As the very best lightweight in the world not currently under the UFC banner, undisputed Bellator champion Michael Chandler fights to prove a point.
Throughout just a dozen professional fights, the 27-year-old has become one of the most dangerous fighters in the world. His wrestling is elite, his striking is rapidly evolving, and his chin is remarkable.
But if there is any point in Chandler's young and illustrious career that doesn't quite equate to perfection, it would be his four-round battle with former champion Eddie Alvarez.
There 2011 title bout was one of the best fights in Bellator history and a lightweight showdown that would rival any matchup in the world. Chandler ultimately submitted Alvarez in the fourth to capture the title and prolong his undefeated streak, but it wasn't pretty.
With that said, on the brink of their long-awaited rematch this coming weekend, here are three questions one of the best 155-pound athletes around still has to answer.
Will a quick turnaround hurt him?
Having defended his title only three months ago, Saturday night will mark Chandler's quickest turnaround between fights in his young Bellator championship career.
Sure, he fought in three consecutive months back in 2011 to win the lightweight tournament, but those were not scheduled for five rounds of action.
As a matter of fact, both of Chandler's quickest turnarounds during that span resulted in his only two decision victories of his career. That has to mean something.
Chandler did finish Dave Rickels fairly quickly in the first round back in July, but Alvarez is a different animal. The champion is going to have to make sure he brings his absolute best to successfully defend the title for a third time.
Can he finish Alvarez early?
Although Chandler ended up submitting Alvarez in the fourth round of their first meeting, he ultimately struggled to put the wily veteran away early.
In both of the first two rounds, Chandler landed devastating shots that wobbled Alvarez. Most fighters wouldn't have been able withstand such damage, but Alvarez did.
With that said, it's going to be interesting to see if Chandler's initial barrage can yet again pressure Alvarez into letting his guard down. If it does, look for the champion to finish early.
Since their first brawl, Chandler has finished three lightweight bouts in a row before the third round. That's exactly the type of momentum he wants to ride coming into a rematch with a guy who has been finished in each of his three career loses.
Will his conditioning hold up?
If he doesn't find a way to finish Alvarez early, this fight is going to be a lot like the first. And if the first installment told us anything about Chandler, it's that he can gas.
The young champion is so used to pushing the pressure following the initial bell that he gives his opponents a chance to win back a round or two if he doesn't finish them early.
Just look at what Alvarez did to Chandler in Round 3 of their first title fight. After dominating Alvarez for 10 straight minutes, Chandler was unable to ward off the constant cage-side striking and pace the elder statesman was displaying.
Remember, Chandler has only been to a fourth round once in his 12-fight career. If Alvarez is able to drag him to the final frame of their rematch, the champion better be equipped to last.
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