valentina Shevchenko to end the latter’s reign of terror at 125 pounds, and Sean Strickland beat up Israel Adesanya over 25 minutes to win the middleweight title — and arguably the 2023 Fighter of the Year award.
Even with all of those things in play, Mike Perry losing a bare-knuckle fight to anyone — including an all-time violence first-teamer like Eddie Alvarez — would, at worst, at least make the list of shocking things to happen this year.
I respect the hell out of Alvarez, and while “The Underground King” seems to have taken to the bare-knuckle world like Wade Boggs took to hitting doubles in Major League Baseball, Perry is Mr. Bare-Knuckle, for my money. “Platinum” has beating bigger guys, smaller guys, dogs, technical strikers, and even has a mixed rules boxing win over a prior boxing world title challenger.
While I expect a river of blood in the BKFC ring, I believe most of it will be coming from Alvarez. He may like that more than most, but bloodlust will not be enough to get his hand raised against the face of the sport, and a man who has found solace and peace within the violence.
Lee: Love him or hate him, Perry has found a home.
Perry’s journey in the world of bare-knuckle boxing has been fascinating to review. He easily handled Julian Lane (a fun-house mirror reflection of himself), scraped out a win over a wily Michael Page, and then just flat-out messed up the larger Luke Rockhold’s mouth. Suffice to say, “Platinum” has shown some serious versatility on his rise to BKFC stardom and he faces another distinctly different challenge in Alvarez.
The former UFC lightweight champion brings a more, uh, traditionally MMA-ish boxing style to the bare-knuckle ring, and while that should serve him well for as long as he still wants to do this, I have serious concerns about his durability and the size he’s giving up in this matchup. Regrettably, Alvarez’s chin isn’t what it used to be, and if he’s getting dropped by the smaller Chad Mendes, I worry about what Perry’s hammer hands might do to him.
In an MMA fight, I’d probably still pick Alvarez to find a way to to get past Perry. In Perry’s house though, where knockout power is king, he’s going to shut the door firmly in Alvarez’s face — and if he has his way, close it on Alvarez’s career.
Meshew: In the brief few years that bare-knuckle fighting has come into our lives and carved out a special little niche for itself, I’ve come to learn one immutable truth about it: This sport, more than maybe any other, is about having that dog in you.
Mike Perry was a middling MMA fighter who grew a fan base by being eccentric and doggedly tough. He’s never been an especially talented fighter (though he isn’t a bad one) and he never really developed all that much, and were he restricted to just MMA or boxing, well, that would’ve been it for him. But you drop him into bare-knuckle and suddenly it matters less that he doesn’t have a depth of skill. He’s got that dog in him and enough ability to simply outlast people. It’s the perfect arena for who and what Perry is.
Which brings us to Eddie Alvarez, a man who also undeniably has that dog in him. In some ways Alvarez is simply a better version of Perry, one who had a lot more skill but at the core of things won fights by out-dogging his opposition. As such, Alvarez also took to bare-knuckle like a psychotic duck to violent waters.
So what is one to do when forced to choose between two fighters with equal parts dog in them? Pick the one who is bigger. Because while the size of the dog in the fight isn’t supposed to matter, all things being equal, being a bigger dog is better.
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