Like the assembly line at your local Krispy Kreme store when that electronic sign is flashing in its window, Bellator MMA just keeps pumping out fresh fights. The organization comes back stateside after entertaining fans across the pond last week. Bellator will entertain fans in the nation’s heartland (Kansas, to be exact) this week with a no. 1 contender bout featuring one of the company’s brightest stars, not to mention some other familiar faces.
Emmanuel Sanchez (13-2) vs. Daniel Weichel (36-9) (Featherweight – 145 lbs.)
Sanchez has quietly put together a convincing case for a featherweight title shot by winning five of his first six fights in Bellator, with his only loss coming via decision to former champion Pat Curran. Sanchez likes to outwork and pound his opponent to victory, by virtue of less than half of his 13 victories coming via knockout or submission.
He’ll need every inch of his ground game against the battle-tested Weichel, who rebounded from his knockout loss to former featherweight champion Patricio “Pitbull” Freire with a convincing victory over Georgi Karakhanyan. Nearly 60 percent of Weichel’s 36 victories have come via submission, so I wouldn’t expect much in the way of a stand-up bout between these two contenders.
Weichel hasn’t won via a finish in more than two years, and Sanchez has youth on his side. I think a victory by Sanchez merits him a title shot, so I believe he will do just that.
Winner: Sanchez by unanimous decision
Emily Ducote (2-1) vs. Bruna Vargas (2-0) (Women’s Flyweight – 125 lbs.)
Bellator is still trying to get its women’s flyweight division off the ground and build some depth behind the highly-touted Anastasia Yankova. Ducote has won her last two fights on the regional mixed martial arts circuit after losing her debut, while Vargas has yet to lose after starting her career in Brazil. Ducote typically fights at strawweight, but is moving up for her Bellator debut. Both ladies are known for their ground skills, so I bet we could see some good grappling from two women eager to prove themselves on the big stage. I think Vargas will extend her unbeaten streak.
Winner: Vargas by submission
Melvin Guillard (32-16) vs. David Rickels (17-4) (Lightweight – 155 lbs.)
You’ve heard the expression that if the nuclear apocalypse happened, the only things that would survive would be cockroaches and Keith Richards, right? Well, I propose we add a third item to that list. Melvin Guillard. The guy is 33 years old, and has already fought 50 fights. So it’s a safe bet he could weather most anything that mankind can throw at him.
Except a fighter with a good ground game, apparently. The ground game is Guillard’s kryptonite, as he is routinely outclassed on the mat by his opponents. That was never more apparent than when Guillard made his Bellator debut against Brandon Girtz last year. Unfortunately, Guillard followed that up with a knockout loss to Derek Campos, so it’s possible that 50 fights worth of punches are finally starting to take their toll on “The Young Assassin.”
I talked to Rickels before and he’s a very bright, smart fellow. He probably knows coming into this fight that Guillard still has some of the most dangerous striking in all of MMA, but that if you get him to the ground, your chances of winning are very good. I like “The Caveman” to club Guillard on the ground and grind his way back into the lightweight title picture.
Winner: Rickels by unanimous decision
Darrion Caldwell (9-0) vs. Joe Taimanglo (22-6-1) (Bantamweight – 135 lbs.)
Caldwell is well on his way to becoming Bellator’s next big star. That was never more apparent than in his last fight earlier this year, when he submitted the self-proclaimed “Baddest Man on the Planet” Joe Warren in the first round. The fact that a fighter with only eight bouts on his resume so soundly dominated a longtime veteran with Warren’s pedigree means it’s only a matter of when, not if, Caldwell is fighting for a title.
Taimanglo will not be an easy test for “The Wolf,” though. Taimanglo has won his last three fights and like Caldwell, boasts a dangerous submission game. But it’s hard to ignore Caldwell’s utter domination of someone as talented and successful as Warren. Taimanglo could make Caldwell work a little, but Caldwell’s talent and drive cannot be ignored.
Winner: Caldwell by submission
Photo Credit: Sherdog