If you haven't yet seen it, everything you've heard about the Bellator Lightweight Championship fight between Michael Chandler and Eddie Alvarez from last Saturday's Bellator 58 is accurate: a top five Fight Of The Year Candidate and arguably the best fight in the promotion's 58-event history.
The first round was reminiscent of Frankie Edgar vs. Gray Maynard II and III with the challenger having the champion on the ropes within the fight's first minute. Chandler almost finished the fight within 15 seconds and gained confidence throughout the round by finding a home for his right hand. Just as Alvarez looked to have things together near the end of the first five minutes, a Chandler right knocked Alvarez on his rear, bloodying up his mouth in the process.
Alvarez gained his composure in the second round, slowing the pace and stuffing two Chandler takedowns midway through. He really opened up in the third, destroying Chandler with his stand-up and bloodying him up badly. Chandler looked to strain a muscle at one point after a kick and stopped fighting, which gave Alvarez the opening he needed. The last three minutes were what a champion does when he's looking to finish and he nearly did. Chandler looked tired and completely out of it, but hung on to survive.
Then, the fourth round came. Alvarez started the round like he did the third, chasing Chandler with combos. Chandler started getting his jab and right hand through and kept loosening up. With 2:30 to go, Chandler threw an overhand right that hurt Alvarez and he pounced with ground and pound. Alvarez gave him his back and quickly tapped to a rear-naked choke, completing the upset.
Bellator now has another star at lightweight to promote in their new undefeated champion and a great fight in which he made his name known. The question is now what's next as there was no lightweight tournament this season and Chandler doesn't have his next challenge lined up. A rematch against Alvarez? CEO Bjorn Rebney doesn't seem to like the idea of non-tournament earned title shots, but this is a tough one to not go with. Then again, having Alvarez compete in the tournament and potentially make three TV appearances on the comeback trail is tempting as well.
No matter what the decision is, Chandler/Alvarez was a fight to go out of your way to see. While Dan Henderson vs. Mauricio Rua might have been the fight of the night Saturday, another candidate was nipping at its heels. You can now stream the whole fight for free at Spike.com.
Bellator's 11-event season comes to a close Saturday at Bellator 59, unopposed in the MMA world for the first time since October 22nd, with the finals of their heavyweight and bantamweight tournaments and a UFC veteran making his comeback after supposedly retiring.
135'ers Alexis Vila and Eduardo Dantas will do battle for the right to challenge Bantamweight Zach Makovsky in the expected co-main event. The undefeated Villa (11-0) knocked out Joe Warren and beat Marcos Galvao by split decision to get to the finals, while Dantas (12-2) knocked out Wilson Reis and beat Ed West by split decision to punch his ticket.
On the heavier side, Heavyweight Champion Cole Konrad will get his next challenger Saturday in either Thiago Santos or Eric Prindle. Santos (10-1) submitted Josh Burns in a tournament reserve bout and when he was officially placed in the tourney, he submitted Neil Grove. Prindle (7-1) beat Abe Wagner by unanimous decision and then knocked out Ron Sparks to make it to the finals.
Former UFC lightweight Kurt Pellegrino returns from his short retirement and challenges Patricky Freire on the main card. Pellegrino (16-6) chose not to sign a new UFC deal and announced he was done after a split decision loss to Gleison Tibau this past March. The 32-year-old has lost two in a row after a four-fight winning streak. This will be the first action for Freire (9-2) since losing to Chandler earlier this year.
News & Notes
- In all, Saturday's Bellator 58 featured three entertaining bouts in addition to Chandler/Alvarez. To no one's surprise, Middleweight Champion Hector Lombard knocked out Trevor Prangley in the second round to keep his 20-fight win streak alive. Here's hoping that Alexander Shlemenko can give him a real challenge when they face off in 2012...Marlon Sandro was hurt early but came back to submit Rafael Dias in the first round of a very fun fight.
But the standout was Bellator's first televised women's fight of the season as Jessica Aguilar earned a close decision win over Lisa Ellis-Ward. It was mainly a stand-up affair and the crowd was into it the entire way for good reason: it was a fun fight to watch. I realize that Zoila Frausto-Gurgel was injured and taken out of a show earlier this season, but it took this long for a female fight to air?
However, it was a little suspect when Bellator put up a graphic of their 115-pound women's rankings showing Megumi Fujii ranked first, Aguilar ranked second and Ward as third. Ward hadn't competed in any promotion in over a year and Fujii hasn't competed in Bellator since September 2010.
- After two straight weeks at 7 PM EST, Saturday's event will run live on MTV2 at 9 PM EST with the prelims on Spike.com. Notable names competing include Karl Amoussou and Phillipe Nover.