John Alessio Quick to Credit Mark Bocek, But Believes “He’s Fairly One Dimensional”
By Kelsey Mowatt
It took four years of fighting, a 12-3 record, and an injury to Matt Wiman, but John “The Natural” Alessio has accomplished what he set out to do in 2008 and that’s return to the Zuffa organization. Recently, the resilient veteran was tapped by the company to replace the injured Wiman at this Saturday’s UFC 145 card in Atlanta, and when Alessio received the long awaited request, the lightweight admits he could barely contain his excitement.
“It was the day after April Fool’s and I had actually announced my retirement on April Fool’s,” Alessio relayed to FCF about the events surrounding his Octagon return. “A lot of people had bought into it actually…The next day I got an email from Joe Silva saying come back to the UFC. At first it was complete disbelief. I thought ‘does he know yesterday was April Fool’s?”
“I was at the dentist’s office getting my teeth cleaned when I got the email,” Alessio added. “I was so excited I told him you have to finish this quick I have to get out of here, I can’t take this I’m so excited. I left the dentist and headed straight to the gym.”
Alessio (34-14) will head to Atlanta to face his fellow Canadian Mark Bocek (10-4), who is coming off a unanimous decision win over Nik Lentz in December, after losing by UD to Benson Henderson last April.
“He’s tough,” said Alessio. “He’s had ten fights in the UFC. He had a close decision loss to the current champion Henderson, but he’s fairly one dimensional in my opinion. It’s no secret what he wants to do. He wants to get the fight to the ground and work his game. He’s a world class jiu-jitsu guy and that’s why he wants to take it there.”
“I definitely feel like I have a big advantage one my feet, and on the ground, I’ve been doing jiu-jitsu for a very long time as well, so it’s not just a striker versus grappler match by any means.”
The deciding factor in the fight could very well come down to wrestling. While Bocek has consistently overwhelmed the opponents he’s taken to the ground, he’s struggled more against noted wrestlers like Henderson and Frankie Edgar.
“He’s got pretty good takedowns for a jiu-jitsu guy,” Alessio noted. “He’s relentless with them. He’s going to just keep trying for it the whole time…The thing with the Lentz fight though, he just kept going for that guillotine. Every time Bocek would get on his leg he would jump for that guillotine, basically making the takedown a lot easier. Yes, he got a good wrestler down a lot, but Lentz kept going for that guillotine. That fed right into Bocek’s game plan in my opinion.”
While Bocek has gone 6-4 during his UFC tenure, three of the losses have come against either the current champion, a former champion or the perennial contender Jim Miller. In other words, not only has Alessio been given another shot in the UFC, he’s been given an opportunity to make some serious headway in his promotional return.
“He’s a seasoned veteran in there, and this fight is important on another level too, as he’s the number one lightweight in Canada,” the 32 year-old Alessio furthered. “That’s my home country and I want to be the number one lightweight in Canada….Of course, with him having those real close decision losses to Henderson and Miller, if I can go out there and make a statement, and if I can get a knockout, I believe that puts me right in the mix with those guys there.”
Although Alessio took the UFC 145 bout on short notice, a lack of conditioning shouldn’t be a factor, as the Xtreme Couture fighter is coming off a unanimous decision win over Ryan Healy at a Score Fighting Series event on March 16th.
“I had the fight with Healy and was kind of relaxing for a bit there, and had just started hitting the gym again after healing up some bumps and bruisies,” Alessio said. “It worked out pretty good. I had got the rest that I needed from that fight and then was right back into the gym.”