On Thursday night, Bellator provides fight fans with their first offering of 2013. Bellator 85, the inaugural event for Spike TV, features lightweight champion Michael Chandler taking on Olympic judo fighter Rick Hawn in the main event.
Since dropping to lightweight, Hawn has delivered two tremendous knockouts. In addition, Chandler followed up a 2011 Fight of the Year performance by quickly and violently dispatching Japanese icon Akihiro Gono.
Needless to say, with these sort of performances in their rear-view mirror, the expectation for excitement in this fight is pretty high.
At Friday's pre-fight teleconference, Hawn seemed more interested in talking about the in-cage fireworks than about the title he can potentially win in less than one week.
“You’ve got two good grapplers: two good strikers, two explosive fighters. This fight could go anywhere. It has potential to be a five-round brawl or it could be over quick. It has potential to live up to the Alvarez/Chandler fight.
The Alvarez/Chandler fight that was mentioned during the press conference is a reference to the 2011 Fight of the Year, which took place at Bellator 58. Without any exaggeration, the fight was an epic battle of will that should be seen as a shining reminder that elite competition does exist outside of the UFC.
After four rounds of intense action, the undefeated Chandler emerged victorious by securing a rear-naked choke against his world-ranked opponent.
If Hawn thinks that he and Chandler can recapture that magic, then fans should be showing up in droves to watch Bellator 85's hotly anticipated main event.
For more analysis on all things Bellator, stay tuned to Bleacher Report MMA.
Andrew Saunders is a Featured Columnist for Bleacher Report. Unless otherwise noted, all quotes were obtained firsthand.