At times, Eddie Alvarez pushed Michael Chandler to the brink of breaking in their captivating lightweight title bout at Bellator 106 on Saturday.
And when the final bell sounded, Chandler certainly looked like the more battered man.
However, aside from the fact that he narrowly outstruck (115-111) his foe and rendered Chandler's left eye swollen shut, did the scrappy Philadelphia native do enough to dethrone the former unbeaten champ?
One of three new champs crowned at the event, Alvarez apparently got the job done in the eyes of two of the bout's three judges and outpointed Chandler for a 47-48, 48-47, 48-47 split decision.
But reexamining the brutal back-and-forth fight, critics could make a solid case that Chandler won three of five rounds, using his grappling prowess to take each of the first, second and fourth stanzas.
Furthermore, Chandler advocates could make the argument that the former NCAA All-American wrestler won three rounds while drawing with Alvarez in the fifth.
Breaking the fight down by rounds and analyzing the stats, it seems logical that Chandler did more than enough to retain his belt.
In the first round, Alvarez outlanded Chandler, 17-9 but got his back taken and had to fend off a legitimate rear-naked choke attempt. Since Alvarez did no significant damage in the striking exchanges, and Chandler threatened him with a submission, the former University of Missouri stalwart should have won the round.
Alvarez outlanded Chandler 19-14 in Round 2, only to surrender takedowns on five of Chandler's seven shots. Alvarez essentially spent the round attempting to create scrambles to escape from Chandler in grappling exchanges.
Alvarez outworked Chandler in the third round and outstruck the former champ by a thin margin, 22-19. Still, a fatigued Chandler generally controlled the action, mustering a pair of takedowns on seven attempts while stuffing Alvarez's lone shot.
Then, roughly 30 seconds after eating a clean flying knee from Chandler early in the fourth, Alvarez made the ill-fated mistake of pulling butterfly guard.
Chandler capitalized on his nemesis' tactical error and spent the rest of the round landing punches and elbows in Alvarez's guard.
The final round proved the most intense, with Alvarez surviving a nasty neck crank early and Chandler later escaping a rear-naked choke attempt that Alvarez came close to cinching up.
Alvarez and Chandler nearly duplicated the fireworks they produced in their first showdown at Bellator 58, a bout deemed "Fight of the Year" by Yahoo! Sports.
Only this time, Chandler, who landed 37 significant strikes to Alvarez's 22 and scored 10 takedowns and surrendered none, couldn't finish the job, thus placing his status as champ in the hands of three judges.
Three judges who believed that Alvarez inflicted enough damage in the striking department to hijack the belt from Chandler.
A noble sportsman, Alvarez essentially explained at the post-fight press conference that getting the nod from the judges was just an incentive to putting on another unforgettable battle with Chandler.
I'm going to take zero credit for what happened tonight. It takes two people to put on a fight like that. Not just me ... me and Mike Chandler. The guy fights his ass off [and] he has the heart of a lion. It takes two of us to do that, and we went in there and we put on a show [and] we put it on the line. Really at the end of the fight I didn't give a s*** who won that fight. It was just special to be a part of it and I'm happy to be a part of it.
Regardless of the controversial nature of the decision, the gutsy performances of Alvarez and Chandler bailed Bellator MMA CEO Bjorn Rebney out of the Tito Ortiz/Quinton "Rampage" Jackson debacle.
Plus, if Chandler had edged Alvarez on the scorecards, a third fight between the two warriors would have never materialized.
Now, like Alvarez had to do for over two years, Chandler must wait to get his revenge.
All stats gathered via Compustrike.com