Bellator had a plan to host its first pay-per-view event, live on Saturday, Nov. 2. In what was a big gamble, the whole night was based on a main event that was more for show than anything else. Former UFC light heavyweight champ Quinton “Rampage” Jackson was set to face another former UFC champ who had also washed out of the organization, Tito Ortiz. Both fighters were thought to have retired from the sport, so the announcement came as a shock to most. However, with just over a week remaining before the show, it was announced that Ortiz had to pull out due to a neck injury. So, fortunately for fans, the event has moved from pay-per-view to Spike TV and a real bout has taken the place of the headliner for the evening, and this one has meaning.

Two years ago, Eddie Alvarez was the Bellator lightweight champ. After winning the belt at the Bellator season-one lightweight tournament final, he took out four competitors, including Pat Curran and Roger Huerta, before stepping into the cage with Michael Chandler, who was 8-0 at the time and had earned his title shot by winning the season-four lightweight tournament.

The first fight between Alvarez and Chandler was amazing. Both have wrestling backgrounds, are aggressive strikers and love to push the pace. After Chandler had clearly won the first two rounds, Alvarez came on strong in the third and won that round handily. However, Chandler came out in round four guns a blazin’ and dropped Alvarez shortly past the halfway mark. He quickly positioned to mount and got the rear-naked choke for the victory and the Bellator lightweight strap.

Needless to say, the rematch of one of the most exciting Bellator fights, again for the belt, makes for a much more exciting headliner than two UFC washouts trying to sell a pay-per-view. Saturday night, live and free on Spike TV, Chandler and Alvarez are set to square off again at the Convention and Entertainment Center in Long Beach, Calif.

Let’s take a deeper look at the match-up. And as a reminder, this is a side-by-side comparison of how the fighters’ skills match up against one another using similar scoring to the unified rules.

Striking: Chandler – 10, Alvarez – 9

Chandler and Alvarez are both great strikers, but the subtle differences really tip the scales in Chandler’s favor. In their first bout, Chandler exercised much better cage control in constantly keeping Alvarez moving backwards. When Alvarez did press forward, it was quite often with his hands down. This is a major flaw in Alvarez’s striking game.

Alvarez tends to keep his hands low in every fight, and during their first match-up, Chandler capitalized on this technical flaw by throwing a lot of quick straight jabs and overhand rights, which did a ton of damage to the former champ. Chandler also has much better footwork. Whereas Alvarez has a low, hunched shoulder and heavy feet approach to striking, Chandler remains more vertical with his chin down and exercises superior lateral movement in and out of the pocket.

Since their last fight, both fighters have improved tremendously, but both still have similar styles to their stand-up games, giving Chandler the edge in the striking department.

Wrestling: Chandler – 10, Alvarez – 9

Both fighters have tremendous wrestling skills and both have wrestling backgrounds, but on much different levels. Chandler and Alvarez were competitors at the high school level. Both men were impressive at that level, but that’s where the similarities end. Alvarez went right into MMA out of high school. Chandler took a different path.

Chandler was a walk-on at the University of Missouri. He wrestled through four years of college, earned runner-up honors at two conference championships, competed at four NCAA championships and earned NCAA Division I All-American honors. Immediately following college, he transitioned into professional MMA, where his wrestling translated perfectly. His current camp at Alliance MMA is the home to fellow Division I All-American and UFC light heavyweight contender Phil Davis.

In their first bout, Chandler and Alvarez looked great in the clinch and exhibited very effective takedown defense. This superior takedown defense has resonated through all of their fights. Normally, both are good at the actual takedowns, but against each other, they sort of muted takedowns from the fight.

In the wrestling department, the nod goes to Chandler. He initiates and holds the clinch more often, and when the last fight went to the ground in the fourth, Chandler showcased better positioning that led to the end of the fight.

