In Mixed Martial Arts the lightweight division is highly regarded as the most stacked from top to bottom. The most legendary being former two time UFC lightweight champion BJ Penn. Some of the best fighters in the world compete at 155 from Shinya Aoki, Clay Guida, Ben Henderson, Jim Miller, Donald Cerrone, Anthony Pettis and Gray Maynard.
The division is filled with some of the most exciting fighters and some of the most potentially exciting fights everytime.The upsets,favorites and rising stars have atleast made the stacked UFC lightweight divsiion a proverbial 'log jam'
The question i pose is- Who is the best champion of the 155 divisions?. Is it Bellator lightweight champion Eddie Alvarez (22-2), Strikeforce lightweight champion Gilbert Melendez (19-2) or UFC lightweight champion Frankie Edgar (13-1-1)?
Three fighters who pose challenges to everyone with their wrestling, striking and ground games. Three of the most well rounded fighters regardless of weight. If you gave some other division challengers their skill sets we'd see the belts switch hands sooner then later.
In this edition of a three part series we look at Bellator where in the 155 streets it's always sunny in Philadelphia
The case for Bellator lightweight champion, Eddie Alvarez
Philadelphia,PA's own Eddie Alvarez is quite possibly the best boxer in mixed martial arts. His head movement and ability to stick a jab while alluding counters i amazing. The motor on him maybe his best tool because his pace hardly if ever slows down due to fatigue.
A champion in almost every promotion he has been has given many pundits the right to call Alvarez 'the best lightweight NOT to fight in the UFC'. That maybe very true but unlike his counterparts he has had some losses that may hold that against him.
Now being 22-2 in 24 bouts is amazing and i do not take anything away from Alvarez but his two losses were against some of his stiffest competition to date. In 2007, Alvarez squared off against Nick Thompson in his first defense of the BoDog Fight lightweight championship. Alvarez is a mere 5'8 in comparison to Thompson who clocks in at 6'1. The fight proved that sometimes, 'height kills'as Thompson avoided being picked apart due to his length. He kept Alvarez on the outside to batter him for a decision win. The fight also showed that Alvarez needed to improve his work of range but it was a loss against a then veteran compared to him
On new year's ever 2008, Alvarez took a huge leap in the 155 pool by taking on the Japanese contortionist himself, Shinya Aoki. Aoki, came into this bout with 10 submission victories ranging from regular old arnbars to flying triangle chokes and a rare gogoplata over Joachim Hansen. As good a boxer Alvarez may be his ground game was just not on par. Aoki made Alvarez tap at 1:32 of round 1 to secure the victory.
Alvarez hasn't lost since that unfateful New Year's Eve in Japan.
A free agent with two of his biggest fights being losses, newly formed Bellator Fighting Championship inked the 'broadstreet bully' to a deal, it payed off. Alvarez won and smashed the lightweights in the inaugural Bellator lighweighttitle tournament. He wouldn't use his boxing to stop an opponent or his wrestling to grind a decision but used his newly imprved ground game. He choked out everyone in his way including Toby Imada in the finals to put his stamp on the world.,
At Bellator 17, Alvarez would face Josh Neer in a 160 pound catchweight bout. Alvarez determined he can beat recognized names of the sport would take the challenge no problemo. He notched another impressive win by dominating Josh Neer at all facetsby locking in a rear naked choke early in the second round.
At Bellator 33, the competition got even stiffer as the first mixed martial artist on the cover of ESPN the magazine wondered into Bellator. Roger Huerta, a highly regarded 155er was coming into the cage to face Alvarez. The home court advantage was fully in Alvarez' corner as the fight took place in Philadelphia. Ironically, this was also the first time Alvarez had competed in his hometown. The pressure of pleasing the home crowd against one of the division's best was a tall task. Let's just say that the Flyers of the 1970's would have been proud ebcause Alvarez beat the living hell out of Huerta and stopped Huerta after two rounds when doctors gave him mercy.
At Bellator 39, Alvarez riding high off the Neer and Huerta wins had to face tough nosed Pat Curran in defense of his Bellatorlightweight title. The superior boxing of Alvarez negated a brawl with Curran but it also led to a decision. Alvarez fought almost tentatively and earned only his third win by way of decision through 24 bouts.
On October 15th, 2011 at Bellator54, Eddie Alvarez will once again defend his lightweight strap against season four lightweight tournament winner, Michael Chandler. The wrestler representing XtremeCouture will need to find a way to enforce his wrestling if he has any chance. He has beaten striker Patricky Freire of recent but i think Alvarez' diversity in boxing,wrestlinga nd grappling will be far too much for Chandler. Another W is on the horizon if Alvarez wishes to be considered acontender for best lightweight champion.