If you’re a fan of the lighter weight classes in mixed martial arts, this Friday’s edition of Bellator MMA is right up your alley. The 4-fight main card on Friday, Oct. 6, exclusively features fights from Bellator’s bantamweight and featherweight divisions, including a main event for the bantamweight title that features two of the best lighter-weight fighters that many people don’t talk about.
Leandro Higo (17-3) vs. Joe Taimanglo (23-7-1) (Bantamweight – 135 lbs.)
Higo is coming off a surprising showing against current Bellator bantamweight champion Eduardo Dantas earlier this year. Higo was an extremely late replacement and made his Bellator debut against Dantas, and took the champion the distance before coming up just short in a split decision. So he has to be feeling pretty good that he went five rounds with a champion on just a couple of days’ notice.
Taimanglo was soundly beaten by current bantamweight no. 1 contender Darrion Caldwell last year, after upsetting Caldwell in his bout before that. But that loss was Taimanglo’s first after four straight wins in Bellator and with 17 total finishes, including 12 submissions, on his resume, Taimanglo is still very dangerous. But Higo has 13 total finishes of his own, including 10 submissions. So don’t be surprised if both guys try to take it to the mat early and jockey for position. Taimanglo is always going to be a guy that lurks around in Bellator’s bantamweight division, but I think Higo’s showing against Dantas gives him a huge confidence boost going into this fight that will be the difference.
Winner: Higo by unanimous decision
Pat Curran (22-7) vs. John Teixeira (21-2-2) (Featherweight – 145 lbs.)
Curran comes back to Bellator after more than a year away and has beaten two contenders in Georgi Karakhanyan and Emmanuel Sanchez in his last two fights. Teixeira is coming off a close loss to perennial contender Daniel Weichel, but has been dominant fighting in Brazil and elsewhere during his career. Curran has victories against guys like Daniel Straus, Joe Warren and current Bellator featherweight champion Patricio “Pitbull” Freire to his credit, and continues to be looked at as one of the elite fighters in Bellator.
Teixeira has won nearly half of his 21 fights by submission, so he’s dangerous and can pull a finish from anywhere, at any time. But I think Curran is priming himself for another run at the top of the featherweight division, and this card full of lighter-weight fighters is the perfect place to stake his claim for a title shot, and I think he’ll do just that.
Winner: Curran by unanimous decision
Daniel Straus (23-7) vs. Emmanuel Sanchez (15-3) (Featherweight – 145 lbs.)
Straus’ storybook comeback to Bellator earlier this year after spending nearly 18 months on the shelf with a broken hand had a terrible ending, as his first title defense as featherweight champion ended in a second-round submission loss to Freire. I have no doubt Straus is itching to get another title shot, but he will have to go through a rapidly improving Sanchez to do so.
Sanchez has won five out of his last six fights, with victories over guys like Karakhanyan, Justin Lawrence and former Bellator bantamweight champion Marcos Galvao. However, it’s been three years since Sanchez won a fight via knockout or submission, but luckily he’s facing a fighter in Straus who only has 10 total finishes among 24 overall victories. So I expect this fight to also go the distance, and I expect Sanchez to continue his push of peaking at the right time and stake his claim to being the no. 1 contender for the featherweight title.
Winner: Sanchez by unanimous decision
Eduardo Dantas (20-4) vs. Darrion Caldwell (10-1) (Bantamweight Title – 135 lbs.)
Bellator fans have been waiting for this matchup for quite a while, as Caldwell is seen as one of the promotion’s rising stars while Dantas is seemingly lost in the conversation of the best bantamweight fighters on the planet. This is really an intriguing matchup of the two best bantamweight that Bellator has to offer.
Caldwell’s lone loss was to Taimanglo last year in a fight he was clearly winning, until Taimanglo caught him with a surprise guillotine in the third round. However, Caldwell soundly defeated Taimanglo in their rematch and also ran through the “Baddest Man on the Planet,” Joe Warren, with a first-round submission victory last year. Caldwell seemingly has “future champion” written all over him.
But I wouldn’t count out Dantas. He struggled to defeat a newcomer in Higo in his last fight, but before then he utterly dominated a former champion in Galvao. I think Dantas has the tools to counter what Caldwell does well, but I think Bellator fans should strap in for a long card. Because I think this fight is going to last until the judges’ scorecards, just as the other main card fights will. I also think Dantas just ekes out a controversial decision, and a rematch is almost a certainty.
Winner: Dantas by split decision
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