Michael Chandler was set to take on Eddie Alvarez for the Bellator lightweight belt at Bellator 120, but that fight would not happen. An injury to Alvarez forced a change.
Enter Will Brooks, a shift from the main event to co-main event, and an interim lightweight championship.
The bad news would keep on coming. In a close fight Chandler would be on the wrong end of a contentious split decision. Heading into the final round it appeared that at worst the fight was even, and in the final frame Chandler nearly finished the contest. However, all three judges scored the bout 48-47—two in favor of Brooks.
Now, Bellator has to decide what to do with Chandler. Will he be placed outside of the tournament and prepared for another run at the title, or will it relegate him to a future lightweight tournament that the organization is known for?
If it chooses the former, here are three names Bellator can pit Chandler against.
Guerreiro came through in his Bellator 120 fight against Shahbulat Shamhalaev, and he would make a great rebound matchup for Chandler.
Bellator does not have a deep roster of lightweights to choose from, and Chandler is a top-tier talent. It can use Guerreiro's big win on the same card to give Chandler a decent opponent.
Chandler is in a precarious position. He has lost two straight title fights to two quality fighters, but even with back-to-back losses it is tough to justify putting him against lesser competition. Guerreiro may be one of the few names they Bellator has that makes sense.
Throw the script out. Will Brooks wins the interim title over Michael Chandler by split decision.— Brett Okamoto (@bokamotoESPN) May 18, 2014
A rematch is not particularly ideal, but should Alvarez be sidelined for a significant amount of time it would be the best bet for business.
It was a contentious decision, and that lends itself to a nice storyline that Bellator can sell. Also, it can put it on Spike TV to maximize its ratings. It will be a rematch fans are interested in.
Brooks came in on short notice and upset Chandler. Having a full camp for Brooks and a full camp of specific preparation for Chandler could lend itself to a better and more definitive fight. This fight should only be booked based on Alvarez's health. If he is coming back in short order, then Bellator needs to put the rematch on the back burner.
This is the fight that Bellator should make. I know what you are thinking: "Chandler lost. Why give him a crack at the title when Brooks won the interim strap?"
Because, quite simply, Brooks' win against Chandler put Bellator in a tough spot.
Alvarez could leave the organization after his next fight. Does Bellator want to put Brooks in that position? A loss would damage him and potentially see Alvarez leave as the undisputed champion. In no way, shape or form should Brooks fight Alvarez if there is a chance he bolts the organization.
That leaves Alvarez without an opponent, and everyone wanted to see the trilogy fight against Chandler. Bellator can still appease fans by making the fight, lessen the impact should Alvarez leave, and potentially set up a champion vs. champion rematch between Chandler and Brooks should Chandler defeat Alvarez.
That is the best-case scenario. It makes the most sense from Bellator's perspective, and as a fan you can sign me up for the trilogy fight between these two fighters. I'm in.