Sunday, May 15, 2011

Changler - Trial By FLAME

Michael Chandler dove headfirst into the world of mixed martial arts from the wrestling mats of the University of Missouri. In two short years, he was able to earn his way into Bellator Fighting Championships’ fourth-season lightweight tournament. Saturday night in Atlantic City, N.J., Chandler firmly engraved his name into the minds of MMA fans as he laid a beat down on favorite Patricky “Pitbull” Freire to claim the tourney title and a shot at reigning Bellator 155-pound champ Eddie Alvarez. 

Chandler’s drive toward MMA was satrong: the High Ridge, Mo., native began his fighting career before even completing his undergraduate studies at Missouri. 

“I started getting into MMA in my junior year,” Chandler told on Saturday. “I was blessed to have good guys in my life like Tyron Woodley and Ben Askren.” 

Woodley was especially instrumental in Chandler’s growth as a mixed martial artist. In late 2009, the Strikeforce welterweight was able to secure Chandler two fights in his home promotion; Chandler won both decisively, earning a TKO in the first and a rear-naked choke submission in the second. 

After signing with Bellator, Chandler made the decision to train full-time with Xtreme Couture in Las Vegas. True to form, once his choice was made, Chandler invested himself completely. 

“It was the best decision I’ve made thus far,” Chandler said. “I realized I wanted to fight full time, so I threw everything in my car for Las Vegas. I needed that structure like I had gotten in the past five years in college wrestling. I can get a workout 24 hours a day, whenever I want, at the best gym in the world for a lightweight.” 

His training with striking coach Gil Martinez was particularly evident in Saturday’s fight with Freire, as Chandler displayed improved hands and was able to outstrike the dangerous Brazilian. Friere had turned his last opponent, Toby Imada, into a walking zombie with a brutal flying knee and Chandler was aware of the dangers posed by the “Pitbull.” 

“He definitely hit me a couple of times. He does have some power. I think he punched me in my eye,” Chandler smiled, wincing through his swollen-shut left eye. 

Martinez developed a sharp boxing gameplan with Chandler, emphasizing footwork and speed to keep Friere away from the former Mizzou Tiger. 

“We worked a lot of movement and in-and-out. We worked on keeping that jab long and keeping that hook long. I wanted to keep the distance between him and I,” Chandler said. 

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