Fight fans the world over should raise a toast every Nov. 19. For it was on that date in 2011 that two of the most memorable fights in MMA history took place.
That evening the UFC presented the five-round fracas between Dan Henderson and Mauricio Rua in the top spot at UFC 139. That event took place in San Jose, Calif. Meanwhile, some 3,000 miles to the east, Bellator offered Bellator 58, a card headlined by Eddie Alvarez vs. Michael Chandler.
At the time, Alvarez was 24 fights into his career. He was also the reigning Bellator lightweight champion. The Philly fighter had won seven straight contests heading into his title defense against Chandler. All but one of those seven fights ended without the need of any judges’ decision. Alvarez’s overall record stood at 22-2 with 19 triumphs by stoppage.
On the other side, Chandler was a relative neophyte. Just four years into his MMA career, the former All-American wrestler had a perfect 8-0 record with six stoppage victories. The Missourian earned his shot at Alvarez by winning Bellator’s fourth lightweight tournament. Still, Alvarez was a nearly 3-1 favorite to retain his title that night in Hollywood, Fla.
Chandler opened the bout like he was late for his flight home. He charged the champion and nearly finished the contest in the opening seconds of the first stanza with a flurry of strikes. Alvarez regained his composure, but he faced another close call in the waning moments of the round when Chandler dropped him a second time.
The second round was slower paced and relatively evenly matched.
In the third round, the tide turned in favor of the champ. Alvarez bloodied his less-experienced foe and looked close to finishing things, but Chandler proved to be a game opponent, and he survived a very rough round.
Halfway through the fourth stanza, Chandler staggered Alvarez and moved in for the kill. When the fight hit the ground, Chandler gained mount after abusing the champion with ground strikes. During that onslaught, Alvarez gave up his back and quickly tapped after Chandler locked on a rear-naked choke.
Bjorn Rebney, Bellator’s CEO at the time, summed up the feelings of many fight fans that night when he said, “That’s the best fight I’ve ever seen. Mike Chandler, you just beat the best lightweight in the world.”
Chandler would go on to defend the title twice before he dropped a split decision to Alvarez at Bellator 106 – a scrap which might very well be the second-best title fight in Bellator history.
Alvarez later vacated the title to sign with the UFC. Chandler won the belt a second time in 2016. He defended that title once before he lost the strap to current champion Brent Primus in 2017. But no matter where these two athletes ultimately end their careers, one night in November will forever link them together.
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Source: USA Today – MMA Junkie
Read the full article here: 10 biggest moments in Bellator history: When one night features two of the greatest fights of all time