Category Archives: Lightweight

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The Fight of the Year You (Probably) Didn’t Watch

November 19, 2011

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Two men engaged in one of the greatest fights in combat sports history. Both men traded blows in a back-and-forth tilt that left both exhausted, bloodied but not broken.  It wasn’t only the Fight of the Night, but the Fight of the Year. And maybe the Fight of the Decade. And only 269,000 people got to see it.

No, I’m not talking about the legendary Dan Henderson – Mauricio “Shogun” Rua fight, which aired at the same time on the UFC 139 PPV. I’m talking about Bellator LVIII, which aired for free on MTV2. The best thing? It’s still available on Youtube for free courtesy of Bellator. Check it out:

The Greatest Lightweights outside the UFC

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Michael Chandler. Eddie Alvarez. If you’re a casual MMA fan – and by that I mean you only occasionally catch a UFC PPV in a bar and any names outside of Anderson Silva, Jon Jones, GSP and Dana White are foreign to you – then the likelihood is you have not heard of either fighter.

Michael Chandler is currently ranked as the #4 Lightweight in the world by Sherdog and may be the best current lightweight not in the UFC. An NCAA Division I wrestler, Chandler is undefeated at 12-0 with 10 of those wins coming via stoppage (5 KO, 5 submission). Among his notable wins are the aforementioned Eddie Alvarez (below), Rick Hawn, Tristar Gym teammate of UFC Welterweight champion Georges St. Pierre and longtime pioneer Akihiro Gono. Chandler’s muscular physique, strong ground game and heavy hands have many comparing him as a “mini-GSP” and the comparisons are not too outlandish if you look at his body of work.

Eddie Alvarez is currently ranked as the #9 Lightweight in the world by Sherdog and is the former Bellator Lightweight champion. Before he lost the title to Michael Chandler, he was pretty much Bellator’s alpha dog. As one of the company’s pioneers, he was its first ever lightweight champion and posted a seven-fight winning streak beating UFC vets Josh Neer and Roger Huerta and current Featherweight champion, Pat Curran in the process. Overall he sports a 24-3 record with 14 wins coming via KO and 7 by submission. Alvarez is one of the better boxers in MMA but most notable would be his ability to recover quickly despite being rocked in his fights.

The Road to the Rematch

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Since their epic title fight two years ago, Chandler and Alvarez have been on a collision course right back to each other. It was only a matter of time before they finally faced each other again. Pardon another UFC reference but it isn’t too different from Cain Velasquez and Junior Dos Santos, two premiere fighters who were a cut above the rest. Chandler and Alvarez have mowed down the competition at lightweight.

Michael Chandler has finished his last three opponents, the aforementioned longtime MMA vet Akihiro Gono in a non-title bout, Rick Hawn and David Rickels. Chandler never looked in danger in any of the fights, ending two of them in under a minute into the first round!

Eddie Alvarez had a more interesting story. After his loss to Chandler, he would knock out renowned Japanese submissionist, Shinya Aoki, avenging his previous loss from Dream. Rolling on that momentum, he would then knock out Patricky Freire in one round. Then a contract dispute had Alvarez verbally agree to fight for the UFC until Bellator invoked a clause to re-sign him and all the legal battles ensued.

With that thankfully settled, the rematch two-years-in-the-making HAD to happen.

Bellator CVI: Michael Chandler vs Eddie Alvarez II – All on the Line

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The Lightweight World Championship is the most obvious prize on the line in the fight but it comes down to more than that. These two are the best fighters in the company and two top ten lightweights. Whoever wins this would hold not only the title but bragging rights as the company’s alpha dog.

Michael Chandler is fighting for his undefeated streak. He’s fighting to prove his win over Alvarez in the first fight wasn’t a fluke and he’s fighting to keep solidifying his legacy as one of the greatest lightweight MMA fighters to have ever stepped into the cage.

Eddie Alvarez will be fighting to regain his championship, a title he held and practically owned for two years since its inception in 2009. He’s fighting to beat the only guy who has beaten him within the company and the only guy to have knocked him down his throne. He’s also fighting to win back his spot in the UFC should he have future plans to sign with the bigger company. Dana said he won’t sign any losers. Consider his rematch with Chandler Alvarez’s audition into the big boys club.
Both fighters will also be fighting to make a bigger mark for the company. Bellator, despite being the second largest MMA circuit in the USA is still a relative unknown to the eyes of most casual fight fans and is still dwarfed by the UFC. Another exciting clash that would garner “Fight of the Year” could mean an inevitable trilogy fight putting Chandler and Alvarez and Bellator in an iconic position if only ever for this series of fights.

