Eddie Alvarez returns to the cage after a year-long absence and contract dispute involving the UFC and Bellator, Saturday night live from Long Beach, California.
Alvarez’s return is just one of the major storylines fueling the show, which will air live on Spike TV. In addition to Alvarez’s return, his opponent, lightweight champion Michael Chandler will look to defeat Alvarez a second time, and erase any doubts that his victory over the champ in 2011 was a fluke.
The knock-down, drag-out war was one of 2011’s best fights. Both guys had opportunities to finish the fight before Chandler finally won with a rear naked choke.
For Alvarez, everything is on the line. He famously tried to leave Bellator and sign with the UFC, but Bellator counter-offered, attempted to match the UFC offer and in the end convinced Alvarez to return to Bellator.
Alvarez has fought twice since the Chandler loss. Both of those 2012 fights didn’t make it out of the first round. Chandler has fought three times since the victory over Alvarez, knocking out two of his three opponents in less than a minute. Both fighters have looked impressive since their epic war.
It’s unclear whether the contract drama will loom psychologically over Alvarez, who badly wanted to go to the UFC, but was forced to stay in Bellator to avoid an expensive court challenge.
Alvarez will also have to dig deep into his arsenal to defeat Chandler, who survived Alvarez’s flurries and offense and remained the stronger fighter into the fourth round.
Although Tito Ortiz vs. Quinton “Rampage” Jackson was the original main event for this show, the Alvarez vs. Chandler fight is the legitimate main attraction, a fight between two guys near or in their primes.
The other story of Saturday night is the rematch between Muhammed “King Mo” Lawal and Emmanuel Newton. Lawal is one of the faces of Bellator. He signed with the Bellator after a successful career in Strikeforce, where he enjoyed a stint as light heavyweight champion.
Bellator signed Lawal amid heavy fanfare. He concurrently signed with TNA wrestling and Bellator envisioned turning the charismatic King Mo into MMA’s next big thing.
In his second fight with Bellator, however, Lawal was KO’d with a stunning spinning backfist — by Newton. Lawal seemed to be fighting with his hands down when Newton connected and knocked Mo out.
Lawal is always impressive as a wrestler and fighter, but has a tendency to drop his hands. Lawal wants revenge and wants to show the world that he is a top tier light heavyweight. Newton has an incredible opportunity to defeat Lawal again, ruin Bellator’s marketing plans and insert himself into the conversation for consideration as a top light heavyweight.