Eddie Alvarez and Michael Chandler laid it all on the line. | Photo: Dave Mandel/Sherdog.com
Not all rematches live up to expectations. Michael Chandler and Eddie Alvarez made sure theirs did.
Alvarez reclaimed the Bellator MMA lightweight championship in another scintillating encounter with Chandler, as he eked out a split decision over the previously unbeaten Alliance MMA standout in the Bellator 106 headliner on Saturday at the Long Beach Convention Center in Long Beach, Calif. All three cageside judges scored it 48-47: Steven Davis and Derek Cleary for Alvarez, Mike Beltran for Chandler.
A stiff left jab and a commitment to lateral movement were key weapons in the Alvarez arsenal. He left Chandler with severe damage to his left eye, which was bleeding heavily and virtually swollen shut by fight’s end. Alvarez (25-3, 9-1 Bellator) punctuated his victory with a superb fifth round. There, he ripped into Chandler with punches along the fence, moved to his back on the ground and nearly ended it with a rear-naked choke. Blood was everywhere.
“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.”
While Alvarez chipped away on the feet, Chandler (12-1, 9-1 Bellator) utilized his wrestling. He delivered repeated takedowns against the Blackzilians member and threatened to finish him with a rear-naked choke inside the first round. Alvarez survived and forced the champion into deeper waters. Chandler was at his best in round four, where he struck for another takedown and tore into Alvarez with ground-and-pound. However, he failed to carry the momentum into the final five minutes and, as a result, lost his grip on Bellator gold.
“It was great,” Chandler said. “It was just another fight. I’ll get back to the drawing board and see what happens next.”
Newton Outpoints ‘King Mo,’ Takes Interim Title
A variety of spinning attacks combined with excellent defensive wrestling spurred Emanuel Newton to a unanimous decision over Muhammed Lawal, as the Reign MMA representative won the Bellator interim light heavyweight championship in the co-main event. All three judges saw it the same: 49-46 for Newton (22-7-1, 5-1 Bellator), who has beaten “King Mo” twice in less than nine months.
Lawal (11-3, 3-2 Bellator) controlled much of the first round with his takedowns, ground-and-pound and heavy close-quarters punches along the fence.
Then, he inexplicably turned away from his wrestling. Newton capitalized, as he wobbled the former Strikeforce champion with a second-round head kick and kept Lawal off-balance with kicks to the legs and body.
In the fifth round, Lawal stood up Newton with a counter right hand and delivered a takedown. However, the 32-year-old Murfreesboro, Tenn., native needed a finish, and it did not materialize.
“I can’t even describe the feeling I have right now,” Newton said. “I worked so hard for this. Mo put up a good fight. He got a lot of takedowns, but the striking -- I had him wobbled a little bit. I’m not going to fight another wrestler like that in MMA, and that makes me very excited.”
Newton will next face reigning 205-pound champion Attila Vegh -- the only man to defeat him in the past four years -- in a bout to unify Bellator’s light heavyweight crown.
“After fighting Mo,” Newton said, “Attila ain’t got nothing for me.”
Straus Dethrones Curran, Captures Featherweight Title
Daniel Straus recorded his 18th win in 19 outings, as he captured the Bellator featherweight championship with a unanimous decision over the world-ranked Pat Curran. All three judges sided with Straus (22-4, 8-1 Bellator) by 49-45, 48-46 and 48-46 scores, as he became the promotion’s fourth champion at 145 pounds.
Curran (19-5, 9-2 Bellator) never established himself in the match. Straus grinded on the 26-year-old in the clinch, struck for multiple takedowns and landed his share of meaningful strikes. The American Top Team representative left nothing to chance, as he saved some of his best work for the fifth round.
There, he mixed thudding knees with sharp punches and kept Curran on the defensive.
Curran, who had held Bellator’s featherweight title for nearly two years, was docked a point for an illegal knee strike in the third round, but the deduction did not factor into the decision.
“I worked really hard with my team at ATT,” said Straus, who lost to Curran back in 2009. “I want to thank everybody who has supported me since day one. Pat Curran is a tough dude. I will see him again. I know it.”
Riggs Crowned First ‘Fight Master’
Takedowns, a relentless top game and some mild ground-and-pound carried former World Extreme Cagefighting champion Joe Riggs to a unanimous decision over Mike Bronzoulis in the “Fight Master” welterweight final. All three cageside judges scored it the same: 30-27 for Riggs (40-14, 1-1 Bellator).
Bronzoulis (15-6-1, 0-1 Bellator) enjoyed some success early in the fight, particularly with leg kicks. However, Riggs adjusted, turned to takedowns and neutralized the onetime Legacy Fighting Championship titleholder for the better part of 15 minutes.
“Diesel” transitioned to Bronzoulis’ back on multiple occasions and fished intermittently for chokes. None were successful, but his approach proved fruitful.
“[Winning this fight] meant everything to me,” said Riggs, who has pieced together a six-fight winning streak. “It will take care of my family; they’re the only thing I do this for. I’m just happy for the opportunity. “Mike is harder than anybody in the tournament, so I’d like to get a title shot, but [Bellator CEO] Bjorn [Rebney] is the man. If he says he wants me to do it, then bring ’em on, baby.”
Richman Stops Reeling Stepanyan
The Academy’s Mike Richman dispatched Akop Stepanyan with first-round punches in a featherweight showcase. Richman (16-3, 5-2 Bellator) closed out his Russian counterpart 4:05 into round one, as he won for the third time in four appearances.
Stepanyan (13-7, 1-4 Bellator) staggered the Minnesotan with a straight right late in the round, forcing him to retreat. Richman recovered and leveled the 27-year-old RusFighters Sport Club export with a left hook and followed him to the canvas, a double-handed chop in tow. Despite immediate protests from Stepanyan, referee Herb Dean had seen enough.
“This win felt amazing,” Richman said. “Guess who’s back? He hit me, but I wasn’t going down like that. I just started swinging and looked for that opening.”
Prelims: Guymon Triangle Submits ‘Blood Spiller’
In preliminary action, former King of the Cage champion Michael Guymon (15-6-1, 1-1 Bellator) submitted Aaron Miller (14-9, 2-1 Bellator) with a triangle choke 4:20 into the second round of their lightweight tilt; undefeated light heavyweight prospect Brandon Halsey (5-0, 3-0 Bellator) stopped Ultimate Fighting Championship veteran Hector Ramirez (10-6-1, 1-2 Bellator) on punches 52 seconds into round one of their encounter at 205 pounds; American Top Team’s Cristiano Souza (7-0, 3-0 Bellator) submitted Alejandro Garcia (14-6, 0-1 Bellator) with a rear-naked choke 3:06 into the third round of their welterweight clash; California-based Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt Cleber Luciano (9-5, 2-1 Bellator) took a
unanimous verdict from journeyman Joe Camacho (13-19-3, 0-2 Bellator) in a 150-pound catchweight affair, earning 30-27 nods from all three judges; WEC alum Josh Smith (9-5, 1-0 Bellator) procured a unanimous decision over Darren Smith (4-4, 0-1 Bellator) in a lightweight scrap, sweeping the scorecards by identical 29-28 nods; and Bodyshop Fitness Team representative Jesse Juarez (21-8, 5-0 Bellator) submitted Joe Williams (9-2, 2-2 Bellator) with a guillotine choke 57 seconds into the first round welterweight bout. Juarez has won four fights in a row.