Bellator CVI

Main Card (Spike TV at 9 p.m. ET)

Michael Chandler vs. Eddie Alvarez
King Mo Lawal vs. Emanuel Newton
Pat Curran vs. Daniel Straus
Joe Riggs vs. Mike Bronzoulis
Mike Richman vs. Akop Stepanyan

Undercard (Watch live here at 7 p.m. ET)
Joe Williams vs. Jesse Juarez
Brandon Halsey vs. Hector Ramirez
Mike Guymon vs. Aaron Miller
Joe Camacho vs. Cleber Luciano
Darren Smith vs. Josh Smith

 

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SUPERCARD FANTASY: Team Lightweights vs Team Featherweights

Time for a totally fun, hypothetical, suspend-your-disbelief scenario .The Featherweight and Lightweight divisions in the UFC (or MMA in general) have been my two favourite divisions. Constantly engaging and quick fights and still enough finishes. Several fight of the year wars (as listed below for all your MMA pleasure) have been from both divisions. So I’m thinking, what if I was Dana White for one major decision and decided to create a super card of sorts.

Team Featherweights vs Team Lightweights in say a catchweight competition of 150 lbs. I’ve picked five fights and five fighters from each weight division. I didn’t strictly stick to the P4P rankings although all ten fighters are within the top 10 of their weight divisions.

My standards for making the matches are simple: how entertaining and competitive each fight will be. My criteria will be: 1) how well each other’s styles will clash against each other and 2) how close each other in terms of ranking or – of course, I can’t promise they will all be close but they’re close enough to make the fight worth watching.

Jim Miller vs Frankie Edgar

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There’s already history between these two: way back in 2006 where Frankie gave Miller his first career loss. They’re similar in build though Miller has a two inch height advantage and Frankie has an inch reach advantage. Frankie is also two years Miller’s senior. They’re both great at takedowns with backgrounds in Brazilian Jiu-Jutsu and Wrestling, have great cardio and entertaining as hell. They both have a combined 10 Fight of the Nights and have both won Fight of the Year. This match has potential for either or both categories.

Why Frankie Wins:

Quick and precise boxing is Frankie’s calling card. If this fight stays standing up, he may win the judges by picking apart Miller’s stand up. Not to say Miller is a slouch but he won’t be out-striking Frankie and he hasn’t shown any significant knockout power to keep Frankie at bay. If it goes to the ground, the crafty and spirited Miller will give Frankie trouble but his indomitable strength in wrestling will see him through.

Why Miller Wins:

His strength and creativity on the ground is among the best in the lower weight classes and his Energizer Bunny-like fighting spirit is ridiculous. His iron chin is going to test Frankie’s boxing and his ability to seemingly weasel his way out of any situation is not unlike the former Lightweight Champ.  Miller has only ever been finished once (by Nate Diaz) to which Frankie vocally expressed utter disbelief in:

Frankie quote:

“I know Jim’s tough as nails … I definitely didn’t think Jim would get finished so hats off to Nate. He’s a stud for sure.”

The Results:

This fight is going all three rounds. Expect this fight to stay standing up in a high energy fast-paced battle with Frankie landing a lot of quick punches with Miller pushing him aggressively. There will be a lot of clinching and takedown attempts with both men fighting for control throughout all fifteen minutes. Fight of the Night contender with Frankie coming away with a close unanimous decision victory.

Winner: Frankie Edgar vs unanimous decision (1-0 Featherweights)

Gilbert Melendez vs Ricardo Lamas

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A clash between the #4 Featherweight and the #2 Lightweight and two potential contenders for their respective titles; Lamas and Melendez seem physically even with Melendez holding a slight height and reach advantage. Both have a background in Brazilian Jiu-Jutsu and wrestling and are just over a month apart in age. You can’t get more evenly matched than this.

Why Lamas Wins:

Outside Cub Swanson, no featherweight has been hotter than Ricardo Lamas. The Bully is undefeated in his UFC career and has defeated all four of his opponents, finishing off three of them including the aforementioned Cub. His mixture of wrestling and BJJ combined with his vicious ground-and-pound could threaten Melendez. Lamas’s stand-up game isn’t his biggest strength but his two KOs coming from his legs are proof he can be a dangerous and effective striker. If El Niño isn’t careful, a leg kick or knee or could just lay him out.

Why Melendez Wins:

Experience. El Niño has more wins (21) than Ricardo Lamas has fights (15). His wrestling/BJJ combo is grueling and he wears out opponents including prominent jiujutsu phenom, Shinya Aoki. In his  24 professional fights, Melendez has also never been finished a credit both to his sturdy chin, elusiveness and strong ground game.

The Results:

This fight will go the distance. Both fighters are strong enough on the ground to assert their will over the other but winning the ground game is as much experience as strength and technique and unless Lamas lands a precise kick or knee to Melendez (unlikely given his strong kick defense shown against Bendo) I see the more experienced fighter coming out on top in a tightly contested match.

Winner: Gilbert Melendez via unanimous decision (1-1 tie)

TJ Grant vs Cub Swanson

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The two hottest fighters in their respective divisions are both coming off of five-fight win streaks. While Grant has a four-inch height and 2.5 inch reach advantage, they’re virtually similar everywhere else including having no KO loss (excluding Cub’s freak eight-second loss to Aldo). Between both of them they have 12 knockouts, 20 submissions, 4 Knockout of the Nights and 5 Fight of the Nights. Fireworks are the least you can expect when these two cross paths.

