Fight of the year just keeps getting more difficult with each passing month. It was already shaping up to be one of the best years in MMA and then we get the unexpected greatness of Jones-Gustafsson. We had barely digested it when along came the Sanchez-Melendez fight that exceed the high pre-fight expectations for awesomeness. As that fight was settling in as a no doubter for fight of the year, Alvarez-Chandler II rode into town to stake its claim. It may have also saved Bellator MMA. It certainly puts them in a much better position for their new first PPV with the rubber match as the main event.
I think a lot of people have misread the situation between Bellator MMA and Eddie Alvarez. There seems to be a strong perception that Bjorn Rebney and Bellator wanted Alvarez to lose and maybe even badly. If that had happened then instead of having a champion who was pissed off at them they would have another dominant champion with no real challenger within the organization. Now they have one of the best rivalries in MMA between two of the best lightweights in the world. Now they have a PPV main event that people are excited to watch. It may not have went down how everyone would have liked it too, but it all came together to give us one of the best fights in MMA this year or any year.
Let’s take a look at why Alvarez won this fight. It was not surprising that it was a SD as it was an extremely even fight. Many of the rounds went back and forth as both fighters tried to seize control of the fight and neither would yield it. The first three rounds were the closest and the last two were the more definitive ones.
The first round numbers according to Compustrike have Alvarez landing 17 of 51 total strikes to 9 of 56 for Chandler. Alvarez landed 4 power strikes to Chandler’s 2. Chandler scored one takedown, landed no ground strikes and had one submission attempt. Alvarez had no takedowns but landed one ground strike. When you look at the numbers this is Alvarez’s round. He landed almost double the strikes, and double the power strikes. He was also better than double the accuracy percentage of Chandler. This offsets the one takedown for Chandler and the one submission attempt. Numbers are only one element of the story, sometimes the action tells a different tale.
Alvarez was the first to the center of the cage and after a couple of feints from each fighter Chandler landed a jab. Then an exchange of bad intention rights that glanced off of each other followed. Right away Alvarez was using really good lateral movement. Chandler was pressing the action but Alvarez’s footwork was on point as announcer Jimmy Smith was praising that footwork, Alvarez used it to close the distance and land the first solid shot of the fight – a nice straight right hand to the left eye of Chandler. His right hand must have loved the way it felt against Chandler’s left because it kept coming back for more of it all night long. Several times Alvarez made Chandler miss by using his footwork. He seemed to have a good read on Chandler. After doing an excellent job of frustrating Chandler in the standup, Alvarez attempted the first takedown. Chandler stuffed it easily. He then went back to stalking Alvarez who continued to dance away. Alvarez also was starting to consistently land his jab on Chandler’s right eye. Alvarez’s movement, footwork and control of the distance was masterful in this first round. Two and a half minutes into the round and Chandler landed a solid right hand but Alvarez avoids the next few punches easily. Chandler was really loading up his punches in this round and missing with most of them. Alvarez was bouncing to his left then dancing back to his right quick change to the left. Alvarez landed a nice little right uppercut as Chandler was coming in. This has clearly been Alvarez’s fight for the first 4:14 of the opening round. Then Alvarez threw a low kick that Chandler caught and it almost ended there.
After he caught the low kick Chandler quickly pounced and took Alvarez’s back, locked his arms around the waist and got the slam takedown. He quickly worked the right leg in and instead of trying to secure the left hook he went for the choke. He had his arm under the neck for a moment and it looked like he might get the choke but Alvarez fought it off and powered out. He landed a strike as he was getting up and Chandler was still on the ground. In the closing seconds Alvarez attempted another takedown that Chandler stuffed. It was a round that Alvarez dominated in the standup and the one takedown and submission attempt did not offset the striking advantage of Alvarez. He also controlled the cage better. He controlled the distance and was dictating the movement dance. Alvarez had Chandler responding to him. Chandler may have been pressing forward but Alvarez controlled it; often times Chandler would miss wildly and get off-balance. This was clearly Alvarez’s round by the numbers or the naked eye, it was also my impression watching the fight live.
