5 Defining Moments: Eddie Alvarez

By: Brian Knapp
Apr 5, 2021

Whenever Eddie Alvarez decides to hang up the gloves, he will do so as one of the most accomplished lightweights in mixed martial arts history.

Alvarez will write the next chapter of his remarkable career when he meets Iuri Lapicus in the One Championship on TNT 1 co-main event this Wednesday at Singapore Indoor Stadium in Kallang, Singapore. The 37-year-old former Ultimate Fighting Championship, Bellator MMA and Bodog Fight titleholder rebounded from back-to-back losses in his most recent appearance, as he submitted Eduard Folayang with a rear-naked choke in the first round of their One Championship “Dawn of Heroes” pairing on Aug. 2, 2019. Alvarez has delivered 24 of his 30 career victories by knockout, technical knockout or submission, earning his reputation as one of the sport’s most exciting competitors.

As Alvarez prepares for his battle with the once-beaten Lapicus, a look at five of the moments that have come to define him:

1. From ‘Underground’ to Overlord

“The Underground King” laid claim to his first major mixed martial arts championship when he submitted Toby Imada with a rear-naked choke to win the Bellator MMA Season 1 lightweight tournament at Bellator 12 on June 19, 2009. Alvarez drew the curtain 38 seconds into Round 2 at the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel and Casino in Hollywood, Florida, the victory bringing with it the inaugural Bellator lightweight championship. The Philadelphian remained champion for more than two years but successfully defended the title on only one occasion. Following an appearance in Dream and non-title affairs with Josh Neer and Roger Huerta, Alvarez defeated Pat Curran by unanimous decision at Bellator 39 in April 2011.

2. War for the Ages

The first time Alvarez and Michael Chandler shared a cage with one another, the reverberations were felt for months. An unbeaten but unproven prospect at the time, Chandler submitted Alvarez with a fourth-round rear-naked choke to capture the Bellator MMA lightweight crown in the Bellator 58 main event on Nov. 19, 2011 at the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel and Casino in Hollywood, Florida. Alvarez conceded defeat 3:06 into Round 4. For 18 minutes and six seconds, champion and challenger traded strikes, scrambles and attempted submissions, until the choke from Chandler brought the battle to a decisive close. It launched the Alliance MMA representative to instant stardom and remains Alvarez’s only defeat in 10 appearances under the Bellator banner. They locked horns again two years later at Bellator 106, where Alvarez eked out a five-round split decision to reclaim the lightweight crown before signing with the Ultimate Fighting Championship.

3. Double Dip

Alvarez believed, even if few others did. The Philadelphia native became the eighth lightweight titleholder in Ultimate Fighting Championship history, as he took out Rafael dos Anjos with first-round punches in the UFC Fight Night 90 headliner on July 7, 2016 at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas. Dos Anjos absorbed a hellacious beating, until referee Herb Dean had seen enough and called for the stoppage 3:49 into Round 1. Alvarez picked his spot and did not miss. The former Bellator MMA champion whipped a wide right hook around dos Anjos’ defenses and set him on rubbery legs. The Brazilian never recovered. Alvarez swarmed with an incredible burst of power punches, briefly wound up on his back after a wild attempt at a flying knee and closed out the Kings MMA rep with a final volley of violent hooks and right uppercuts along the fence. The loss snapped dos Anjos’ five-fight winning streak and made Alvarez the first fighter in history to capture both Bellator and UFC gold.

4. A Party to History

Conor McGregor accomplished a feat for the ages and did so at Alvarez’s expense. The Irishman became the first competitor in Ultimate Fighting Championship history to hold titles in two weight classes simultaneously, as he stopped Alvarez on second-round punches to capture the lightweight crown in the UFC 205 main event on Nov. 12, 2016 at Madison Square Garden in New York. Alvarez succumbed to blows 3:04 into Round 2, giving McGregor possession of championship gold at 145 and 155 pounds. Alvarez elected to stand with the SBG Ireland superstar and paid a steep price. McGregor kept the Philadelphia native on the end of his punches, floored him twice inside the first five minutes and established his superiority with breathtaking ease. A little more than midway through the second round, he cut loose with a blistering four-punch combination that sent Alvarez crashing to the canvas and prompted referee John McCarthy to intervene on his behalf.

5. Breaking the Unbreakable

Alvarez chopped down the indomitable Justin Gaethje with a third-round knee strike and follow-up punches in a lightweight showcase at UFC 218 that somehow managed to live up to the great expectations that preceded it. Gaethje—who entered the cage with a perfect 18-0 record—bowed out 3:59 into Round 3 on Dec. 2, 2017 at Little Caesars Arena in Detroit. Alvarez used superior speed, footwork and output to build a two-rounds-to-none lead on the onetime World Series of Fighting champion, snapping back his head with uppercuts while digging to the body with left and right hooks. Through it all, Gaethje moved forward with sadistic resilience. Leg kicks were his primary weapon, and he nearly crippled the Philadelphia native with them. Though he was nursing a grotesque swelling on his face and could barely stand, Alvarez managed to fire a picture-perfect knee through Gaethje’s porous defenses in the center of the cage. Gaethje kissed the canvas and could not defend himself from the punches that followed.
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