In a rare threepeat, Bellator MMA presents the last of its three consecutive weeks of original fight cards. The first one two weeks ago, Bellator 149, gave us the spectacle of Dada 5000 suffering a legitimate health scare after his defeat at the hands of Kimbo Slice and Royce Gracie once again coming out on top over Ken Shamrock; oddly enough by the first TKO victory of Gracie’s career.
Last week’s Bellator 150 showcased some new fights with impressive victories, including Rebecca Ruth. It also showcased longtime veterans like Kendall Grove and Cheick Kongo picking up much-needed victories as they make a title run in their respective divisions. Bellator 151 features another veteran in its main event, with the self-proclaimed “Baddest Man on the Planet” Joe Warren trying to climb his way back to a bantamweight title shot by taking on young phenom Darrion Caldwell.
Sirwan Kakai (12-3) vs. Joe Taimanglo (21-6-1) (Bantamweight – 135 lbs.)
Kakai goes by the nickname “Zohan,” which I sincerely hope is not a tribute to the god-awful Adam Sandler film “You Don’t Mess With The Zohan.” He’s also making his Bellator debut after spending his last two fights in the UFC, going 1-0-1. The majority of Kakai’s 12 victories have come via finish, and he definitely seems to favor the submission game.
Conversely, Taimanglo is a Bellator veteran, having competed in the organization since 2013. Before that, he primarily spent his time in the regional promotion Pacific Xtreme Combat. Taimanglo also favors the submission game, notching 11 of his 21 victories of that way. So I expect a primarily ground-based affair here.
Kakai appears to have a greater nose for the finish, but Taimanglo has been around the game longer. I think in this case, experience wins out over excitement.
Winner: Taimanglo by submission
Goiti Yamauchi (19-2) vs. Bubba Jenkins (10-2) (Featherweight – 145 lbs.)
Yamauchi and Jenkins are two fighters on the rise in Bellator’s already-crowded featherweight division. Yamauchi submitted highly-touted prospect Isao Kobayashi in his last fight, while Jenkins eked out a split decision victory over Jordan Parsons at Bellator 146. Jenkins is also 6-1 overall since 2013, with all those wins coming under the Bellator banner.
I think “The Highlight Kid” makes his own highlight here and takes out another rising star in Yamauchi, to put himself in better position for a possible title shot.
Winner: Jenkins by TKO
Gilbert Smith (12-4) vs. Fernando Gonzalez (24-13) (Welterweight – 170 lbs.)
I remember Smith fondly from his time as a competitor on “The Ultimate Fighter.” Since then, he’s bounced around the regional scene and is currently the Resurrection Fighting Alliance welterweight champion. But when Bellator comes callin’, you gotta accept the charges.
Gonzalez is currently on a 4-fight win streak in Bellator, but is perhaps best known right now for competing in a kickboxing match against fellow Bellator welterweight Paul Daley at the company’s first “Dynamite” card last year. While Gonzalez came up short, he did go the distance with Daley and showed he can hang with the tougher strikers in MMA.
Smith was also a replacement for Gonzalez and while he is a tough fighter with a proclivity for submissions, his striking game seems to be a little lacking. I think Gonzalez will take advantage of that.
Winner: Gonzalez by TKO
Joe Warren (13-4) vs. Darrion Caldwell (8-0) (Bantamweight – 135 lbs.)
Warren is clamoring to get the Bellator bantamweight title back around his waist after losing it to Marcos Galvao last year. When Galvao fell ill and had to withdraw from his planned title fight against Eduardo Dantas at Bellator 150 last week, Warren feverishly campaigned to take his place.
Warren has been with Bellator since 2009 and has been a multi-time title holder. He’s as tough as they come and is an avid trash talker to boot. He’s the perfect test for the young Caldwell, who’s undefeated in his career and had half of his eight total fights so far end in a finish. He choked out Shawn Bunch in the first round in his last fight. No offense to Bunch, but Joe Warren is a noticeable step up in competition.
Caldwell recently said his goal is to win the Bellator bantamweight title, defend it 15 times, then retire. It’s always good to have goals. Unfortunately, I don’t think Warren is going to help him accomplish that. Caldwell is tremendously talented, but still somewhat unproven. Caldwell will give Warren all he can handle, but “The Baddest Man on the Planet” is going to show Caldwell that it’s not quite his time yet.
Winner: Warren by unanimous decision