In the second round the numbers are closer. Alvarez goes 19 of 47 to Chandler’s 14 of 46 in total strikes. Again, four power shots for Alvarez to Chandler’s two. Chandler has a big advantage in takedowns going five of seven while Alvarez does not attempt one. Chandler has zero submission attempts, zero dominant positions and only landed one strike while Alvarez landed four strikes on the ground. It is a close round and the numbers have it very even as it looks like Chandler got the takedowns but did almost nothing with them.
The second round started out very similar to the first one. Alvarez is moving well and landed several solid strikes in the opening moments of the round. As the first minute unfolded, Alvarez continued to use good movement and footwork to control the distance. Chandler constantly was pursuing, kept the pressure on, and came forward. Alvarez was countering effectively and circling back and forth. He would also step in, throw a punch or two and then out and circle away. It was a quick step in right hand from Alvarez that landed solidly on Chandler’s left eye opening up a cut. Two minutes into the round and Alvarez was controlling the standup and landing with regularity and Chandler’s face was getting more swollen and red. Chandler just kept coming relentlessly at Alvarez. Then at the halfway point of the round, Chandler landed a nice left kick to the body of Alvarez and used that to shoot in and get the takedown. Alvarez immediately got back up and Chandler locked his arms together and slammed Alvarez back down. Alvarez could not pop back up but Chandler could not get him down and again went for the back. When he went for the rear-naked choke Alvarez was able to get back to his feet. Another slam takedown and Alvarez got right back up to his feet. Chandler held on to a single leg and Alvarez landed a nice elbow to the side of his head. They are on the ground and Alvarez lands three more solid elbow strikes to the side of the head. So far they have hit the ground four times and Chandler has done nothing and Alvarez landed four solid strikes on the last takedown. The elbows opened up a cut over Chandler’s left eye which was starting to look jacked up and bleed profusely. Chandler tried to work to a better position while Alvarez was almost resting in a seated position against the cage. Alvarez got back up and broke away from Chandler. They missed a couple of times each and then Alvarez landed a solid right uppercut on the chin and followed it up with a left hook that also landed cleanly. Chandler took a wobbly step back and went down to one knee for a moment and then back to his feet. After they exchange a couple of misses Chandler got the final takedown of the round. He landed a couple of glancing shots from the guard a one clean one before the round ended.
It was another close round where Chandler got the takedowns but did nothing with them. Alvarez actually landed better strikes from the ground than Chandler and that offsets the takedowns. When it comes to the standup in the round again Alvarez controlled the distance and he wobbled Chandler with that combination. When you see the damage on Chandler’s face in between rounds two and three and you realize that most of that damage happened in the second round you have to score it for Alvarez. Chandler’s left eye had a cut above it and below it and was swollen almost shut. I have him up 20-18 after two tough fought rounds.
The numbers for round three are even closer. Alvarez landed 22 of 50 and Chandler was 19 of 35. The power strike advantage has closed to a four to three favor for Alvarez. The ground strikes are even at fove a piece. Chandler scored two takedowns and again zero submissions and zero dominant positions. On paper it looks like the closest round so far but again it favors Alvarez slightly.
They met in the center of the cage to start the third round and began to wade and trade. After a couple of even exchanges Alvarez landed a two punch combo one kick combo that sent Chandler backwards. Chandler came forward and caught Alvarez’ kick and countered with a nice clean right hand. When Chandler attempted the first takedown of the round Alvarez sprawled and stuffed it. He landed three solid shots to the body. When they got back to their feet it was Chandler circling on the outside with Alvarez coming forward. Chandler landed a nice side kick to the body during this sequence. They have another exchange and it’s Alvarez landing a little cleaner. Chandler attempted another takedown that was stuffed and then both threw and landed a jab simultaneously. Again another takedown attempt from Chandler that Alvarez stuffed. Chandler would not let go and they went around the outside in some kind of surreal wheel barrel race. You could see the high paced rounds were starting to wear on them and they both were tired. They also both just kept coming. With a little over 2:14 left you could see that Chandler was also bleeding out of his nose. They grappled, and ended up against the cage. With 1:27 left in the round Alvarez landed a glancing spinning elbow. Chandler countered with right uppercut. With a minute left in the round Chandler got another takedown and again immediately went for the rear-naked choke. Alvarez stopped it easily. Chandler worked for the takedown and got it with twenty-five seconds left in the round. Chandler was able to land a couple of shots and diid a little damage before the round ended. By now his face was looking like a bloody pizza.
