It’s a changing of the guard for Bellator in all senses. The promotion made a big move to Spike TV to start 2013, and on top of that, it has found its next long-term, dominant lightweight champion in Michael Chandler.

Chandler opened the move to Spike TV with an evisceration of Rick Hawn—a man who was seen as Chandler’s toughest opponent in Bellator and the man who was going to possibly take the lightweight crown.

Just like that, Chandler dominated Hawn and made him look bad in a title fight. Now, Chandler has a new set of fighters vying for the next title shot in the season-eight lightweight tournament.

Part of this tournament will be about lightweight prospect Alexander Sarnavskiy. Sarnavskiy was part of the season-seven tournament, and despite the hype of being the new kid on the block, he was dispatched in a split decision loss to Rich Clementi in the quarterfinal round.

This time around, Sarnavskiy gets a slight step down in competition by facing Thiago Michel in what should be a winnable fight for the Russian. With Patricky Freire out due to injury, Sarnavskiy is also in a winnable position in terms of the tournament as a whole.  The only other guy that could beat him is Lloyd Woodard.

Sure, Sarnavskiy could win the tournament and get the title shot, and in doing so prove that he is the prospect we thought he was, but it would be a little too soon for him to get the title shot against someone like Chandler.

See, there is that little problem that was revealed against Clementi: Sarnavskiy was heavily beaten on the ground, easily giving up his back a couple of times and allowing takedowns late in the fight that ultimately would cost him the whole tournament. Chandler, a much more dominant wrestler than Clementi, would eat the Russian alive with takedowns. And if given Sarnavskiy’s back, Chandler would ultimately choke him out or at the very least pummel him enough to break him and eventually finish him by some other method.

Sarnavskiy is only 24 years old and has amassed a record of 21-1. If he wins the tournament and gets the title shot, he would move to 24-1. But, looking at his record, he isn’t on the level of Chandler, or even that of Freire, and hasn’t faced that level of competition yet.

Freire is the only man remaining in Bellator’s lightweight division that can challenge Chandler. Now that he is out due to injury, we will have to wait and see.

Even considering Freire, though, there isn’t anybody in Bellator that could challenge Chandler based off his last few performances. Sure, Freire is a great fighter with amazing striking skills, but back-to-back losses to Woodard and Eddie Alvarez mar his career. In MMA, it isn’t what have you done for me, it’s what have you done for me lately, and lately Freire hasn’t looked as hot as he once did.

Chandler just simply has it. He has what it takes to surpass Alvarez as the most dominant lightweight outside of the UFC and in Bellator history. He has good striking skills that have seemingly been getting better each fight at astronomical rates and wrestling skills that we always knew were tops in the division.

There is no other way to put this but to say that the lightweight division is just another Bellator division with a champion that will dominate every fighter the promotion throws in front of him, because the talent pool is just far behind the champion.

Chandler is running the lightweight show and simply put, there isn’t anybody that can steal the spotlight any time soon.

Photo: Michael Chandler has his arm raised in victory (Dave Mandel/Sherdog)

About The Author

Sal DeRose
Staff Writer

Sal hails from New Jersey and is currently training for his first MMA fight. He hopes to use his knowledge and insight to generate articles that interest and entertain you. Outside of MMA, Sal is a big fan of every other sport. He's a diehard New York sports fan, with the exception of cheering for the Packers.