Why Cub Wins:

Don’t count out the smaller guy. Cub was a former lightweight having knocked out guys bigger than he. He’s knocked out plenty of granite-chinned strikers such as George Roop, Ross Pierson and most recently, Dennis Siver. His fists are just half his arsenal as Cub has tapped out nearly as many guys as he has knocked out. His power, versatility and killer instinct are why he’s on a bullet train to the top.

Why Grant Wins:

Not unlike Cub, Grant was from a heavier weight class most notably giving Welterweight contender Johny Hendricks a run for his money. Since moving to Lightweight, Grant’s been a wrecking ball. His best asset is his BJJ ground game having finished off a whopping 13 guys but lately it’s his fists that have been talking. Like Cub, Grant goes into a fight looking to finish and at Lightweight it’s worked marvelously.

The Results:

Two explosive fighters with strong ground games – this fight is a toss-up. Grant has the definite size advantage but that could also mean being more prone to submissions, which Cub is no slouch in. Both fighters are going to be throwing everything at each other and whoever drops first loses. The difference lies mainly in Cub’s explosiveness and Grant’s technicality. But I’ll give the edge to Cub who has been on an absolute tear dropping even the toughest chinned fighters.

Winner: Cub Swanson via TKO (2-1 Featherweights)

Anthony Pettis vs Chan Sung Jung

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The battle of number one contenders pits two very exciting fighters with virtually the same physical stats: both Jung and Pettis stand 5’9” and have 72 inch reach and are both 26 with similar amount of fights under their belts. Both are well-rounded Brazilian Jiu-jutsu and Taekwondo practitioners and have won Fight of the Year at least once each. Pardon the obvious: but this is an actual fight that would make for an exciting trilogy.

Why Jung Wins:

The Korean Zombie doesn’t just take shots, he eats them for breakfast. Outside his one KO loss, Jung has developed a reputation as a fighter with tremendous endurance and durability. He has some power in his fists but his real weapon is his BJJ being one of the most ingenious submission artists in the UFC – ask Leonard Garcia. Pettis has never been submitted or finished in his MMA career but I wouldn’t put it past the ever-surprising Jung to pull off another once-in-a-lifetime move to secure a shocking win.

Why Pettis Wins:

If the Zombie has shown a weakness, it’s getting kicked in the head and Anthony Pettis just so happens to have a good chunk of his KOs via head kicks. Showtime is one of the most unpredictable strikers if not the most unpredictable. He combines power, agility and creativity and his BJJ has yielded him 6 submission victories. Zombie, although improved, has shown propensity to absorb contact in order to dish it and the more elusive Pettis may just hit Zombie enough to score a W if he doesn’t kick his head off first.

The Results:

This fight is going to see both fighters empty their arsenal of creative weapons to try to outdo each other but I see this match standing up as both of them seem very much like crowd pleasers. In that sense, a Pettis combination KO on Zombie is highly plausible but Jung has taken a more calculated fighting approach that has led to three consecutive wins. Pettis is the better striker and unless Jung can catch him in a submission attempt, I see Showtime taking home the victory via the score cards.

 Winner: Anthony Pettis via unanimous decision (2-2 tie)

Benson Henderson vs Jose Aldo

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Champion vs champion. Technically not a “Super Fight” but still a fight for the ages. Both Bendo and Pettis have 70 inch reaches but Bendo has a slight two-inch height advantage. Both have backgrounds in Muay Thai and Brazilian Jiu-Jutsu and have about the same number of fights. Most importantly, they’re both undefeated in their UFC careers.

Why Aldo Wins:

Jose Aldo’s real legs were taken away at birth and replaced by steel bats. Half of Aldo’s KOs have been through his legs and he has that Anderson Silva-like ability to strike an opponent from any angle and get the quick finish. Aldo’s takedown defense and BJJ are not to be underrated. He only has one submission (other submission was via strikes) but his BJJ has helped him control strong wrestlers. Aldo’s lanky frame also hides his iron skin. He’s never been knocked out and doesn’t look like he’ll be for a while.

Why Bendo Wins:

I wouldn’t call Bendo one of the toughest-chinned fighters. He is however, one of the most if not the most resilient. He’s been dropped on numerous occasions but always recovers and has never been knocked out ever. He’s virtually impossible to submit (only one submission loss very early in career) and utilizes his strong athletic frame to grind out victories even against the best wrestlers and strikers. Bendo hasn’t finished an opponent since 2010 but he consistently does enough to win via score card showing his consistency and fighting spirit.

The Results:

Aldo has shown a susceptibility to strong wrestlers like Frankie and Chad Mendes and both aren’t nearly as big as Bendo. Aldo has worn out most of his competition with his powerful leg strikes but Bendo’s legs are massive and powerful. His lightning-quick recovery time could also frustrate Aldo. This fight goes the distance and in a battle of attrition, it is Bendo who comes out on top of another controversial decision.

Winner: Benson Henderson via split decision (3-2 Lightweights)

Conclusion

I gave the edge to the Lightweights but the fight, a bit idealistically ends very tightly contested and the card of the year. All a fantasy. But if you disagree with my picks (I’m well aware of Benson Henderson’s controversial status and Aldo’s HUGE following) send me notes! Love or hate, I don’t discriminate.