Eddie Alvarez can shed “Underground” from his nickname – he is just “The King” now. The Philadelphia native blitzed Rafael dos Anjos in the first round to become the new lightweight champion in the main event of UFC Fight Night 90.
And it is a victory which arguably cements the 32-year-old’s legacy as the greatest lightweight mixed martial arts fighter of all time.
Alvarez has now defeated the last WEC (Anthony Pettis) and Strikeforce (Gilbert Melendez) champions. He’s also beaten the reigning Bellator champ (Michael Chandler), has held that belt himself and boasts a win over former DREAM king Shinya Aoki.
It has been some run for the “Underground King” and he bookended it in stunning fashion. The early stages of the opening stanza was played out at a lightning pace, Dos Anjos applying his suffocating style to press Alvarez against the cage.
But then the challenger uncorked a monstrous straight right which wobbled Dos Anjos and although the Brazilian briefly staggered to safety, Alvarez was not to be denied.
He pursued the champ, who somehow remained upright, and forced the stoppage with smart but savage striking to end Dos Anjos’ five-fight win streak. With his legendary status secured, Alvarez now has his eyes on the money fight.
“I would ask (UFC president) Dana White, ‘Please give me an easier fight like Conor McGregor,’” he said. “I deserve that. I’ve been fighting the best guys, so I would like a gimme fight.”
At one stage, that fight was Dos Anjos’. He was originally slanted to defend the title against McGregor in March but was forced to withdraw with an ankle injury. Now, given his box-office weakness, a rematch looks improbable and a massive McGregor payday impossible. For Alvarez, though, the possibilities are endless.
In the co-main event, Derrick Lewis gutted out a split decision win over Roy Nelson. The hulking heavyweights clashed in the first round with Lewis landing a succession of knees, but for the large part Nelson frustrated with a gritty grappling game.
The second stanza followed a similar pattern and in the third, a swinging haymaker, which somehow failed to fell Nelson, was enough to edge the decision in Lewis’ favour.