Rivalries: Eddie Alvarez

By: Brian Knapp
Jun 26, 2021

All signs point to Eddie Alvarez being on the backside of his remarkable career.

The former Bellator MMA and Ultimate Fighting Championship lightweight titleholder finds himself in his most significant rut as a pro, having gone 2-4 with two no contests across his past eight appearances. Alvarez nevertheless carries one of the sport’s most enduring resumes, highlighted by wins over Justin Gaethje, Rafael dos Anjos, Anthony Pettis, Gilbert Melendez, Tatsuya Kawajiri and Joachim Hansen. Alvarez last fought at One Championship on TNT 4, where he wound up on the wrong side of a unanimous decision to Rae Yoon Ok on April 28.

As Alvarez awaits word from One Championship matchmakers on his next assignment, a look at some of the rivalries upon which his reputation was built:

Shinya Aoki

It took Alvarez a little more than two minutes to erase the memories of his December 2008 submission loss to Aoki, as “The Undergound King” cut down the Japanese superstar with first-round punches in the Bellator 66 main event on April 20, 2012 at the I-X Center in Cleveland. Aoki succumbed to a hailstorm of blows 2:14 into Round 1, closing the book on his seven-fight winning streak. “Tobikan Judan” invited Alvarez—a man he submitted with a heel hook at a K-1 show some three years prior—into his spidery guard early in the first round. The Philadelphia native refused and forced Aoki to stand. From there, it was no contest. Alvarez backed him into the cage and answered an ill-advised standing elbow with a pair of right uppercuts that drove a retreating Aoki to the ground. Alvarez then connected on a wicked standing-to-ground punch, compromising his opponent’s defenses. Aoki covered up in an attempt to shield himself from further punishment, and Alvarez unleashed his fists until referee Jerry Krzys had seen enough.

Michael Chandler

The reverberations were felt for months. An unbeaten but unproven prospect at the time, Chandler submitted Alvarez with a rear-naked choke and captured the Bellator MMA lightweight crown in the fourth round of their Bellator 58 headliner on Nov. 19, 2011 at the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel and Casino in Hollywood, Florida. Alvarez bowed out 3:06 into Round 4. Champion and challenger traded strikes, scrambles and attempted submissions for more than 18 minutes, until the choke from Chandler brought their epic battle to a decisive close. They met for a second time two years later at Bellator 106, where Alvarez eked out a five-round split decision and evened their head-to-head series at 1-1. It marked his final appearance inside the Bellator cage.

Conor McGregor

The Irishman became the first competitor in Ultimate Fighting Championship history to hold titles in two weight classes simultaneously when he put away Alvarez with second-round punches and laid claim to the lightweight title in the UFC 205 main event on Nov. 12, 2016 at Madison Square Garden in New York. Alvarez met his end 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. After just 128 days, his brief reign as lightweight champion was over.

Dustin Poirier

“The Diamond” finished his business with Alvarez with a cataclysmic flurry of punches, elbows and knee strikes. No one could have expected anything less. Poirier buried the former Ultimate Fighting Championship and Bellator MMA lightweight titleholder with his blitzkrieg in the second round of their UFC on Fox 30 headliner on July 28, 2018 at the Scotiabank Saddledome in Calgary, Alberta. Alvarez went out on his shield 4:05 into Round 2, unable to keep up with a man five years his junior. A competitive first round gave way to a wild second, touched off by a pair of attempted guillotine chokes from Poirier. Alvarez scrambled to his back, locked in a neck crank and transitioned to a seated mount at the base of the cage. A 12-to-6 elbow to the shoulder cost Alvarez his dominant position and necessitated a warning from referee Marc Goddard. After the restart, Poirier unleashed his ordnance. He followed a straight left with a thudding knee to the chest that sent Alvarez careening backward. Poirier pushed the Philadelphia native to the fence and let fly with knees, punches and kicks before a final well-placed elbow strike to the head sent his counterpart to the canvas and forced Goddard’s hand.
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