Bellator 128: "Dantas vs. Warren" takes place this Friday night (Oct. 10, 2014) at Winstar World Casino in Thackerville, Oklahoma. In a long-awaited collision of bantamweight champions, the current 135-pound titleholder Eduardo Dantas will square off with the interim champion and self-proclaimed "Baddest Man on the Planet" Joe Warren.
Barring the unforeseen circumstance of a draw or a no contest, only one of these two men will leave with their title intact.
Warren staked his claim to the bantamweight title at Bellator 118, handing Rafael Silva his first loss in 13 straight fights. Dantas had withdrawn from the bout because of injury, and to make circumstances even more bizarre, Silva was ineligible to win the interim title as he failed to meet the weight limit. Warren proved himself able to the task in a fight where he literally had nothing to lose, but he now faces the man who has never lost in the Bellator cage since he beat "Fun Size" Zach Makovsky at Bellator 65.
Michael "Venom" Page is also undefeated in Bellator in two fights that combined total less than a round in length. He's 6-0 overall since moving from kickboxing to MMA, but Strikeforce and UFC veteran Nah-Shon Burrell has over twice as much MMA experience with a combined record of 10-4 (1 NC). Page is known for his dynamite striking, but Burrell has finished six of his 10 wins via (technical) knockout, proving he shouldn't be taken lightly on his feet.
Check out our Bellator 128 preview and predictions below:
135 lbs.: Eduardo Dantas (c) (16-3) vs. Joe Warren (ic) 11-3
The myth of the unbeatable Brazilian phenom Eduardo Dantas was broken by Tyson Nam in a non-title fight in Brazil two years ago. Dantas responded like a champion should: he knocked out Marcos Galvao at Bellator 89 and choked out Anthony Leone in Thackerville earlier this year. By most accounts he's one of the top five bantamweights in the world and arguably the best bantamweight not signed to UFC.
The argument to that statement comes from Joe Warren, the former Bellator featherweight champion, a man who ran off four straight wins in his quest to face Dantas. Warren's list of wrestling accolades is too long for this preview, but Dantas has the one trophy he wants. Neither is renowned for power striking - Dantas wins by KO 25 percent of the time, Warren 27 percent, but add in six submissions and Dantas is the man who finishes fights 62 percent of the time. Warren only has one career submission, which means the "Baddest Man" only finishes 36 percent of the time. Do the math.
Final prediction: Eduardo Dantas defeats Joe Warren by submission
170 lbs.: Michael Page (6-0) vs. Nah-Shon Burrell (10-4-1)
The flashy and cocky Michael "Venom" Page has star power written all over him, and spectacular knockouts of Ryan Sanders and Ricky Rainey in the Bellator cage only increase his aura. Standing in the way of his ascendance is Nah-Shon Burrell, who at three years younger (24) has twice as much MMA experience as Page. Burrell has been on a skid of late, only winning two of his last six, but Page looks past Burrell at his own peril.
UFC veterans do spoil the plans of Bellator stars on occasion, and though we haven't seen it lately, Burrell does possess stopping power in his hands in 60 percent of career wins. Page has yet to see a fight go the distance in MMA though with four KO/TKO victories and two submissions, and his kickboxing background and family lineage have given him an awesome reputation he has thus far lived up to. I've been wrong of late when picking Bellator fighters over UFC veterans, but this is Burrell's third Bellator bout and he's 1-1 so far. If Andrey Koreshkov can do it, so can Page.
Final prediction. Michael Page defeats Nah-Shon Burrell by knockout
185 lbs.: Robert McDaniel (23-8) vs. Emiliano Sordi (12-4)
Robert "Bubba" McDaniel first fought in a Bellator cage back in 2009 at the fledgling promotion's sixth event, walking away with a first round rear-naked choke submission of William Chris Spicer. He's better known of late for his time on season 17 of The Ultimate Fighter (TUF) and subsequent three UFC fights, a run which came to an abrupt end when he was submitted by late replacement Sean Strickland at UFC 171. He was successful in his Bellator return this June against Matt Jones, and his reward is a televised bout with newcomer Emiliano "He-Man" Sordi. Sordi wins 66 percent of his fights via KO/TKO and has only been finished by strikes once. The ace up McDaniel's sleeve is his ground game: almost 75 percent of his wins end by submission and 50 percent of Sordi's losses come the same way. McDaniel needs to avoid Sordi's power and let his takedowns open up the opportunity he's looking for.
Final prediction: Robert McDaniel defeats Emiliano Sordi by submission
160 lbs.: Alexander Sarnavskiy (28-2) vs. Dakota Cochrane (17-6)
"Tiger" Sarnavskiy was originally scheduled to face longtime MMA veteran John Gunderson, but his abrupt retirement from MMA at the end of September forced Bellator to find a quick replacement fighter for the main card. It looked for a moment like Derek Campos would get the slot after knocking out Estevan Payan in 31 seconds just two shows ago, but Bellator chose the Premier Combat fighter from Nebraska as Sarnavskiy's foe. Cochrane first gained notoriety when he tried out for TUF, but recent wins over Efrain Escudero and Anton Kuivanen speak for themselves. "Tiger" is the biggest test of his career though - never knocked our OR submitted in 30 pro fights. Cochrane's career ascends to a new level with an upset, which although not impossible, seems HIGHLY unlikely.
Final prediction: Alexander Sarnavskiy defeats Dakota Cochrane by submission
That's a wrap!
Stay tuned for up-to-the-minute weigh-in coverage tomorrow night (Oct. 9, 2014), as well as extensive Bellator 128 live results and coverage this Friday evening!