It is undoubtedly a pinnacle moment for the Bellator Fighting Championships. One of the most talked about rematches nearly three-and-a-half years in the making is finally taking place and it is going to be available for everyone around the world to witness.
The former Bellator Lightweight Champion Eddie Alvarez aims to avenge his 2008 loss against current DREAM Lightweight Champion Shinya Aoki on Friday, April 20 LIVE from the I-X Center in Cleveland, Ohio on MTV2 and in commercial-free HD on EPIX.
Just a very short time ago it looked like Aoki vs. Alvarez II would likely never happen. After falling to Chandler back in November in what many see as a “Fight of the Year” and certainly one of the best battles of 2011, Alvarez looked for an immediate rematch with the new champ but keeping true to the format, Alverez would have to start over in the new lightweight tournament to attain that shot. With no title and a soon-to-be expired Bellator contract in limbo, CEO Bjorn Rebney came threw in a better way for Eddie as well as for fight fans around the world as well.
“Ed asked me to secure this rematch for him years ago,” said Bellator Chairman & CEO Bjorn Rebney, “I promised I would, and now it’s official.”
Both fighters have raised their levels immensely since the two first met. From 2009 to 2011, Alvarez has been nearly unstoppable, capturing the Bellator 155lb. title on a seven-fight win streak, thrusting his name at the top of the world’s best lightweights.
“I’m excited, its’ been a long time coming.” Sates Alverez, “I’ve been wanting this for more than three years, and after I beat Aoki, I will be back in the rankings and back where I belong.”
While Alvarez has gone 8-1 since that meeting, Aoki has pieced together an 11-2 record coming into the fight with a seven-fight win streak dating back to his 2010 loss to Strikeforce lightweight champion Gilbert Melendez.
Though Aoki made quick work of Alvarez in the first fight, (92 seconds in the first round with a heel hook to earn the tap), he holds a huge amount of respect for Alverez after watching the championship clash with Michael Chandler.
“Both of our games have improved a lot over the last 3 years.” Shinya Aoki said in an exclusive interview with BloodyElbow.com, “I cannot use what happened in the first fight as a reference for this fight.”
Aoki has been training at Evolve MMA in Singapore since the 5th of February with the numerous Muay Thai and Brazilian Jiu Jitsu World Champions on both the stand up and grappling aspects of his game. Aoki has been training wrestling directly under the tutelage of Olympic wrestler and former Team Quest owner and coach, Heath Sims.
“Evolve MMA is the best thing that has ever happened to me in my career,” Aoki earnestly says. “It is also the first time that I truly feel part of a family. I’m a totally different fighter today.”
Shinya’s well-documented ground game is just on a completely different level than Alvarez’s and since joining Evolve, his stand up has improved tenfold (i.e. Satoru Kitaoka fight). Furthermore, he’s now under the guidance of one of the best MMA coaches in the world, Chatri Sityodtong.
One thing going against Aoki for this fight is that he has to travel to America, and that has simply not boded well for most Japanese fighters in the past. Aoki’s first fight in the states against Strikeforce Champ Gilbert Melendez back in 2010 was evident of the taxation of traveling on a fighter. But being a true student of MMA, Aoki quickly picked up on american cage combat and pulled in an impressive showing at last years Strikeforce event against Lyle Beerbohm.
“Anytime you can put two of the world’s Top 10 Lightweights in the cage together at the pinnacle of their careers, you’ve got a very special fight on your hands – and that’s exactly what we will see in Cleveland April 20th.” CEO Bjorn Rebney.
Bellator 66 will feature five televised fights to highlight a card that will include four-plus hours of professional mixed-martial arts action. Interesting enough also on the bill is the Season 6 Lightweight Tournament semi-finals as Brent Weedman faces Thiago Michel and Rick Hawn takes on the biggest upset of the lightweight tournament and fan favorite Lloyd “Cupcake” Woodard. Other fights include the middleweight tournament semifinals as Maiquel Falcao battles the Russian, Vyacheslav Vasilevsky and Brian Rogers will now face the Swede alternate Andreas Spang in the second part of the middleweight tournament.
Bellator 66: Aoki vs. Alvarez 2
Friday, April 20 @ 8pm eastern on MTV2
Prelims @ 7pm eastern on Bellator.com and Spike.com
Lightweight Superfight Rematch
Shinya Aoki vs. Eddie Alvarez
Season 6 Lightweight Tournament Semifinals
Rick Hawn vs. Lloyd Woodard
Thiago Michel Silva vs. Brent Weedman
Season 6 Middleweight Tournament Semifinals
Maiquel Falcao vs. Vyacheslav Vasilevsky
Brian Rogers vs. Bruno Santos
Jason Dent vs. Tyler Combs
Attila Vegh vs. Dan Spohn
Marcus Vanttinen vs. John Hawk
Frank Caraballo vs. Donny Walker
Anita Rodriguez vs. Jessica Eye
Joe Heiland vs. Julian Lane