What will the future hold for Bellator's Lightweight division?
Earlier this week Bellator and Eddie Alvarez mended fences, coming to terms on a new contract that will insert the former 155-pound champion into a rematch against the man who defeated him to win the belt, Michael Chandler, in the co-main event at Bellator 106, which marks the mixed martial arts (MMA) promotion first foray into pay-per-view (PPV) on Nov. 2, 2013.
It was the match to make. But, once the chaotic dust settles at Long Beach Arena in Long Beach, Calif., there won't be much meat left on the divisional bone (sans another epic war in Alvarez's favor).
Right now, it's a state of rapture for all parties involved as they look rekindle the flame that once burned brightest for the second-tier promotion. If the recent announcement is the "save the date" for their November wedding, and even if the rematch lives up the lauded status of the first one, one has to wonder how everything will shake out once the honeymoon is over.
If you are Dave Jansen -- who lost out on a crack at a title because of an injury -- you are rooting hard for Chandler. That's because with the champion's rematch clause, an Alvarez victory would surely mean a trilogy fight on most likely a second PPV card, delaying Jansen's earned (not given) title shot even further.
The next 155-pound tournament will take place in the forthcoming Season 9, which starts at the end of summer (Sept. 7, 2013), with the expected final happening at Bellator 109 on Nov. 22, 2013. In other words, the winner of that tournament, as well as Jansen, can sit in the waiting room and wait for their names to be called.
Perhaps the pair can watch the trilogy fight between Bellator's top two 155-pound competitors, while they poke through outdated magazines and hope to stay healthy.
While divisional logjams are nothing new and can be sorted out (albeit not in a timely manner) problems will still persist if Chandler retains his belt. The question would then become: Will Alvarez enter his first tournament since 2009? If that's the case, the former champion would fall behind Jansen and the Season 9 tournament winner in the pecking order.
Of course, if he enters a tournament, maybe an injury happens and he gets voted in with the new "Tournament Champion Replacement Clause." We could only be so lucky.
Putting title fight delays to the side for a moment, the main issue for Bellator is clearly the lack of depth in the 155-pound division. It was struggling to find tough opponents for Alavarez before catching lightning in a bottle with Chandler and their instant classic back in Nov. 2011.
And when he attempted to jump Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) shortly afterward, Bellator continued to struggle to find legitimate title contenders. Just consider that Chandler defended his belt twice against Rick Hawn and David Rickels ... in less than four combined minutes. In fact, throw in the non-title fight against Akihiro Gono at Bellator 67 and all three haven't eclipsed a five-minute total.
"It is a tough chore as it would be tough for anyone," Bellator CEO Bjorn Rebney told MMAmania.com when asked about the difficulty of finding challenges for Chandler prior to the rematch announcement. "That's a great question. I'm not sure."
Even after the announcement, Rebney would be hard pressed to provide a meaningful answer.
In short, the list of 155-pound contenders is short. It was an arduous task before Chandler burst onto the scene and it will become increasingly more difficult with Alvarez now back in the mix.
Without question, having Alvarez back is a huge victory for Bellator; however, it might be the other way around for the rest of the MMA landscape and its fans the moment the honeymoon is over and reality sets in on Nov. 3, 2013.