Again this was a close round but would have to give it to Alvarez. He did a little more damage in the standup to offset the takedowns of Chandler. It was the closest round of the fight and I could see how you could score this one for Chandler. Either 29-28 or 30-27 for Alvarez after three rounds.
In the case of the fourth round the numbers do convey the story. Alvarez landed 19 of 36 to Chandler’s 58 of 71. Alvarez had one power strike and Chandler had 27. Neither of them had a submission or a dominant position.
The ringside doctor checked Chandler’s eye before the start of round four as it was almost swollen shut and let him continue. Chandler was pacing like a cage tiger waiting for the bell. He started the round with a different level of almost desperation. With an eye that was rapidly closing to the point that the doctor is being brought in he raised his game up. They started out striking in the center and now their roles are reversed as Chandler was circling on the outside and Alvarez was the pursuer.
At the 4:10 mark of the round Chandler landed a leaping knee that moved Alvarez back and stunned him. Quickly roles are reversed again and now Chandler is actively stalking Alvarez. Chandler shot for a takedown, it was stuffed and then they grappled, scrambled and Chandler ended up on top in Alvarez’s guard. From there Chandler went to work and did damage in the round. By the end of the round Alvarez’s left eye was like the little cousin to Chandler’s left eye. Now, Compustrike did not give Chandler credit for a dominant position because he stayed in Alvarez’ guard, but at one point he had Alvarez’s arm pinned and was hammering away at his face. Alvarez tried to counter by throwing strikes from the bottom. Chandler was able to stay on top for the rest of the round. Alvarez now has a little cut over his left eye.
This was the easy round to score as Chandler took control with the leaping knee. It stunned Alvarez and then Chandler got the fight to the ground and did some damage from the guard position. It was a champion’s response in a tough fight that he was probably losing going into the round. Both fighters were exhausted at the end of the round. I would score it 39-37 for Alvarez but could also see and understand it being 38-38 going into the final round.
The numbers for the final round also tell a pretty clear tale. Alvarez landed 38 of 64 strikes to Chandler’s 11 of 25. Alvarez held a 9 to 3 advantage in the power strike department. Chandler again held the takedown advantage with two to Alvarez’s zero. When it went to the ground Alvarez landed 17 strikes and Chandler only four. Chandler had one dominant position and one submission attempt while Alvarez had two each. This round on paper is clearly Alvarez’s.
Referee Big John McCarthy brought both men together in the center before the round started to touch gloves one more time. They came out and fired away at the bell with Chandler landing a stiff jab and Alvarez a nice right uppercut and just missed with a left hook. Chandler attempted another flying knee but only caught the body a little. He attempted takedown that Alvarez stuffed. Then another flying knee attempt and you could sense the desperation. Neither fighter could feel comfortable about letting this fight go to the judges. In another exchange Chandler landed a nice uppercut, used it to get a takedown and again pounced on Alvarez’s back. He quickly got a neck crank working trying to get his arm underneath Alvarez’s chin for the rear-naked choke. Alvarez fought it off and was able to slip out and reverse his position. During the scramble he landed several shots to Chandler’s head. Alvarez had his arms locked around Chandler’s waist. He was behind Chandler and had him pressed up against the cage. Chandler exploded and whirled trying to escape and Alvarez stayed attached spinning with him. He landed several hammer fists from the top before Chandler was able to get back to his feet. When they got back to their feet Alvarez landed a nice thudding four punch combo that Chandler ate like it was a happy meal. Alvarez backed up and Chandler came at him, stalking, and then Alvarez planted and threw a kick before Chandler and landed. Chandler then came forward and they paw out jabs. They scramble and Chandler attempts a single leg and Alvarez stops it. Again, Chandler comes forward and Alvarez lands a nice knee that has Chandler leaning forward and following it with a solid right hand.