Submission Grappling: Chandler – 10, Alvarez – 9

Neither Chandler nor Alvarez has a great deal of formal training in submission grappling, but both train out of solid camps with some highly experienced BJJ practitioners and coaches. Great wrestling, however, can lead to easy setups for the basic finishes, like rear-naked chokes, guillotine chokes and arm-triangle chokes, so it comes as no surprise that these guys have all of their true subs by these three methods.

Chandler has tapped five of his 12 opponents with chokes. All of them were set up with superior wrestling. Alvarez has seven submissions in 27 fights, but that’s a bit deceiving, because a couple of those were submissions from strikes. Chandler’s last two submissions were of Marcin Held and Rick Hawn, both black-belt grapplers. Alvarez hasn’t really submitted anyone known for a great ground game since he tapped Toby Imada over four years ago.

It would be easy to say that Chandler gets the nod in the submission grappling department, because he already submitted Alvarez once. However, regardless of that fight, Chandler is still the superior submission grappler. He not only utilizes his wrestling to maintain control, but his transitions are perfectly executed. The final transition that Chandler made in his first meeting with Alvarez was as smooth as possible. He went directly from side control to full mount, forcing Alvarez to give up his back, therefore allowing Chandler to sink in the choke. Chandler is definitely the better submission grappler.

Stamina: Chandler – 10, Alvarez – 10

Alvarez is one of the best lightweights on the Bellator roster, but, as he and Chandler have proven, basic skills are not the only aspects that make a fighter great.

One of the reasons that the last fight was so exciting is that both of these fighters have deep gas tanks. The pace of that fight rivaled most of the UFC’s recent lightweight title fights, which, until Anthony Pettis’s August win, have been caught up in a major decision rut. This is not the case in Bellator, and Chandler and Alvarez are a big part of that.

These two fighters are able to go, go, go, without a break. Their respective levels of stamina are unmatched, making this category an easy tie.

Speed: Chandler – 10, Alvarez – 9

Stamina is important, but pairing that with speed is just plain deadly, and Chandler has both. By any “average joe” standard, or even “average joe fighter” standard, Alvarez is very fast with his striking and execution. But Chandler is faster. Alvarez wanted to push the pace in their last fight, but Chandler pushed faster. Chandler controlled the cage, connected the best strikes and initiated the clinch first, all because his speed is so much greater than that of Alvarez.

Speed kills, and if the last fight was any indication of what will happen in this one, Chandler’s going to do all of the killing come Saturday night.

X-factor

The X-factor in this fight, frankly, is the last fight. No matter what Alvarez says, he just doesn’t have the tools to beat Chandler, outside of a puncher’s chance. The champ proved in the last fight that he is quicker, more accurate and a better grappler. Chandler dominated the clinch, the ground and the stand-up game, and while Alvarez made the fight very exciting, he just didn’t do anything, outside of a clip in the third, to prove he can beat Chandler. Also, since that fight, Alvarez has knocked out Shinya Aoki, a submission artist, and Patricky Freire, who Chandler had already beaten to get his title shot. Chandler, on the other hand, knocked out season-eight tournament winner David Rickels, subbed judo black belt and BJJ brown belt Hawn and knocked out longtime Japanese vet Akihiro Gono.

The proof is in the pudding, and the pudding says that, based on their last fight and what has happened since, Chandler is just a better overall fighter than Alvarez, which is actually saying a lot.

Total: Chandler – 50, Alvarez – 46

Verdict: Chandler is the undefeated, undisputed champ for a reason. This guy is a top-tier fighter and really belongs in the UFC. Alvarez is a great competitor, and, should Chandler move to the big show, he would most likely be the Bellator lightweight champ. The biggest problem right now is that everything Alvarez can do, Chandler can do better. Chandler is faster, has better wrestling and his striking angles are more on point in an MMA setting. On Saturday night, the fight will probably start at the same pace as the last one, but there is a distinct possibility that Alvarez comes out with a chip on his shoulder and does something very wrong that will get him caught. This fight will probably not last as long as the last one, with Chandler putting in the finish before it makes it into the championship rounds.

Photo: Michael Chandler (William Musacchia/Sherdog)