by Derek Bolender
If you didn’t see it, you missed one of the best fights of 2011.
Michael Chandler and Eddie Alvarez put together more than 18 minutes’ worth of back-and-forth action that left no fan still sitting in his seat.
When it was all said and done, a bloodied and swollen Chandler had earned the right to be called the new Bellator lightweight champion.
The thrilling affair headlined Saturday’s Bellator 58 event, which took place at Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino in Hollywood, Fla. The main card aired on MTV2 (and in high-definition on EPIX) while preliminary fights streamed live on MMAjunkie.com and Spike.com.
Chandler took control from the opening bell with a lead left hook, followed by a flurry that dropped Alvarez against the cage. They soon were off to the races.
Alvarez countered with a right of his own that stopped Chandler in his tracks before he secured a takedown. Somehow Alvarez managed to clear his head and recover from the early onslaught.
The pair continued to trade strikes until late in the round, when Chandler landed a thudding right hand that dropped Alvarez once again as the round concluded. The defending champion was battered, but he wouldn’t go away.
Round two was close enough that it could have been scored either way. Both fighters were able to land punches and kicks on the feet, and they essentially canceled each other out in the grappling department.
The momentum began to switch to Alvarez in the third as Chandler began to slow a bit. Alvarez – armed with a double jab, left hook, and fadeaway straight right – got the better of Chandler on the feet. He also was able to nullify his opponent’s takedown attempts.
Alvarez remained the fresher fighter heading into the fourth round, and it was the first time Chandler had ever been past three rounds in his career.
A double jab and sprawl from Alvarez started off the round in his favor. Then it turned again in another exchange.
Chandler landed two big looping right hands on Alvarez’s chin that staggered him. Chandler pounced on him looking to land ground and pound to finish the fight. He then worked his way into full mount. Alvarez rolled over trying to find a way to escape, and Chandler secured the rear-naked choke and forced the tap.
“Over a year ago, I told you I was going to be standing here,” Chandler told Bellator commentator Jimmy Smith during the post-fight interview.
It’s quite an accomplishment for Chandler, who began competing professionally just two years ago.
Bellator CEO and chairman Bjorn Rebney was blown away by what he saw transpire.
“That’s the best fight I’ve ever seen,” he said. “Mike Chandler, you just beat the best lightweight in the world.”
In capturing the title, Chandler (9-0 MMA, 6-0 BFC) extends his unbeaten streak to nine overall. Meanwhile, Alvarez (22-3 MMA, 6-1 BFC) loses for just the second time ever as a lightweight.
Lombard extends unbeaten streak to 25 with dominating win
In non-title action, Bellator middleweight champion Hector Lombard did what he usually does: finish his opponents in brutal fashion.
In the first round, Prangley was able to weather the storm. The majority of the round was relatively action-free; however, there was plenty of dirty boxing that followed wild flurries from Lombard. Prangley was able to get a takedown after one of the flurries, but he wasn’t able to keep him Lombard on his back. The body and low kicks were icing on the cake for Lombard.
Straying true to form, the American Top Team product landed a big right hand on Prangley’s chin as he came forward in the second round. The punch staggered Prangley, and he immediately dove for a leg.
Some vicious ground and pound put the nail in the coffin before the referee waved off the fight for good.
Lombard now will defend his belt against season-five middleweight tournament winner Alexander Shlemenko (in a rematch) in 2012.
Lombard (31-2-1 MMA, 8-0 BFC) extends his unbeaten streak to eight in Bellator while Prangley (33-9-1 MMA, 0-1 BFC) loses for the ninth time in his long career.
Aguilar dishes out punishment, gets long awaited revenge
Jessica Aguilar’s right hand dictated the opening frame of the rematch with Lisa Ellis-Ward.
Ellis-Ward defeated Aguilar by submission in Aguilar’s professional debut in February 2006. But in the rematch, Aguilar was able to land straight and overhand right punches to the head to kick off the action.
Ellis was content staying at range and landing a variety of kicks and keeping Aguilar on her toes. As the longer fighter, she also tried to establish her jab, which was consistently being countered over the top by Aguilar.
Round two began with Ellis looking to move forward and press the action, and it was punctuated by Aguilar landing big ground-and-pound strikes from her guard. On multiple occasions, Aguilar was able to counter Ellis-Ward’s low kicks with right hands early in the frame. Aguilar sat down on her punches and settled in looking to counter. Ellis attempted a flying knee at one point, slipped, and paid for it by eating ground-and-pound strikes. Then she endured a few clinch knees as the pair stood. Another outside trip takedown from Aguilar and more ground and pound secured the round.
The final stanza started with more of the same as Aguilar was still consistently landing the harder, cleaner strikes on the feet. A late flurry and kimura attempt from Ellis-Ward against a tired and bloodied Aguilar proved to be too little, too late.
In the post-fight interview, Aguilar called out Japanese standout Megumi Fujii.
With the win, Aguilar (12-4 MMA, 3-1 BFC) has now tasted victory in seven of her past eight contests. Ellis-Ward (14-7 MMA, 2-2 BFC), on the other hand, drops to an even .500 with the promotion.
Knockout artist Sandro rebounds with rare submission win
From the outset, Rafael Dias wanted no part of the standup exchanges with power puncher Marlon Sandro. He was content on his bicycle trying to avoid power shots. That was until he landed the best punch of the fight.
A wild left-hook, straight-right combination missed from Sandro as he moved forward. It threw him off balance, and Dias countered with a left hook of his own that dropped the Nova Uniao product.
However, Sandro recovered quickly, secured a body lock, and took down Dias. Eventually, Dias was able to work his way back up to his feet using the cage. Sandro briefly got him down again, but Dias popped right back up.
Sandro then locked in a standing arm-triangle choke while blood poured out of Dias’ nose.
After securing the submission hold, Sandro took the fight to the ground, tightened up the choke, and Dias was forced to tap.
Sandro (20-3 MMA, 3-1 BFC) is back in the win column following his recent loss to featherweight champion Pat Curran. Meanwhile, Dias (15-9-2 MMA, 0-1 BFC) drops his first fight since September 2010.