Over three years ago at Bellator 1, a lesser known lightweight fighter named Eddie Alvarez started a new path in the promotion by winning his opening bout of the lightweight tournament.
This began a successful run as the first lightweight champion in their history. Friday night at Bellator 76 he enters the Bellator cage likely for the final time against Patricky ‘Pitbull’ Freire.
While nothing is certain it seems apparent that Alvarez will make his way to the UFC in 2013 when he is free to sign with the promotion. He looks to end his Bellator career with a win and hopefully maximize his contract when he agrees to terms with the UFC.
After winning six in a row in Bellator, Alvarez lost his championship to Michael Chandler. He bounced back with a win over rival Shinya Aoki. It was a fight he wanted due to Aoki submitting him back at Dynamite 2008 with a heel hook.
Alvarez intends to enter the very talented and deep UFC lightweight division and see how he stacks up against the other elite 155 lb. fighters. Defeating Freire will undoubtedly earn him a solid contract that will set him up for years to come. A loss to the lesser known fighter may derail his dreams and force him to take another fight to get back on the winning track.
While he is wanted by the UFC it is hard to bring a fighter on board when coming off a loss and market him as a legitimate contender. This Friday’s fight holds immense importance to the future career of Alvarez.
The names on Alvarez’s resume of victories is a good one but he does lack the top talent the UFC employs. Defeating people like Aoki, Katsunori Kikuno, Roger Huerta, Joachim Hansen, Pat Curran and Tatuya Kawajiri is very impressive to MMA fans who are familiar with those names.
However, UFC fans who do not know the names from other promotions will not understand or appreciate the talent Alvarez holds until he competes inside the octagon. He will have to earn a title shot with decisive victories while winning over the fans.
His 23-3 record is by far one of the most impressive in the division. 15 knockouts on that record prove how dangerous his boxing skills are. With a number of lightweights who enjoy a striking battle there are some tremendous match-ups for Alvarez upon entering the UFC.
Fans would certainly enjoy fights between Alvarez and the likes of Donald Cerrone, Sam Stout, Melvin Guillard or Anthony Pettis. An eventual bout with the Benson Henderson or Nate Diaz would be something that could be setup as Alvarez progresses.
Alvarez has to take care of business against Freire or these potential “fight of the night” bonuses will be put on hold. Alvarez’s dream of fighting in the UFC is within reach. A win should guarantee a move to the UFC as long as they can come to agreeable financial terms.
Alvarez is marketable once the UFC fans see what they have. He has the tools to challenge for the championship and the style to excite the fan base. One more fight to take care of then we should see another quality fighter enter the world’s largest promotion.
Written by Mike McPhee
Follow me on Twitter @ManCaveMMA