If you follow Spike on Tumblr (good time to start if you don't), you may have noticed that we're engaged in a campaign to get Michael Chandler voted the Next Big Thing in Fighting for 2012 (and, ostensibly, 2013) over at ESPN.com.
The reasons are, admittedly, a bit self-serving. Chandler is the Bellator Lightweight champion, and he'll be defending that title in the main event of Bellator's Spike debut on Thursday, January 18th , immediately following an all-new IMPACT WRESTLING. But he's also, in my opinion, one of the most unsung and overlooked fighters for not just his weight class but all of MMA.
This is the guy who choked out top prospect Eddie Alvarez to win the title in November 2011 in a fight of the year contender. For all the ink that's been spilled over Alvarez, there's been little mention of Chandler's victory over the hottest free agent in MMA. Part of that is because Chandler isn't going anywhere, but it's also because a lot of people are overlooking a fighter who's been dominant against some rock solid competition.
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If Eddie Alvarez is believed to be an asset and potentially competitive in the UFC, then one has to concede that Chandler is a legitimate top ten Lightweight, if not top five. That isn't just because of his defeat of Eddie Alvarez. A common mistake fans and analysts make is thinking that if Fighter A beat Fighter B and Fighter B beat Fighter C, then Fighter A will beat Fighter C. There are simply too many variables in MMA for things to be that simple.
Yet it's an undeniable fact that Chandler has been absolutely dominant thus far in his career, going a perfect 10-0 while only allowing it to go to the judges twice (one of them a decision win over fellow Bellator standout Patricky "Pitbull" Freire). Four of those wins came by knockout, which is pretty impressive considering his background is primarily in wrestling. Chandler started his combat sports career as an NCAA Division 1 standout and All-American at the University of Missouri, where he accumulated one hundred wins in his amateur career. Yet he doesn't rest on his grappling and, in some cases, hasn't even gone to it. In his most recent win, he went hard at Akihiro Gono with strikes and finished him quickly and dominantly. The pummeling was the sort of thing you expect from an aggressive striker, and yet he also has the ground game and discipline of an amateur wrestler.
Chandler is still only twenty-six years old with his best years ahead of him. That's why he deserves your vote for the Next Big Thing in Fighting. And even if he doesn't get it, he's going to attain it anyway the only way he knows how: through a combination of fierce determination, work ethic, and aggression.
You can vote for Michael Chandler HERE before Friday, December 14th at 5:00pm. And watch him defend his Lightweight title in the main event of Bellator's Spike debut on Thursday, January 17th.