Will Brooks told anyone who would listen this week not to sleep on him.
Stepping in on seven days' notice after Eddie Alvarez had to drop out due to a concussion, Brooks earned a tightly contested split decision victory over Michael Chandler at Bellator 120 on Saturday night in Southaven, Mississippi.
All three judges scored the bout 48-47; Brooks came out on the right end of two of those scores for the split decision.
"This is an amazing thing to have," Brooks (14-1) said. "I wasn't even concerned about the belt, I was just thinking ‘what's it going to take to put him down?'"
In the opening two rounds, Chandler, the former Bellator lightweight champion, appeared to be ready to cruise to a victory, as he dominated the standup and also got the best of things on the ground.
Things changed fast in round three, however. Brooks, an American Top Team fighter who was originally slated to compete in another bout on the card and was thus in fighting shape when the call came to replace Alvarez, turned up the heat. Brooks cut Chandler open and rained down punches and elbows. He also got Chandler's back and nearly choked him out. But Chandler managed to survive to the final round.
The fourth round was Brooks' as well. It was punctuated with a technically illegal knee, thanks to the controversial three-point rule, in which Chandler kept his hand on the mat as Brooks drilled him with a knee to the head. Chandler was able to continued, but Brooks dominated the remainder of the round.
The final round was back-and-forth until the final minute, when Chandler turned up the heat. He dropped Brooks to the mat and laid on a flurry of punches -- it appeared Brooks went out and was woken back up by the onslaught -- and Chandler got an arm triangle. But Brooks rode it out to the final bell and got the judges' call for his fifth straight win.
The victory puts a major crimp in Bellator's plans, as the company's hype and momentum was building toward the trilogy fight between Alvarez and Chandler.
"It was the worst performance of my life," said Chandler (12-2). "I had a lot of different things going on. Congrats to Will."