Former Bellator lightweight champion Eddie Alvarez is coming off of a loss to Michael Chandler and now is scheduled for a April 20 date with Shinya Aoki, who holds one of the other two losses on the career record of Alvarez, but if Alvarez should prevail over Aoki, or even if he should stumble against Aoki, he's not left with many other options.
In reality, there's one other option for a man like Alvarez to take on, but alas, it's not in Bellator's changing lightweight landscape, and Strikeforce has little to offer outside of GIlbert Melendez and a stylistic nightmare against Josh Thomson.
It's a long shot, but if Alvarez finds his way into the UFC, it's exactly what he needs, primarily because his relentless pace and die-hard style of combat is, in no soft terminology, a dilemma for any UFC lightweight with two eyes, two ears and two fists.
In preparation for Aoki—and even after Aoki—there is no question that Alvarez has recognized everything he needs to work on, and while he may not show everything he'll want to show the world, what he does display ought to leave no doubt in anyone's mind that Alvarez is still among the division's elite, even if not necessarily a top-10 fighter.
Besides that, he's going up against a consistently world-ranked top-10 name at 155 in the form of "The Master of Flying Submissions," and Alvarez has to be thinking in his head that the consensus does seem to be that Aoki has made twice the improvements to his game that Alvarez wants himself to believe that he's made, but the joy of being in Alvarez's position is what comes if he does beat Aoki.
Yes, the excuses of Aoki being "too one-dimensional" for Alvarez are inevitable if an Alvarez win should come, but if that should be the case, let us not tap into that repulsive mode of demoting the merit behind the victory and instead, let an Alvarez win remember that Alvarez did beat a high-level opponent that was thought to be more UFC-ready than many believe Alvarez will ever be.
Aoki's not Gray Maynard, nor is he Nate Diaz or Donald Cerrone or Jim Miller, but what Aoki presents is what a lot of the UFC lightweight division's ranks comprise of these days, as more submission masters and dangerous BJJ aces are rising up due to their ability to rise up against some of the toughest of the top competition in the division.
If Alvarez beats Aoki and avenges that loss, who's to say he can't hold his own in the UFC?
A win would be better for the Philadelphia-based fighter, of course, but it's now or never on his UFC chances, because while he'll get some of the best in the world, many in the MMA world will dismiss the victories unless they come against fighters from the world's largest proving ground.