It's a new year and with that the anticipation grows for great mixed martial arts action from across the sport. However, before most look ahead to what is coming in the next 12 months, taking a look back at some of the best action from the last 365 days will put a close on 2013. “Fight of the Year” is usually an easy selection to make but with so many great contests from last year it is quite a task to bring the list down to one.
When looking at one mixed martial arts bout to select for “Fight of the Year” there are multiple aspects to take into consideration: the level of competition involved, what's on the line, technicality of action in the cage and the results of the outcome should all be taken into account.
The Background Story
The great fight that Eddie Alvarez and Michael Chandler put on in November is actually the ugly stepchild of the fallout that occurred between Alvarez and the powers that be within the Bellator executive offices.
The story goes back to 2012 when Eddie had completed his contract with Bellator and was looking for suitors elsewhere; mostly within the Ultimate Fighting Championship. The UFC and their president, Dana White, were interested in the former champion and constructed a lucrative deal that would have paid the Philadelphia native quite well. However, Bellator would not be outdone as they used their matching clause to retain Eddie's services. Alvarez felt their contract wasn't an actual match to what the UFC offered him, so their fight ended up being drug through the public view in court. Bellator was able to lean on Viacom's deep pockets to fight the battle while Eddie would lose a year of his fighting career dealing with the situation.
Suddenly, it was announced that Alvarez had reached a deal with Bellator and said deal was quite interesting. Instead of having to go through the tournament once again, he received an immediate rematch against Chandler for the lightweight title. But two important clauses were added to the deal: First, if Eddie found a way to defeat Michael in their rematch he would be obligated to grant Chandler a third fight. Second, if Eddie lost at any point (either in the rematch or the trilogy fight) Bellator had the right to cut him from their roster.
It's important to point out that Dana White made a statement that if Alvarez was cut from the organization that doesn't mean he would immediately be welcomed into the Octagon with open arms. All of the money and opportunity that was on the table back in 2012 could be lost due to the outcome of one single fight.
From start to finish the second fight was just as interesting as the first. Alvarez and Chandler exchanged combination for combination throughout the cage from start to finish. Eddie spent much of the contest stalking after Michael, but the champion was always ready to respond with crisp striking of his own. Chandler was also able to score multiple takedowns on the challenger and threatened with multiple submission attempts. The lightweights put on a complete display of mixed martial arts that included prolonged bouts of striking, wrestling and grappling during the five rounds of action.
As the fight aired live, much of the media and fan base chronicling the contest through social networks were leaning towards Chandler as the eventual winner. The most damage that was delivered in the whole fight is when he scored an early takedown then spent majority of a round battering Alvarez with elbows and punches from inside his guard. Eddie would not go away at all as he also took Michael's back and threatened with a very close rear naked choke of his own in the later rounds of the contest. Alas, the fight would last the full 25 minutes which would mean the judges would have to render their verdict to determine a winner. When Eddie Alvarez was announced the winner those in attendance and commenting on social media were quick to express their dismay.
The scorecards that were read out to the crowd were quite different than most experts saw the fight. Judge Beltran had the fight 48-47 for Michael Chandler while Judges Cleary and Davis would score it 48-47 for Alvarez. The result would set up an immediate rematch that will come at some point this year. The third fight between Michael Chandler and Eddie Alvarez has the potential to be the biggest contest the promotion has to offer. Early rumors are that the executives of the organization are hoping to get the two athletes to coach against each other in the next season of their reality television show “Fight Master.” With a bigger station behind them and more promotional opportunities available, Bellator has the perfect opportunity to create the most important fight that their company has seen to date and perhaps leverage the contest into their debut on Pay per View.
In 2011 Eddie Alvarez and Michael Chandler put on one of the most dramatic fights of the year. Nearly two years later to the date they would do it again over the same title. Leading up to this fight one competitor would bet nearly all of his future opportunities on his belief that he could get revenge on the only man to defeat him since 2008. Bellator placed their faith behind their home grown champion to send Eddie away with another loss on his resume. In the end, the fight community benefits the most as they put on another great show and set the stage for their third contest. All these points lead to Eddie Alvarez versus Michael Chandler II deserving consideration for the award of 2013 MMA “Fight of the Year.”
Fight of the Year Honorable Mentions
Jon Jones versus Alexander Gustaffson
Michelle Waterson versus Jessica Penne
Matt Grice versus Dennis Bermudez
Mark Hunt versus Antonio Silva
Demetrious Johnson versus John Dodson
Raphael Garcia lives in Washington, DC and has worked as a sports journalist since 2006. His work has contributed to outlets that includes multiple newspapers, websites and ESPN.