Michael Chandler was supposed to be fighting lightweight champ Eddie Alvarez in the Bellator 120 main event. Instead, he fought recent lightweight tournament winner Will Brooks in the co-main event after Alvarez bowed out last week with a concussion. With Alvarez's recovery status unknown, this bout was for the interim belt.
Chandler took Brooks down twice in the opening round. While Brooks was able to get up the first time, the second takedown saw Chandler ride out the 1st by landing some sharp elbows and punches in what was a one-sided first 5 minutes. The 2nd round started with a bit more striking from both men, but Chandler continued to pursue the takedown and got his 3rd of the fight about 90 seconds in. Brooks looked uncomfortable off of his back as Chandler was on top for 3 minutes but not doing much damage. Soon Brooks was back to his feet and took Chandler down. Chandler tried to sweep but gave up his back in the process. Brooks went for a rear-naked choke but Chandler exploded out of it and turned it into top position from Brooks' guard. Scary moment for Chandler but not enough to lose him the round.
Round 3 was all Brooks, who not only secured a takedown but had a body triangle and later full mount. He battered Chandler with hard shots and almost finished the fight. Chandler was bruised, bloodied, and cut over his left eye before he escaped and got back to his feet in the 2nd half of the 3rd. Brooks rocked Chandler with two head kicks, got another takedown, had Chandler's back, and had a case for a 10-8 round.
The 4th round started with Chandler seemingly hurting Brooks with a left hook but Brooks drove through for another takedown and again locked in a body triangle and took Chandler's back. But Chandler exploded out of it and wound up on top. A questionable stand-up by the ref put them back to striking distance, where Brooks threw an illegal knee to a "downed" Chandler after a brief exchange. Chandler recovered and the fight resumed with Chandler stuffed on a takedown attempt and his back taken for the umpteenth time. Brooks worked on a neck crank but didn't have his left arm available to make the submission attempt a serious threat.
Chandler was a little more aggressive in the 5th, perhaps in a fit of desperation. The crucial moment came late when Brooks was hurt by a left hook and two right hands. Brooks looked like he was in big trouble and Chandler pounced for the arm-triangle choke in the final minute. Chandler couldn't finish it but had full mount in the final seconds in what ended up being a thrilling and unexpectedly close battle between two of Bellator's top lightweights in a last-minute booking.
Official Decision: Will Brooks def. Michael Chandler via split decision (48-46, 47-48, 48-47)
This is obviously a huge upset win for Brooks (14-1) and a devastating 2nd straight loss for Chandler (12-2). Brooks is now in line to face Eddie Alvarez for the undisputed lightweight championship. Just last week he was scheduled to fight Nate Jolly in a "stay busy" battle, and now he's bested Chandler in a remarkable outcome.
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