Bellator 106 Preview – Eddie Alvarez vs. Michael Chandler

Michael Chandler vs. Eddie Alvarez was supposed to be a tough but winnable fight for then champion Alvarez. It was the fight hardcore fans DVR’d during the undercard of UFC 139. And the something curious happened: Michael Chandler turned out to be a lot better than anyone had ever imagined. Alvarez, a consensus top five lightweight in the world at the time, was supposed to get the win and move closer to moving on to the UFC.

Chandler decided otherwise and came away with the win in a fight that would’ve been fight of the year in any other year. In this case it happened to be the second best fight that happened that night, as Shogun Rua and Dan Henderson engaged in a five round war of their own that was widely recognized as the fight of the year. Two years later and Chandler & Alvarez have found themselves squaring off one more time but in different scenarios.

For Chandler it’s an opportunity to cement himself as the best lightweight in the world outside of the UFC and potentially the best lightweight in the world, period. He’s the face of Bellator and the man purported to be the highest paid lightweight in MMA.

For Alvarez it’s a shot at redemption. A win here and he’s right back where he was two years ago as an elite lightweight. He wants out of Bellator and the sooner he concludes business here the better.

Fight breakdown – Alvarez and Chandler are similar in a lot of ways but the key to this fight will be who lands the big shot first. Both guys are deadly finishers and whoever can set up a kill shot first will probably take the fight.

Chandler has a tremendous wrestling pedigree that he mixes with explosive boxing. His goal is to land something big, take you down, and keep landing big shots until you quit. The one thing that has defined Chandler so far is that he’s incredibly relentless; he doesn’t stop and brings a high pressure game into the cage.

Alvarez likes to stand and strike but carries a highly effective ground game as well. He loves to stand and trade, bringing considerable power into the cage. Alvarez goes for the finish early and often, never looking to grind out a win. He too brings a high pressure game into the cage.

Look for the second fight to resemble the first. Chandler is going to stake his claim to the middle of the cage each round and ratchet up the aggression, hoping to get Alvarez to wilt. Alvarez and Chandler both nearly had finishes throughout the first fight, with Chandler finally getting it in the fourth, and that has to bode well for both men. Alvarez nearly had him with strikes and a choke whereas Chandler nearly stopped him several times with strikes.

Alvarez nearly finished Chandler by working the counter boxing game. He needs to keep Chandler overaggressive and sloppy at times; Chandler has the tendency to be a bull in a china shop. Most times he gets away with it because he’s so explosive that it’s hard to match. Alvarez is just good enough of an athlete to do so and he needs to get Chandler to get sloppy.

The champion being sloppy is where Alvarez took advantage of him the first time. Alvarez needs to continue to sprawl & brawl, making Chandler come to him. I wouldn’t be shocked if he finished Chandler with a head kick, or got close to it. One of the things Alvarez is great at it using his hands to set up the head kick. Don’t be shocked if he tries to bait Chandler into dropping one hand and making him pay by getting shin to chin (or close to it).

Chandler couldn’t hold him down when he did get the takedown in the first fight, either, and look for that to come into play. If he experiences similar problems look for him to stand and trade with Alvarez. Chandler has improved on a technical basis to go with the big time, raw power he already had.

Why it matters – It’s for the a title and it represents two very different things for both fighters.

For Alvarez it’s the ultimate shot at redemption. He wins and the doubts on his eliteness that have lingered since the first Chandler fight go away instantly. He doesn’t get his status back, of course … but another win and he will.

For Chandler it’s the time to put the nail in the coffin. Elite guys like him are supposed to have tough fights against guys like Alvarez and win. Chandler passes the eyeball test in being a great fighter; now comes a final exam, on a test he passed and took already, to cement it.

Prediction – Chandler

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