When Eddie Alvarez and Shinya Aoki first squared off it was Aoki who took home the victory with an inverted heel hook. Alvarez has gone 7-1 since with the only loss coming to Michael Chandler in a title-losing barnburner for Alvarez.
The former Bellator champion now sits at a crossroads. He can choose to enter another tournament and grind out three bouts to get back to Chandler, but it doubtful at this point that Eddie is going to consider going through the tournament process again.
Alvarez has now booked a significant career-boosting kind of fight with the man who defeated him at K-1 Dynamite 2008. Shinya Aoki has been a tear as of late. The Tokyo-based submission fighter has now won seven fights in a row, five by submission, since his loss to Gilbert Melendez at Strikeforce Nashville in April 2010.
Aoki, however has shown a weakness to more powerful wrestlers, which was on display in his loss to Melendez in which he was manhandled and lost a one-sided decision. Eddie has a strong wrestling base like Gilbert does and this could be where he can win the bout.
The two major motivating factors that will drive Eddie Alvarez are his size and wrestling advantage coupled with his possible UFC offer that could material after a win of this caliber.
1) I can remember it like it was yesterday. I walked down to Broadway Avenue to get some barbecue and a beer before the bout. The group included a good friend, my father, myself and my sister. Skyler and I went to the strip first to get some chow and a brew. We got to the arena just before the first preliminary bout began.
It's incredible that I remember anything else from this card besides the brawl at the end, but that is irrelevant to this story. The Aoki vs. Melendez bout was one the most anticipated of the evening, and it turned out to be a total domination that would have been a fast forward DVR moment waiting to happen. The point here is that the size and wrestling ability of Gilbert proved to be an Achilles heel for Aoki. Eddie can use similar advantages to smother Aoki and avoid getting a limb dislocated.
2) Eddie's other major motivation in this bout will be the fact that he may be fighting for a UFC contract. He could likely get a pretty nice deal even if he loses, but it would greatly benefit his athletic stock if he wins this rematch tonight. Alvarez will use his wrestling and ground and pound to wear the smaller man out and will likely end up with a decision victory.