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Eddie Alvarez, Roger Huerta Primed for Bellator Superfight Showdown

When Bellator inked Roger Huerta back in March in their first significant free-agent signing, company CEO Bjorn Rebney probably pictured him one day facing Eddie Alvarez for the lightweight championship. Things didn't play out that way. Huerta lost a close split-decision to Pat Curran in the tournament semifinals, and the fight that was probably the biggest bout the promotion could have hoped for seemed like it wouldn't happen.

But life has a funny way of bringing together the inevitable, and when Curran suffered an injury that put him out of action, Rebney wasted no time in approving Alvarez-Huerta. The bout takes place as the main event of tonight's Bellator 33 at the Liacoruas Center in Alvarez's hometown, Philadelphia.

While the fight is a non-title bout, it still should be hotly contested, with both men bluntly stating they have something real to prove. For Alvarez, it's a chance to further cement his place as one of the lightweight division's elite while Huerta aims to put his recent struggles behind and reestablish himself as a rising star.

"Roger recognizes he's got to win this to stay relevant at the top level of the 155-pound division in MMA," Bellator CEO Bjorn Rebney said earlier this week on The MMA Hour. "I mean, this is really do-or-die for Roger Huerta."

That's never quite what you want to hear from your boss just before you go off to work, but Huerta has enough self-awareness that he probably doesn't disagree. While his 21-4-1 record speaks for itself, he's gone just 1-3 in his last four bouts. In a results-oriented business, he knows he's fallen short of the expectations he's set for himself.

"This is the biggest fight of my entire career," Huerta said during a recent press conference. "I believe that I'm one of the best fighters in the world and being matched up with Eddie will bring the best out of me. When I beat Eddie, I'll show that I'm one of the best in the world, too."

The 26-year-old Alvarez (20-2) began to surge towards the top of the lightweight division while fighting overseas, earning impressive wins over Joachim Hansen and Tatsuya Kawajiri. In 2009, he joined Bellator and steamrolled his way to the title, winning all three of his tournament matches by submission stoppages.

In May, he tapped out Josh Neer in another superfight as he awaited the title defense against Curran that has yet to come. Now fighting in his hometown, Alvarez knows this figth with Huerta is his highest-profile encounter to date.

"I've never even lost a fight here in the States so I'm definitely not going to start in my hometown of Philadelphia with all of my people there," Alvarez said. "That's not going to happen. Not a chance."

A driven perfectionist, Alvarez doesn't just want to win, he wants to win in style.

"Roger is a great fighter and I love this fight but my fight is never with my opponents. It's more about me," he said. "I'm not going to be happy unless I completely control and dominate Roger in this fight. It's important for me to go in there and dominate this fight and prove that I'm one of the best lightweights in the world."

Though it's not for the title as many originally envisioned, Huerta-Alvarez marks the biggest matchup Bellator's yet to produce, and its competitors are thrilled at the opportunity to face each other, put on a good show and ultimately have a chance to prove their respective points about where they stand on the world MMA scene.

"It's not for a title but the title doesn't matter as much to me as the challenge," Huerta said. "Eddie Alvarez brings a lot to the table. It's going to be a grueling fight for the both of us. It's going to be a potential fight of the year. I'm going in there expecting a war, and I'm going in there trying to finish Eddie. The cheers or jeers will affect me one way or the other. The pressure is on him fighting in his hometown. He's going to bring the best out of me. The best. It's going to be scary."

"I definitely feel threatened with someone like Roger trying to come in," Alvarez said. "I'm going to do everything I can to protect what's mine and get him out of there. I want to finish him and I want him out of there. I don't want Bellator trying to sell him or market him. I want to keep all eyes on me."

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