Though Bellator 59 might be receiving today’s focus it’s hard to forget last weekend’s lightweight war at Bellator 58 between Eddie Alvarez and new Bellator champion Michael Chandler, a bout so good it was only overshadowed by Dan Henderson vs. Mauricio Rua in name-value rather than in terms of entertainment/quality.
Recently Gil Martinez, one of the key components involved in Chandler’s progression as one of the brightest 155-pound stars coming up through the rankings, provided some detailed insight into the entire affair including a pre-fight slight from Alvarez, the undefeated grappler-turned-striker’s mindset in the locker room, how things unfolded in the cage, and what it meant to Chandler to come away with the title.
“Mike reached to shake Eddie’s hand and Eddie just looked at him, then disrespectfully turned away, which was a move upsetting Mike,” the Xtreme Couture coach wrote in his blog on Fighters.com of Alvarez’s behavior a day before the bout. “It was kind of an embarrassing situation. Eddie said in his interview after the weigh-ins that he planned to knock Mike out and it wouldn’t go past two rounds. I told Mike to not let it bother him. He either wanted to get in his head or Mike was so far in Eddie’s head that it bothered him.”
In terms of Chandler’s demeanor moments before showtime, Martinez explained, “As a trainer you can tell when a fighter is nervous or confident or worried but with Mike he’s all about staying focused. We went over the game plan and in Mike’s mind there was no way he wasn’t leaving the ring with that belt. Losing isn’t something he thinks about. In his mind he’s going to win every single fight and if he keeps that mentality I don’t know if he will EVER lose.”
Strategy-wise, Martinez said hours upon hours of watching tape had given them a few specific areas to target, revealing, “Eddie makes mistakes when he moves to his right so we wanted to make him pay. We knew he likes the lead right and then steps to his left. That’s when worked on timing on the takedowns.”
“We knew that Mike could knock him down if he connected, but we also knew that Eddie gets up when he gets knocked down,” Martinez continued. “He has a champion’s heart and won’t lay down for anybody. We knew it was gonna be a tough fight. We expected Eddie to get back up if Mike connected. I think people get discouraged when Eddie gets up after being knocked down, but Mike kept his composure and stuck to the gameplan.”
“As soon as he took the back, I had the perfect angle,” Martinez concluded on the eventual ending to the bout. “I saw Mike squeeze with everything he had and I knew it was over. Point blank – When Mike has any submission, you’re done. Eddie had no choice but to tap or he was going to sleep. It was such an amazing feeling. It was incredible to finally get what he worked so hard for.
Of Chandler’s post-fight celebration, Martinez ended on a positive saying they kept it lowkey.
“His whole family was there. His dad, mom, grandfather, aunts, uncles, brothers, everyone. I think that was the best way to celebrate for Mike as far as just being around his family. I was happy to be a part of that. Then we hung out at the Hard Rock and a lot of people came up to Mike to shake his hand, ask for an autograph, and take pictures. He got a lot of attention and I’m very happy for him. It couldn’t have happened to a nicer, more deserving guy. He’s a great fighter and an amazing person.”
Chandler improved his record to 9-0 with the win over Alvarez including seven stoppages. He holds past victories over Marcin Held and Patricky Freire.
MMATraining Take: Chandler can definitely go a long way in the sport based on everything I’ve seen from him. He has strength, speed, technique, high-level wrestling, conditioning, and heart. However, we’ll never fully know how good he is until he signs with the UFC. Sad, but true.