At tonight's Bellator 66 event, we'll see one of the most anticipated fights in Bellator history for fans of Japanese MMA as former Bellator champion Eddie Alvarez takes on Dream Lightweight champion Shinya Aoki. This fight is a rematch over three years in the making.
To get you ready for Alvarez vs. Aoki 2, here's the complete video of their first fight, from December 31, 2008 at the K-1/Dream Dynamite!! 2008 event.
While this was not exactly a thrilling back-and-forth battle, it was still an incredibly memorable moment that showed Aoki at his best.
For the full story behind this first fight, check out the full entry.
When Eddie Alvarez and Shinya Aoki first met in 2008, it was the unofficial finals of the Dream 2008 Lightweight Grand Prix. I say unofficial because that Grand Prix was already over and had declared a champion - Joachim Hansen. So how did Aoki vs. Alvarez come into it?
For Eddie Alvarez, the Dream 2008 GP was the big breakout moment of his career. Coming into the GP with a solid 12-1 record, Alvarez turned heads throughout the tournament with increasingly impressive performances. He started by knocking out Dida Amade, then defeated Hansen in one of the best fights of 2008. In the semi-finals, he defeated Tatsuya Kawajiri in another barn-burner to earn a spot in the finals.
On the other side of the bracket, Shinya Aoki was clearly seen as the Dream chosen one. After an awkward tournament start where he fought JZ to a No Contest, Aoki came back to definitively defeat JZ, Katsuhiko Nagata, and Caol Uno to earn his own final spot. Aoki vs. Alvarez was set. The only problem? Alvarez suffered an injury against Kawajiri and was forced out of the final. Hansen stepped in as an alternate and upset Aoki to win the GP crown on July 21, 2008.
Five months later, Aoki vs. Alvarez finally took place. It was clearly going to be a battle of Aoki's grappling vs. Eddie's hands, and as we saw, Aoki took it that day.
Four years later, will those grappling skills take it again at Bellator 66? I can't wait to find out.