There is now 2:31 left in the round. Both fighters are battered, bruised, cut and have swollen faces. Chandler’s was looking more like a Dali finger-painting of a face by this point. They have both pushed their bodies past the point of exhaustion. It was just will, guts and champion’s hearts that were keeping them both going at this point. They still came at each other battling. Fittingly they land simultaneous jabs at the 2:29 mark of this even epic. Chandler shot for a takedown and Alvarez stuffed it and pinned Chandler against the cage. For a moment he was in perfect position to throw a knee but Chandler was grounded. Instead Alvarez unleashed some left hands. Chandler stood back up then Alvarez unloaded a knee and then eleven straight left hands. They grappled and Alvarez pinned him against the cage in the other direction and went to work with the right hand.
Suddenly, Chandler somersaulted quickly to escape and Alvarez stayed with him like a surfer in tune with a wave and ended up on Chandler’s back. He quickly got the left hook in as he went for the choke. They were on top of the Dave and Buster’s logo and their blood and turned it into a Jackson Pollock and Andy Warhol mashup painting. Alvarez got the second hook in and was trying to sink in the choke. They were bloody and sweaty and Chandler turned out of it with Alvarez on top in the full mount. Chandler turned back and Alvarez stayed on him and again went for the choke. He had his arm under the chin quickly. They were too slick and Chandler fought it off. They then scrambled, turning and twisting like a mongoose and cobra whirling together in a battle dance. Once again Alvarez took the back and locked up Chandler’s left arm. He had two hooks in and was repeatedly punching Chandler’s face with his right hand. Then he went to punching with his left hand. Chandler’s left eye looked like Rocky’s. it was either completely closed or at most just a slit to see through. Still he fought on and was able to spin and reverse his position. He was on top in Alvarez’s guard with thirty-eight seconds left in the fight. He started to rain down fists as Alvarez fought to get back up. They scrambled; Chandler was punching away with his left as Alvarez continued to fight back to his feet. He got back up only to have Chandler get another takedown with thirteen seconds left in the fight. They ended up on the ground with Chandler’s arms locked around Alvarez’s waist, off to his side. He was on his knees bent down almost flat. Alvarez was in a seated position, posted up on his right arm with Chandler on his left side. They end the fight like that.
It was definitely Alvarez’s round and it was his fight. Both of their faces showed the marks of the fight but Chandler’s was much worse. They both had fought right up to the final moment and it was a simply an amazingly honest fight between two true champions.
The final numbers have Alvarez landing 115 of 248 strikes 111 of 243 for Chandler. Chandler had a 37 to 22 power strike advantage and a ten to zero takedown edge. They were equal in submission attempts and Alvarez was given credit for two dominant positions to Chandler’s one. The overall numbers end up very close and it was a close amazing fight and the SD went to the right fighter. Chandler had a big fourth round and landed 27 of his 37 power strikes and 58 of his 71 overall strikes. It was not a dominant enough round to warrant giving him a 10-8 score though. Alvarez consistently outworked him the other rounds with the first three being very close rounds and he clearly took the fifth.
It will take some time to see if this ends up being the fight that saves Bellator MMA. It certainly sets them up for a much better first PPV with the third fight as the main event. The first two fights between them have been two of the greatest fights in MMA history. This one was the definition of back and forth fight, with each fighter responding to the challenge the other put forth. It demands repeated viewings and gets better with each one. It was a special fight between two warrior champions in what is turning out to be an amazing year in MMA.
image via Bellator MMA
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