Stop if you've heard this one before: Bellator puts on a big fight during a major UFC weekend and it gets totally lost in the mix.
The latest rendition is Friday night as former Bellator lightweight champion Eddie Alvarez rematches Shinya Aoki in one of the most high-profile bouts they've ever had, but one that isn't getting a lot of chatter amidst the Jon Jones vs. Rashad Evans buzz.
Alvarez and Aoki first fought in the co-main event of DREAM/K-1's New Year's Eve show in 2008. At the time, Alvarez was 15-1, compiled in promotions like Bodog and DREAM. Coming off wins over Joachim Hansen and Tatsuya Kawajiri, Alvarez was prepared to win the...ahem...WAMMA lightweight title in a very notable fight.
Then 18-3-0-1, Aoki had established himself as one of the best non-UFC lightweights in the world. A fixture in Japanese MMA organizations, Aoki's submission game was well-known, even if he wasn't known to mainstream MMA fans. A winner in four of his last five going into the battle, he had the hometown advantage and used it, submitting Alvarez in under two minutes.
Alvarez was aggressive, controlling the center of the ring early. He would secure a takedown, but it ended up spelling his doom. As the two scrambled, Aoki got Alvarez's leg and began to torque it just right until he got the heel hook for the tap in just 92 seconds.
For what brought them to Friday's Bellator 66 and what the outcome means, join us after the jump.
Alvarez (22-3) went to Bellator, won seven in a row and took the promotion's 155-pound title in the process. While the competition at times wasn't the best, he earned the rep as one of the top lightweight fighters in the world. That run ended at the hands of Michael Chandler last November as he lost his belt via fourth round submission in one of 2011's best fights.
Aoki (30-5-0-1) has continued to mainly compete in Japan, winning the DREAM 155-pound title in October 2009 -- a belt he still holds today. He has ventured to the U.S. a handful of times, notably fighting Strikeforce lightweight champion Gilbert Melendez in a lackluster bout. Since that defeat, he's won seven straight and five by submission.
What The Fight Means
The most interesting storyline here is Alvarez, who may be making his last Bellator appearance Friday as his contract is coming to a close. A win here puts him in a great position to ride into the UFC, both financially and stature-wise. There's an outside chance he could remain in Bellator, but he'd need to go through the tournament again to get a shot at Chandler, which is frustrating but the situation at hand.
For Aoki, this bout has been a long time coming and is likely just a one-off fight for some decent pay. Sure, he could be considered by Zuffa but if he hasn't been brought in yet, is there a reason to think that will change now?
Alvarez: 28 | 5'9" | 69" reach | 154.5 weigh-in
Aoki: 28 | 5'11 | 72" reach | 154.5 weigh-in
The fight is live on MTV2 with the lightweight tourney kicking things off at 8 PM EST.