Most viewers, who saw the unbelievable back and forth battle between Michael Chandler and Eddie Alvarez at Bellator 106, were in disbelief at Chandler's ability to pull a Houdini and escape Alvarez's rear naked choke attempt in the fifth round. Both fighters were visibly exhausted, and it appeared at that moment that Alvarez was going to put Chandler away, in the same fashion that he was dethroned two years prior.
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It was one of those instances where you had to see it to believe it. Even his grappling coach Neil Melanson -- who was in his corner that night -- could not explain how he did it. Melanson (AKA "The Ground Marshall") is one of the most sought after grappling coaches in the sport of MMA.
He has worked with Randy Couture, Vitor Belfort, Chael Sonnen and many others, and seen pretty much all there is to see in that regard, but he could not break down how Chandler escaped the Alvarez choke in the final round.
"I know Michael was tired," Melanson told MMAmania recently. "And how he got out of it, I couldn't give you a technical explanation, other than Michael has something inside of him that most people don't have.
"I've been fortunate enough to be around great champions and I know they all kind of have this weird aura about them. They have this weird thing that they can just do things that other people can't. Michael is that."
When Alvarez had flattened Chandler out after taking his back, Melanson thought it was going to be over. "I figured Michael was done," he said. "Eddie was driving his hips so hard. It's hard to move there. It was under the chin. It's a lot of pressure.
"I even told him after the fight that was the most crazy thing I've ever seen because I don't know how the hell you get out of that when you are that tired after that war. It's not like Eddie wasn't going for broke. He was putting every ounce of muster he's got in there."
A round prior to the choke escape, it was Alvarez, who was looking for an evacuation route of his own. Not from a submission attempt, from absorbing almost an entire round of punches and elbows from Chandler. From his vantage point, Melanson thought Alvarez was going to succumb to the damage more than once.
"In the fourth round when Michael was in Eddie's guard and he was kind of beating the tar out of him... That was actually close to our corner and I could see Eddies face and I thought, ‘Man, this guy's done,'" he admitted. "I thought that a couple times and to see him come back in the fifth and turn it on..."
The fifth round of course, turned out to be the difference in the fight. There were many differences of opinion on who won the second round, among fans and media, but all three judges scored it 10-9 for Alvarez (see the scorecards here).
Melanson stated why he disagreed: "The argument I have is that he scored five takedowns in that round. How do you score that many takedowns in one round and lose it?"
The grappling specialist also said Bellator cut man Dean Lassiter "did a terrible job" handling the cut on Chandler's left eye during the fight. As upset as he was about Chandler losing his title, he feels he and head coach Eric Del Fierro can take a lot from it and build upon it for the trilogy fight.
"Believe it or not, this loss gives me and coach Eric Del Fierro a good learning lesson for Michael to help him make the adjustment to the big shows and the big fights. That's going to make a major contribution to his career later on down the road."
"As terrible as it was I think on getting screwed on the decision, we are going to come out of this much better. And like I said, it's not like Eddie didn't fight his ass off. It was a great fight and I'm excited for three, as soon as they can make that happen. I know these guys need a break, but I was talking to coach Del Fierro today and I was like ‘Dude, I'm dying to get this thing going.'"
"I can't wait to see the third one. I'm sleepless about it."