When UFC middleweight Alan Belcher steps inside the Octagon this Saturday to face Brazilian leg lock specialist Rousimar Palhares it will be just his third fight in two years. He defeated Patrick Cote at UFC 113 in May of 2010 and was forced to the sidelines afterwards because of an injury to his eye in training that almost cut his career short. Luckily for Belcher the eye surgery he underwent saved his vision and his career. Belcher went on to return to action in September of last year, thoroughly dismantled Jason MacDonald via first round submission (strikes), and looked like he hadn’t missed a beat.

After some time off to enjoy the birth of his son, Belcher is ready to climb back in the saddle and work his way towards a title shot, something he was getting very close to before he had problems with his eye. At one point he was scheduled to face former #1 contender Demian Maia in the main event of a UFC Fight Night event scheduled for September of 2010. They say that things happen for a reason and at just 28-years-old Belcher is preparing to reach his physical prime. In a sport as rough and tough as MMA the time off may have been a blessing in disguise.

“I feel great, stronger than ever and more athletic,” said an excited Belcher in an interview with Five Ounces of Pain. “I’ve come a long way over the past three years and I keep getting stronger and stronger. I’ve been eating really well and have changed my lifestyle to become healthier than any other point in my life. I’ve been training with Lyle Henley in Mobile for awhile and he’s got me feeling really strong.”

In Palhares he will face a fighter who has won ten of his fourteen victories by submission including six by heel hook. The Brazilian’s opponents know his leg-attack is coming, but very rarely can stop it from happening.  According to Belcher, when it comes to their fight this weekend at UFC on FOX 3, he is feeling as good as he ever has and knows what needs to be done to avoid those dangerous leg locks that Palhares has in his arsenal.

“I’ve been putting myself in certain situations so that when the fight comes I know what Palhares strengths are and I can avoid them. I’ve been training with some guys who are really good with leg locks and I’m learning how to fight those submissions off. Dean Lister has been a huge help and I’ve been training with a lot of BJJ blackbelts. The main thing is staying out of those situations. I know I can grapple, but I’d prefer to keep the fight standing.”

With the card being on FOX and the event in New Jersey the media attention has been extremely high. So, on top of fighting one of the best submission specialists in the middleweight division, Belcher has had more media obligations than ever before as well as the pressure of fighting in primetime on national television. Just like most other fighters, Belcher is intent on focusing his attention on the task at hand and isn’t worried about any of the outside influences. He also realizes what a win over Palhares can do for him and that is his primary concern.

“I don’t feel any added pressure to be honest with you,” Belcher admitted. “Actually I am grateful for being on such a big card and that Dana White and the UFC believe in me enough to put me in this spot. I feel like it’s a great position, I get to fight in front of more people and being a veteran I know I can handle it. I feel like this fight is coming at just the right time for me. I’m not too sure where a win puts me as far as title contention although a lot of people believe I can hang with anyone in the division. A win here would probably put me in a top spot, but there are a lot of top guys right now so it’s hard for me to say just where I would be. I know that a win isn’t going to put me backwards that’s for sure. Winning is always the right step and while it take me awhile as long as I don’t lose I’m doing well. I don’t plan on losing anytime soon. I’ve had losses, learning experiences and I’ve gone into fights unprepared, but I don’t plan on doing that anymore. I know I will be prepared and that is probably half the battle. I won’t lose because I’m out of shape or I underestimated my opponent. If a guy beats me it’s because he beat me on my best day and he was better than me. Let’s take it one fight at a time.”

Belcher has never been accused of being a boring fighter or doing just enough to get a win. That much is evidenced by all of the bonuses Belcher has won including Fight of the Night against Yoshihiro Akiyama a few years back. His war with Akiyama certainly set the tone for an exciting evening at UFC 100 and in 23 career fights he has only had five fights make it to the judges’ scorecards. Though winning a fifth bonus in his last six fights isn’t something clouding Belcher’s thoughts, he still has an opinion on which of the three options he’d like to win – Knockout, Submission, or Fight of the Night.

“If I had to choose one I would choose whatever one paid me the most,” Belcher joked. “I guess if I really have to pick one I would go with the Submission of the Night because it would be so unbelievable. I think the Knockout of the Night would probably be the most realistic choice. It would also mean that I am sticking to my game plan and keeping the fight standing. It means that I’d be staying out of those dangerous grappling situations and eventually hurt him and earn a knockout or TKO. Hopefully it’ll come true and I can earn another bonus. I really don’t try and go for a bonus at all I just fight and give 110%. I just go out there and do the best that I can, I never give up and when you are facing another fighter who never gives up it’s bound to make for an exciting fight.”

Fans can catch Belcher vs. Palhares as part of the main card this Saturday night. Things start up on FOX at 7:00 PM EST including a headlining tilt between Jim Miller-Nate Diaz.