Eddie Alvarez and Michael Chandler proved sequels can live up to the hype. | Photo: D. Mandel/Sherdog.com
2. Eddie Alvarez vs. Michael Chandler
Considering that their first matchup was a leading contender for Sherdog.com’s “Fight of the Year” for 2011, Alvarez and Chandler would have been forgiven if their rematch did not live up those previously lofty standards.
After all, their first meeting provided about as much action and as many momentum swings as a person could want in a mixed martial arts bout. However, sequels in fighting, as in Hollywood, are destined to disappoint. Not this time.
When Bellator MMA first announced it planned to enter the pay-per-view business on the back of a showdown between former UFC champions Quinton Jackson and Tito Ortiz, many hardcores claimed the event was only worth the price of admission because Chandler-Alvarez 2 occupied the same bill. After the promotion was forced to move the card to Spike TV when Ortiz pulled out of the main event due to injury, Chandler and Alvarez were needed more than ever at Bellator 106 on Nov. 2 in Long Beach, Calif. -- and boy did they deliver.
Alvarez had spent an entire year on the sidelines mired in a bitter matching rights dispute with Bellator, which did not want to let the Philadelphian leave for the UFC. It would have been easy for Alvarez to let ring rust and disappointment take hold. Instead, he took down the promotion’s golden boy. Alvarez made judicious use of his jab throughout the fight, ultimately damaging Chandler’s left eye to the point where it was nearly swollen shut by the final bell. While superior striking and movement carried the day for Alvarez, Chandler had his moments, as well. The former University of Missouri wrestler landed repeated takedowns and nearly secured a rear-naked choke in the opening period. In the fourth round, Chandler took down Alvarez and followed up with heavy ground-and-pound.
It was Alvarez who left the lasting imprint on the fight, however, as he attacked his opponent with punches against the fence before attempting a rear-naked choke of his own. Chandler continued to spray blood on the canvas through it all. Alvarez, who tapped out in the fourth round of their November 2011 encounter, was just strong enough down the stretch to eke out a split decision and virtually assure a trilogy. The wait had been well worth it.
“It takes two people to put a fight on like that,” Alvarez said. “We did it together. Another ‘Fight of the Year,’ guys. There isn’t anything to boo about. This is my teammates, my wife, my kids and a whole lot of sacrifice. I had a feeling in my gut that I was going to be the new lightweight champion.”
Number Three » Mark Hunt vs. Antonio Silva