LONG BEACH, Calif. -- They did it again.
With the bar set high for the rematch of what was considered the greatest fight in Bellator history, Michael Chandler and Eddie Alvarez put on a thrilling 25-minute battle in the main event of Bellator 106 on Saturday.
Punctuated by a fearless performance in an epic final round at Long Beach Arena, Alvarez reclaimed the title Chandler took from him in 2011. In his first fight after a contract dispute with the company left him on the sidelines for a year, Alvarez won via split decision, taking two of three 48-47 scores.
"It takes two people to put a fight on like that, we did this together, another fight of the year," Alvarez said. "And I have the gold belt."
Chandler got the best of the first round, using his wrestling to score takedowns and dictate the tempo. He appeared to be doing the same in the second, but Alvarez wobbled him late and may have finished him had it not been so close to the end of the round.
Alvarez found his footing by round three, his most clear-cut round of the fight. Alvarez darted in and out of range and worked on a cut under Chandler's left eye, which swollen to the point it nearly shut.
But in the fourth round, Chandler found his second wind. Chandler landed a takedown and worked over Alvarez with some of the most brutal ground and pound you'll ever see a lightweight administer.
But Alvarez not only managed to survive, but he found something extra for the final frame, which was five minutes of mayhem. Big exchanges, takedowns, scrambles, submission attempts: You name it, round five had it. Alvarez came on strong in the final 90 seconds and nearly submitted Chandler, likely sealing the round.
"I had a feeling in my gut I'd be the Bellator lightweight champion," Alvarez said.
Chandler (12-1) was philosophical after his first career loss. "It was great," Chandler said. "I'll go back to the drawing board and see what's next."
With any luck, what's next is Alvarez-Chandler III.