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22nd Oct 2016

One of Eddie Alvarez’s fiercest rivals from the past confidently backs him to defeat Conor McGregor

No opponent has spent longer inside the cage with Alvarez

Ben Kiely

There are few better fights to introduce someone to MMA than the two Bellator lightweight title bouts between Eddie Alvarez and Michael Chandler.

48 minutes and six seconds of some of the highest quality wrestling, grappling and striking you’ll ever see between two lightweight warriors who have unquestionable heart and a genuine love for biting down and the mouth-piece and swinging through the fire.

The first one ended with a submission win for Chandler, the sequel a somewhat contentious split decision for Alvarez. Both were classics.

No fighter has spent more time competitively slugging it out with the current UFC lightweight king than Chandler. Although the last time they fought each other was nearly three years ago at Bellator 106, Chandler is a firm believer in the Underground King’s skill-set. As he told Chael Sonnen on the podcast ‘You’re Welcome,’ he feels he will have the edge against Conor McGregor at UFC 205.

“I’ve got Eddie. Obviously I can attest to Eddie’s power, his tenacity, his cardio, his composure inside the cage. I’ve spent nearly 50 minutes with that guy inside the cage. We have spilled more blood with each other than a lot of people will do in their entire career.”

Chandler believes that McGregor will shine in the early exchanges, but he has yet to prove that he can dig deep when the going gets tough against a fighter like Alvarez, who thrives with his back against the fence. While he thinks McGregor possesses the requisite power to rock Alvarez, he thinks the X-factor could be the lightweight champion’s heart.

“Conor’s only good when he’s confident and when he’s in his flow, when he’s in his Conor movement state. It will show in the first round, he’s going to throw his spinning stuff, he’s going to dig to the body, he’s going to throw that devastating left hand. When he rocks Eddie and Eddie recuperates and comes back, just like he has in so many of his fights, he keeps fighting he has an indomitable will.”

Chandler admitted being impressed with how McGregor handled the adversity of gassing out in the second fight against Nate Diaz to come back and get the nod from the judges. However, he feels that Alvarez has more dangerous weapons than the Stockton native in the latter rounds and the cardio to use them.

“I think Eddie has more composure, better crisp striking, better wrestling, better grappling, better all-round complete mixed martial arts techniques than Nate Diaz does, so I think Eddie comes away with it with either a late finish in the third, fourth or fifth round or a unanimous decision.”

Finally, the Bellator lightweight champion hinted that because McGregor has enjoyed so much success in the UFC, he may be underestimating how powerful Alvarez’ gameness is in a war. If McGregor goes into UFC 205’s main event overconfident, Chandler predicts that he’ll be in for a rude awakening.

“My first 12 fights I had 10 first-round finishes. Stepping into the cage the fight was done within four minutes on average. You get used to steam-rolling guys then all of a sudden, you get into those wars where you’re giving a guy your best shot, your heart-rate goes through the roof, your adrenaline is pumping, the lactic acid’s building then the war starts.”

“Anybody can go out there and land a sweet, beautiful left punch on the chin, knock someone out, get up on the cage and say, ‘Give me my pay cheque and let’s move onto the next one,’ but when you get into those deep waters you either sink or you swim.”

In the latest GAA Hour, we talk to Ken McGrath of Waterford and with Declan Brennan about a new club players’ association.