Sometimes, the best-laid plans end up going up in flames.

Bellator had handled a very tricky Eddie Alvarez situation perfectly up until last weekend’s Bellator 120 pay-per-view card. It had killed the reputation-damaging legal disputes between the promotion and the current champion by giving Alvarez a contract that was mutually beneficial to both camps. Bellator gave Alvarez the fight he wanted against Michael Chandler in his return, and when he took the title from one of the company’s golden boys, the promotion immediately set up a rubber match on pay-per-view to capitalize on the rivalry. Alvarez was likely going to leave the company no matter the result, but Bellator put its most popular lightweight in the position to help the promotion save face by sending Alvarez packing with his tail between his legs. It wasn’t a perfect scenario, but Bellator CEO Bjorn Rebney and company had played it perfectly and put together a game-changing card to make the most of Alvarez’s evident departure.

Then fate intervened and Alvarez suffered a concussion just a week before the pay-per-view was set to take place. The champion was forced off the card and Bellator was forced to find a suitable replacement for Chandler in order to save its inaugural pay-per-view. The promotion settled on fellow main-card fighter Will Brooks to step in and fight for an interim belt. In all likelihood, the plan was for Chandler to take out Brooks, earn himself a belt and set up the highly anticipated Alvarez fight down the road as a title-unification bout.

However, Brooks showed up last weekend, scored a decision win over Chandler and basically took all of Bellator’s plans, lit them on fire and laughed as Rebney was forced to look on in horror.

It’s easy to see why this could be a nightmare scenario for Bellator—something my colleague, Kyle Symes, discussed just days ago. It’s possible that Bellator has three of the 10 best lightweights on the planet in Alvarez, Brooks and Chandler. Yet, its true champion, Alvarez, is likely a fight away from bolting from the promotion, and the interim champion, Brooks, decided to fire shots at the company on Twitter less than a week after he won the belt. Chandler is the only one that even appears to be remotely on the same page as Bellator right now, but he’s lost to both men in less than a year and is more likely to earn a title shot due to contract clauses than merit at this point.

Obviously things aren’t perfect right now in Bellator’s 155-pound division. Fortunately, there’s a pretty simple scenario that will allow Bellator to not only make sure that Brooks’ win doesn’t hurt its most competitive division, but rather allows the promotion to take full advantage of the recent turn of events.

If Chandler would have won last weekend, it was pretty clear where we were headed. The former Missouri wrestler would take his interim belt into the cage opposite Alvarez and the belt Alvarez won from Chandler in the first place. Considering how exciting their first two fights were, there’s a definite excitement surrounding a rubber match and the fight would have likely been the biggest in Bellator history.

That dream isn’t completely dead yet, and due to Brooks scoring the upset, Bellator can now promote two major title fights instead of one. No matter who the fans thought won the controversial decision between Chandler and Brooks, the fight was close enough to warrant a rematch. With the right marketing and fight card built around it—perhaps a card that includes the likes of Quinton “Rampage” Jackson and/or Tito Ortiz—it could easily headline the premiere event of Bellator’s upcoming Summer Series.

This gives Alvarez time to recover from his concussion. As we’ve seen with UFC lightweight T.J. Grant, there’s no real timetable to follow when it comes to head injuries, so there’s no telling when Alvarez will be ready to throw down. It also gives Bellator the chance to get another solid title fight out of the lightweight division without having to use up the last fight on Alvarez’s contract.

As was the case at Bellator 120, it’s safe to say that behind the scenes Bellator would likely be pulling for Chandler to come out on top in order to set up the rubber match. However, even if he doesn’t, it’s not going to mean the end of the world for Bellator. Brooks made a name for himself by beating Chandler last weekend, and his subsequent Twitter rants against Bellator, Rebney, Chandler, Alvarez and the rest of the world definitely got the attention of the fans and media. Another win over Chandler, who is still viewed as a top-tier lightweight despite the recent losses, on a card with a few other fighters that can draw some attention might be enough for Brooks to be considered the real deal by MMA fans. Alvarez may be able to force a fight with Chandler if he wants to, but it will look far less attractive than an opportunity to fight Brooks, who would hypothetically have just beat Chandler twice.

There’s no doubt that Bellator would have loved it if Alvarez and Chandler could have headlined the pay-per-view event last week, but what seemed like a disaster may have ended up being a blessing in disguise. The promotion can throw Brooks and Chandler back into the cage, which was actually a pretty good fight the first time around, and then Bellator basically has to hope that the winner of that contest can take out Alvarez later down the road. If it’s Chandler, he sets up the long-anticipated rubber match and Bellator gets what it wanted in the first place. If it’s Brooks, he’s won two straight fights against Alvarez’s toughest opponent and has proven worthy of a title-unification fight. Either way, that fight can easily serve as the main event of Bellator’s next pay-per-view event.

Things may not have gone as planned for Bellator, but somehow the promotion was lucky enough to fall into a goldmine. If Alvarez would have stayed healthy, the rubber match with Chandler would be over and, no matter who had won, there wouldn’t be a single fight in Bellator’s 155-pound division with a built-in sense of anticipation for fans. Brooks was nothing more than another Bellator tournament participant heading into last weekend, and although he may not quite be a budding star yet, at least he’s on the MMA radar now.

Bellator has a chance to to close out this year by promoting two title fights between fighters who mean something and have history, and since lightweight is Bellator’s most talented division, that’s about as good as it can get considering the champion is set to jump ship after his next fight. It came out of nowhere, but Bellator has a chance not only to make the most of the situation, but also to get more out of it than it planned in the first place.

About The Author

Vince Carey
Staff Writer

Vince Carey has been writing about the sport of mixed martial arts since 2010. Although he is just 21 years old, the Omaha-based writer is looking to provide readers with interesting content on all things related to MMA.