As Bellator MMA inches closer to its landmark 200th show later this year, some hors d’oeuvres of sorts will be available at Bellator 195 on Friday, March 2. Although the main event boasts a bantamweight title fight between champion Darrion Caldwell and Leandro Higo, the whole main card doesn’t include a fight in a weight class bigger than 145 pounds.
Juan Archuleta (17-1) vs. William Joplin (15-14) (Featherweight – 145 lbs.)
Archuleta is one of the bigger featherweight prospects that wasn’t previously signed to a major promotion. His lone loss came in 2015 in the now-defunct World Series of Fighting, but beyond that, Archuleta has mainly been a knockout artist in his career. He seems to be following the same formula as other highly-touted prospects brought in by Bellator, in that his first fight comes against a journeyman.
Joplin has experienced an up-and-down career up to this point, but has won his last two fights on the regional circuit. Archuleta would be wise not to take Joplin lightly, and I don’t think he will and will finally display his talents on a big stage.
Winner: Archuleta by TKO
Emily Ducote (6-3) vs. Kristina Williams (1-0) (Flyweight – 125 lbs.)
These women are both at an interesting point in their careers. Ducote is coming off another hard-fought loss to her rival Ilima Lei-Macfarlane, though their second meeting last year was for the inaugural Bellator women’s flyweight title. However, Williams started her Bellator career off with a bang last year when she smashed the face and derailed the hype train of Heather Hardy with a devastating head kick that broke Hardy’s nose.
This fight is a sleeper “Fight of the Night” pick for this card, as both women should be eager to prove themselves for different reasons. Ducote surely wants another shot at the title, while Williams likely wants to prove her debut win was not a fluke. Ducote is one of the toughest and hard-nosed fighters in Bellator, and her ground-and-pound has been vital to her success. I think she gets past Williams’ striking, takes her down and yet again hammers out a convincing victory.
Winner: Ducote by unanimous decision
Joe Warren (15-6) vs. Joe Taimanglo (23-8-1) (Bantamweight – 135 lbs.)
Even at 41 years old, Warren still shows no sign of slowing down. Although he has alternated wins and losses in his last seven fights, Warren continues to press forward in his career. He has a good matchup here with Taimanglo, who is also one of the tougher fighters in Bellator and loves a good scrap.
Taimanglo is coming off two straight losses, including to the current champion Darrion Caldwell. I see this fight with Warren going the distance, each guy getting their shots in and bringing the crowd to their feet. I also see Taimanglo eking out a very close decision over the self-proclaimed “Baddest Man on the Planet.”
Winner: Taimanglo by split decision
Darrion Caldwell (11-1) vs. Leandro Higo (18-3) (Bantamweight Title – 135 lbs.)
Caldwell finally broke through last year and captured the bantamweight title after dominating former champion Eduardo Dantas. Higo also gave Dantas all he could handle when he stepped in on short notice last year to face Dantas for the belt. His close loss to Dantas was Higo’s only one in his last six fights, so he will not be a pushover for the surging Caldwell.
However, Caldwell finally seems to be living up to this massive potential. He looks poised for an extended reign as Bellator bantamweight champion. Higo will present a stiff challenge, but I think Caldwell continues to show how his ability and skill continues to evolve as he becomes one of the better bantamweight fighters in the world.
Winner: Caldwell by unanimous decision
Photo Credit: mmafury.com