Michael Chandler took Eddie Alvarez's Bellator title in a classic. | Photo: William Musacchia
HOLLYWOOD, Fla. -- In a serious frontrunner for “Fight of the Year,” former University of Missouri wrestling standout Michael Chandler upset Eddie Alvarez for the Bellator lightweight championship in an electrifying four-round battle inside the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel and Casino in Hollywood, Fla., in the headliner of Bellator 58.
The Season 4 lightweight tournament champion was able to wrest the title from Alvarez’s grip with a surprising mix of striking and grappling, eventually submitting Alvarez in a back-and-forth war.
The 25-year-old Chandler started fast, landing a picture-perfect Superman punch followed by a salvo of punches that sent Alvarez to the ground. In typical fashion, Alvarez was not done, returning to his feet and answering back. Both men battled back and forth for the duration of the round, but shockingly, it was Chandler getting the better of the exchanges, hurting Alvarez again late in the round.
“Eddie is a tough guy, we’ve always seen him get hurt and come back and win,” Chandler said of his opponent’s grit. “But with all the training I’ve done, I felt I was ready to prove that I belong up there with him. I was outstriking one of the best strikers in MMA.”
Chandler came out in the second round looking to show some of his wrestling chops, but failed to hold Alvarez down. Instead, both men exchanged wildly again, this time with Alvarez edging the challenger.
“Eddie is just so tough. I obviously knew the fight wasn’t over even after that strong start I had. No one should ever count Eddie out,” said Chandler.
The champion poured it on in round three, badly outlanding the challenger, forcing him on several occasions to shoot out of pure desperation. Chandler was dominated and looked out on his feet for most of the round.
“He beat the crap out of me in that round,” Chandler said, wiping blood out from under his eye. “I knew I couldn’t get nervous, and I knew I could still win.”
Chandler was somehow re-energized for the fourth round, suddenly utilizing his jab once again. After a right hand wobbled Alvarez, Chandler shot for what would be the last time. Alvarez lost his balance, and Chandler began to pound and pass.
“When I got the mount, I knew I could finish,” said the new champion. “A lot of guys lose their position by just trying to look for the K.O. in that position, I knew the choke was there; it’s always there.”
In a desperate attempt of self-preservation, Alvarez gave up his back. The Xtreme Couture product quickly sank in both hooks and flattened Alvarez. Following his instincts, Chandler sunk in a deep rear-naked choke, forcing Alvarez to tap at 3:06 of the fourth stanza.
“When the fight was over, I couldn’t believe it,” said Chandler, now 9-0 in just over two years of pro MMA competition. “I always knew I could win, but when it happened, I was stunned. It was an honor to fight a great guy like Eddie and to be in one of the best fights imaginable.“
It was also a great night for Bellator middleweight Chmpion Hector Lombard, who continued his run of dominance by derailing South African veteran Trevor Prangley in the second frame of their non-title bout.
Lombard controlled the bout with his superior boxing and heavy punches, the sound of his strikes reverberating through the arena. The first round saw the American Top Team Product corner Prangley against the cage and tee off on him repeatedly. Prangley, while stunned, would survive the first stanza.
“I knew I had him hurt,” said Lombard, “but I learned early on in my career that there’s a time to really go out to finish someone.”
Prangley spent the duration of the second round trying to avoid the champion’s power, but it inevitably caught up with him. Lombard landed a crushing right hook that sent him to the mat, and it was only a matter of time until the end.
“I knew when I connected with that hook that it was over, it was my time to finish the fight,” said Lombard, who continued to savagely beat his helpless foe while referee Frank Gentile looked on, finally halting the bout at 1:06 of the second round.
“I thought the stoppage was fine,” insisted Lombard after the bout when asked whether the stoppage was late.
“People always complain about stoppages being either too early or too late. I was OK with it; He was done, and now there’s no doubt. ”
The 33-year-old Lombard now stands at 33-2-1 in his MMA career with 25 straight victories.