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Retro Robbery Review: Eddie Alvarez vs. Michael Chandler at Bellator 106

Bellator 106 photos
Michael Chandler and Eddie Alvarez at Bellator 106 in Long Beach, Calif., on Nov. 2, 2013
Esther Lin, MMA Fighting

Few things infuriate MMA fans more than a fight being scored incorrectly, though the term “robbery” tends to be thrown around carelessly and is often steeped in bias. With Robbery Review, we’ll take a look back at controversial fights and determine whether the judges were rightly criticized for their decision or if pundits need to examine their own knee-jerk reactions.

It’s not often that you see a fighter earn a world title shot in just their second UFC appearance. Then again, it’s not often that the promotion brings in an established fighter with the accolades of Michael Chandler either.

A three-time Bellator champion, Chandler was a ready-made contender ahead of his UFC debut earlier this year, and after making short work of Dan Hooker, he cut a promo that all but guaranteed he would be no more than one fight away from challenging for a title. As it turns out, one fight was enough to be booked as half of the vacant lightweight championship bout that headlines UFC 262 in Houston this Saturday.

Normally the UFC does everything in its power to avoid mentioning other promotions, especially Bellator, but Chandler’s accomplishments are so well-documented that the standard ban on the “B word” hasn’t applied to Chandler. How could it? Aside from Patricio Pitbull, Chandler is the most successful fighter in Bellator history with 18 victories and six total title defenses. His only losses have come against Pitbull, Will Brooks, Brent Primus, and Eddie Alvarez.

It’s that last name we want to look at today as Chandler broke through with a stunning fourth-round submission win over Alvarez to claim his first Bellator title and then battled Alvarez again in a thrilling championship rematch at Bellator 106 on Nov. 2, 2013 that Alvarez won by the narrowest of margins.

With Chandler in position to capture the most prestigious title of his career this Saturday, now is the perfect time for our first Bellator Robbery Review.

What was the official result?

Eddie Alvarez def. Michael Chandler via split decision.

How did the fight go?

Whew, these two went at it for 25 minutes, didn’t they? Alvarez signed with the UFC after this and from this one fight alone you can see why fans were eager to see Chandler join him.

Like in their first meeting, Chandler was not intimidated by the more experienced Alvarez. He bobbed in and out, leading the dance while Alvarez looked to counter. Chandler let his chin do a lot of the work here as he was content to walk into Alvarez’s punches to land his own. The strategy paid off when Chandler landed a right hand on the button midway through round one, putting Alvarez into defense mode. Chandler absorbed a leg kick and scored a takedown off of it, then put on a tight choke that Alvarez calmly defended against.

Alvarez both became more aggressive in round two and tightened up his counter game, clipping Chandler early. However, Chandler had his jab going and stayed in Alvarez’s face even as he continued to take punches. Chandler’s wrestling allowed him escape some hairy situations, but he couldn’t get much offense off of his takedowns. Alvarez stung him with a combo for the most significant sequence of round two.

Round three was a back-and-forth affair as both fighters worked to gain any sort of advantage. Alvarez won an early exchange and then stuffed a Chandler takedown. He also started to find a rhythm with his jab. Chandler again ended round three with a takedown and forced Alvarez to defend another choke attempt.

It’s in the championship rounds that both fighters asserted themselves, with Chandler clearly taking the fourth and Alvarez the fifth. Chandler hit Alvarez with a huge jumping knee after Alvarez had him backed up against the fence, then he tagged Alvarez a few more times before blocking a takedown and ending up in top position. The champion was finally able to posture up and land punches, bloodying Alvarez and seemingly taking a definitive advantage on the scorecards.

But Alvarez was just as effective in the final frame. His corner implored him to get a finish and he responded in kind. After taking another jumping knee from Chandler, he kept coming forward and stuffed a Chandler takedown to get into position for some ground-and-pound of his own. Chandler was blasted by a pair of lefts, but countered with an uppercut and started headhunting before he settled for another takedown and another choke attempt. Alvarez kept landing punches as they scrambled for position. It was a wild last few minutes as Alvarez brutalized Chandler’s face and nearly got his own choke. Chandler never stopped fighting to improve his opposition and they endrf the bout tangled up on the mat covered in each other’s blood. Wicked.

