Bellator 106: Michael Chandler vs. Eddie Alvarez Full Head-to-Toe Breakdown
Eddie Alvarez returning to Bellator MMA isn't all bad for MMA fans. While the former lightweight champion won't be fighting the best in the world on a regular basis inside the Octagon, his re-signing with the Viacom-owned promotion has led to an intriguing rematch with Michael Chandler.
Chandler dethroned Alvarez in November 2011, and he's held onto the Bellator MMA lightweight title since then. At Bellator 106, Alvarez will have his chance to return to the top of the Bellator MMA 155-pound division.
While it seems he would have preferred to join the UFC roster, Alvarez is probably happy to be fighting anywhere again. A contract dispute has robbed the 29-year-old of competition over the past 12 months.
Who will emerge from Saturday's main event with the lightweight strap?
Here is a closer look at how Chandler and Alvarez match up in all areas heading into their second meeting.
Striking: Chandler Offense vs. Alvarez Defense
Multiple times, Michael Chandler rocked Eddie Alvarez with his right hand in the first meeting between the Bellator MMA lightweight stars.
Although Chandler often drops his lead hand when loading up his power punches, he now knows he has the power to hurt Alvarez with one punch. With Alvarez having been knocked down several times previously, Chandler will have the confidence to take some risks while looking for the finish.
Chandler may have stopped Alvarez with a submission in the first meeting, but it was a looping right hand that put the former champion down. Alvarez has a way of recovering from big shots, but Chandler is fully capable of stopping him with strikes or at least winning rounds with knockdowns.
Striking: Alvarez Offense vs. Chandler Defense
While Eddie Alvarez's striking played a big role in his loss to Michael Chandler, it was also a key to his success in the second and third rounds of that original meeting with the current lightweight champion.
When not recovering from Chandler's overhand rights, Alvarez was doing a nice job of countering the now-lightweight king's lunging left hooks. The Pennsylvania-born lightweight also tagged Chandler with his right cross multiple times at Bellator 58.
Although Chandler has not been knocked out in his MMA career, Alvarez had him in deep trouble during the third stanza of their first meeting. With 14 career knockout wins, Alvarez is capable of finishing most lightweights with strikes, but he wouldn't be wise to engage in a slugfest with Chandler.
Takedowns: Chandler Offense vs. Alvarez Defense
Although he finished Eddie Alvarez from the top position, Michael Chandler had trouble scoring takedowns with regularity in his first bout with the former champion.
Multiple times, Alvarez sprawled and flattened Chandler out on double-leg attempts. When Chandler found himself on top of Alvarez, it was more frequently due to knockdowns than a result of his wrestling ability.
Chandler might be the best lightweight wrestler competing outside the Octagon. However, he may be facing the second best in that category, meaning takedowns again won't be easy to come by on Saturday.
Takedowns: Alvarez Offense vs. Chandler Defense
Not many opponents have bothered attempting to take Michael Chandler down.
Adversaries who do look for takedowns on the All-American wrestler are more likely to be sprawled on and have their back taken than end up on top. That's why, despite being a solid wrestler himself, Alvarez clearly didn't head into his first meeting with Chandler planning on shooting for takedowns regularly.
He may come into Bellator 106 looking to wrestle a bit more in order to limit Chandler's chances of landing a knockout blow, but Alvarez is still going to focus most on using his quickness to strike from the outside on Saturday.
Grappling: Chandler Top vs. Alvarez Bottom
Michael Chandler didn't spend much time on top of Eddie Alvarez in their November 2011 matchup, but the then-challenger made it count when he was on top in the fourth round.
Not familiar with being stuck on the bottom, Alvarez has a tendency to revert to wrestling instincts in his escape attempts. Against Chandler, Alvarez gave up his back, and it led to a rear-naked choke loss.
With three of his five submission wins coming via rear-naked choke, Chandler is not an opponent any fighter wants on their back. Alvarez will need to improve his guard or else he could suffer the same fate against Chandler over this weekend.
Grappling: Alvarez Top vs. Chandler Bottom
Like Michael Chandler, Eddie Alvarez is a scary fighter to be stuck underneath.
Alvarez has stopped many opponents with ground-and-pound and has accumulated seven submission wins. While he's never been submitted, Chandler has not been forced to fight from the bottom much at all in his 12 career fights.
The problem for Alvarez against Chandler will be having any chances to work from the top. Alvarez rarely found himself in control on the ground in his first bout with Chandler and isn't likely to look for takedown attempts unless forced to clinch with his more physically imposing adversary.
Undoubtedly, the most notable intangible heading into this lightweight championship bout is Eddie Alvarez's inactivity over the past 12 months.
A contract dispute has kept Alvarez out of competition since his knockout win over Patricky Freire in October 2012. Since then, Chandler has defended his belt on two occasions, becoming the first fighter to stop both Rick Hawn and David Rickels.
Chandler was already considered a top-notch lightweight following his win over Alvarez nearly two years ago. However, he's continued to develop into an undeniably elite 155-pounder while Alvarez has sat idle and lost a year from his career.
Alvarez's conditioning was one of his clearest advantages in the first meeting, with Chandler barely making it out of the third round before scoring a much-needed knockdown in the fourth. Having been out of action for so long, that important edge over Chandler may not be there for Alvarez this time around.
With ring rust potentially playing a factor, Eddie Alvarez may come out conservatively on Saturday.
Once Alvarez gets comfortable, though, Michael Chandler can expect to see the same aggressive opponent he saw in their first meeting. As long as he defends any takedown attempts that come at him, Chandler should be favored in what is likely to be another fast-paced striking match.
Both fighters have heavy hands for the lightweight division, but Chandler has taken less damage over the course of his shorter career and seems to have the better chin. Like he did in the first matchup, Chandler should be able to finish Alvarez off on the ground after landing a big right hand.
Chandler defeats Alvarez by submission in the second round.