Stakes will be high when Michael Chandler and Will Brooks meet for a second time. | Photo: Dave Mandel/Sherdog.com
The departure of Eddie Alvarez left a vacancy atop the Bellator MMA lightweight division, and two of the promotion’s best and brightest are in position to fill it.
Former champion Michael Chandler and interim titleholder Will Brooks will lock horns for a second time with 155-pound gold on the line in the Bellator 131 co-main event on Saturday at the Valley View Casino Center in San Diego. The two men met once previously, with Brooks walking away a split-decision winner at Bellator 120 in May.
A product of the Alliance MMA camp, where he trains alongside Dominick Cruz and Phil Davis, Chandler will enter the cage on a two-fight skid, having dropped back-to-back split decisions to Brooks an Alvarez. The 28-year-old was an NCAA All-American wrestler at the University of Missouri. Chandler has pieced together a 9-2 record since arriving in Bellator a little more than four years ago, with wins over Alvarez, Rick Hawn, Marcin Held and Patricky Freire, among others.
Brooks hits the rematch on the strength of a five-fight winning streak. The American Top Team rep has secured more than half (eight) of his 14 professional victories by knockout, technical knockout or submission, though each of his past four bouts has reached the judges. Brooks, 28, avenged the only loss of his career when he took a unanimous decision from Saad Awad in October 2013.
Related: Bellator 131 Multi-Page Preview
With the Brooks-Chandler rematch as one of the showpieces, here are 10 facts surrounding Bellator 131:
FACT 1: Headliners Tito Ortiz and Stephan Bonnar are two of the 12 men who have been inducted into the Ultimate Fighting Championship Hall of Fame. Mark Coleman, Randy Couture, Pat Miletich, Royce Gracie, Matt Hughes, Charles “Mask” Lewis, Chuck Liddell, Forrest Griffin, Dan Severn and Ken Shamrock are the others.
FACT 2: Ortiz still ranks first on the UFC’s all-time list in appearances with 27.
FACT 3: Seven of Bonnar’s eight career defeats have come to current or former UFC champions: Griffin (twice), Coleman, Anderson Silva, Jon Jones, Rashad Evans and Lyoto Machida.
FACT 4: Onetime Strikeforce light heavyweight titleholder Muhammed Lawal went 49-0 and won a state wrestling championship as a senior at Plano East High School in Plano, Texas, before becoming a three-time NCAA All-American at the University of Central Oklahoma and Oklahoma State University.
FACT 5: Dutch kickboxer Melvin Manhoef’s resume includes 17-, 18-, 28-, 37-, 46-, 50-, 51-, 60-, 64- and 90-second finishes.
FACT 6: Nam Phan in 2010 reached “The Ultimate Fighter” Season 12 semifinals, where he was joined by Kyle Watson, Michael Johnson and Jonathan Brookins. Of the 16 qualifiers, only Johnson and Alex Caceres remain on the active UFC roster.
FACT 7: All three of Joe Schilling’s MMA losses have resulted in rear-naked choke submissions.
FACT 8: The five fighters to whom Mike Richman has lost -- Goiti Yamauchi, Desmond Green, Magomedrasul Khasbulaev, Shahbulat Shamhalaev and Brian Pearman -- own a cumulative 71-16-1 record.
FACT 9: When World Extreme Cagefighting alum and onetime Jose Aldo victim Rolando Perez climbs into the cage, three years, five months and four days will have passed since his most recent appearance -- a unanimous decision victory over Tony Reyes under the Pacific Xtreme Combat banner on June 11, 2011.
FACT 10: Reign MMA flyweight Jonathan Santa Maria in 2007 nearly had his leg amputated after being struck by a tractor trailer while riding his motorcycle.