Everything was stacked in Melvin Manhoef's favor at Bellator 131, including the betting odds. No one expected kickboxer Joe Schilling to knock off the muscular Dutchman, particularly given his 1-3 record in mixed martial arts (MMA) coming into the anticipated showdown.
They overlooked the fact that Schilling was 17-7 in kickboxing with 11 thunderous knockouts.
Rafael Carvalho was not nearly as underestimated when he made his debut against Brian Rogers, coming in with a 9-1 record. Rogers had so many highlight-reel finishes in Bellator -- including two flying knee knockouts -- that some may still have doubted if the Brazilian could beat "The Professional Predator."
Now that both Carvalho and Schilling have exceeded expectations, it's time for them to meet in the co-main event of Bellator 136.
Schilling talked to MMAmania.com about his role on the card headlined by Will Brooks vs. Dave Jansen for the lightweight title, proving his critics wrong, and why nobody will ever underestimate him again. To start out, Schilling talked about his scintillating finish of Melvin Manhoef:
"What's weird about the Melvin fight was that watching all of his fights and being a fan of him over the years is he always comes out straight forward right at his opponents. What threw me off in the first two minutes of the fight he was moving backwards. I was like, 'Do I step in there? Should I be patient and wait for him to rush? What do I do?' And sure enough when he did rush I was out of position and he caught me with that punch. You can run through every scenario in your head of what the other person's gonna do, and no matter how long you think about it, it makes no difference."
That being said, it hasn't stopped Schilling from picturing a scenario for victory against a tall middleweight like Carvalho.
"I honestly don't believe that Rafael is going to try and stand up with me the whole fight. I just don't think that anybody is gonna (fight me) and think that's a great idea. I think at one point or another he's going to look to take the fight to the ground. Maybe it's right away, maybe it's after I tag him. But I think he's definitely gonna be looking for the takedown at some point and I'm just focused on me being in the right positions and making the right decisions and pulling the trigger when I need to."
Schilling is in a unique position right now with Spike TV's Friday Night Lights Out given that he's signed to compete in both Bellator MMA and GLORY Kickboxing. He won't rule out taking a boxing match, too.
"They have Premier Boxing now that's going to be shown regularly on Spike TV as well. My fingers are crossed. Hopefully I can get a boxing fight on Spike TV as well, and be their first three-sport athlete."
Being a two-sport athlete is hard enough as it is, but Schilling says that switching back and forth between MMA and kickboxing only requires him to adjust the headhunting strategy with his feet.
"The biggest difference I think is in kickboxing you can just go out there and start winging kicks as hard as you want to, a high kick doesn't matter. In MMA, if you throw that high kick and you're out of position or he's too close, you end up going down, and there's no referee to get between you and tell you to stand back up. It's definitely a lower center of gravity with MMA, but my striking pedigree is a big advantage to have going into an MMA fight."
Schilling will be looking to press that advantage against Rafael Carvalho on April 10th at the Bren Events Center in Irvine, California. MMAmania.com will have coverage of the Spike TV fights all week long, and our audio from the interview is below.