What did the judges say?

Mike Beltran scored it 48-47 Chandler.

Derek Cleary scored it 48-47 Alvarez.

Steven Davis scored it 48-47 Alvarez.

All three judges agreed that the first and fourth belonged to Chandler and the second and fifth to Alvarez. That made the third round the decider. Beltran saw it for Chandler, while Cleary and Davis gave it to Alvarez.

What did the numbers say?

(Statistics per CompuStrike via MMA Mania)

The numbers reflect what a ridiculous war this was, with Alvarez just barely beating Chandler in total strikes 115-111. Unfortunately, the now-defunct CompuStrike did not differentiate between total strikes and significant strikes, instead evaluating the mount of “power strikes” landed (it’s unclear if this is equivalent to what we typically refer to as significant strikes).

In terms of power strikes, Chandler had the clear advantage at 37-22. However, most of those came in the fourth, when he landed 27 power strikes to Alvarez’s one. In the other rounds, Alvarez had a slight edge in power strikes (R1: 4-1, R2: 4-2, R3: 4-3, R5: 9-3).

Chandler was credited with 10 takedowns in the bout to Alvarez’s zero, but Alvarez had two dominant positions to Chandler’s one. Neither fighter scored a knockdown.

What did the media say?

Here is where we find the first inkling of controversy as 10 out of 13 media scorers on MMA Decisions had it 48-47 in favor of Chandler. The other three scored it 48-47 Alvarez.

What did the people say?

On MMA Decisions, 50.4 percent of fans score it 48-47 in favor of Chandler. That’s a strong number, but not overwhelming given that 33.2 percent see it for Alvarez by the same score. No other score garnered more than four percent of votes.

Though the third round was the only one the judges disagreed on, the fan vote clearly gives it to Alvarez (79.2 percent). Where they were torn was with round two, which is dead even at 48.2 percent each for 48-47 Alvarez and 48-47 Chandler.

While most of the social media reaction was simply in awe of the excellence they had witnessed, a handful of fighters publicly disagreed with the decision.

How did I score it?

I’m in lockstep with the judges for the most part here.

Chandler’s fast start gave him the first for me, Alvarez’s adjustments in round two evened things up, and there should be little debate over who won the fourth and fifth rounds. So when it comes down to the fateful third round, I’m with Cleary and Davis, I thought Alvarez won it.

I specifically watched that round twice for this review and I’ll be honest, it is damn near impossible to separate Alvarez and Chandler. They trade early on, Alvarez appears to be the more accurate striker as round three progresses, and Chandler finishes strong with a takedown and a brief choke attempt. Chandler just doesn’t do enough on the ground to convince me to score it for him, but he was active on the feet, so I don’t blame Beltran one bit for giving him the nod.

Was it a robbery?

In 48 hours, Michael Chandler could be the new UFC lightweight champion, so it made sense to look back at this fight. I was skeptical at the idea at first as 1) My recollection of the fight was sketchy (not always a bad thing if you want to go into a review fresh) and 2) I didn’t remember there being much of a robbery outcry (I could be mistaken on this front). Then again, when is it ever a bad idea to re-watch a classic fight?

Let me just say that I remember now why this bout was so highly praised and though a strong case can be made for a Chandler victory, I don’tt see how one could justifiably cry robbery here. I thought the first three rounds were all close and the way they pounded each other in the championship rounds almost makes those a wash for me as well when you view the fight as a whole. Maybe the damage to Chandler’s face swayed the judges towards Alvarez, but even if you can somehow ignore that element, Alvarez put in more than enough work to reasonably take three of the five rounds.

The final verdict

Not a robbery.


Was Eddie Alvarez’s win over Michael Chandler a robbery?

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