Bellator 166: "Dantas vs. Warren 2" takes place tomorrow night (Fri., Dec. 2, 2016) at WinStar World Casino and Resort in Thackerville, Okla., featuring a Bantamweight title bout between two-time (and current) champion Eduardo Dantas against the man who once defeated him for the belt, the self-proclaimed "Baddest Man on the Planet," Joe Warren.
It's a busy weekend for Bellator MMA, which will run shows on back-to-back nights. First and foremost, we've got a four-fight Spike TV card that features an undefeated Featherweight phenom, two Middleweights with only one loss each, and a bout that may determine Bellator's next 135-pound title contender.
Let's break it down:
135 lbs.: Eduardo Dantas (18-4) vs. Joe Warren (14-5)
The last time these two men met was the main event of Bellator 128 more than two years ago. Dantas came in with two successful title defenses since beating Zach Makovsky at Bellator 65, but former Featherweight champion, Warren, was a man on a mission who had already claimed an interim version of the belt at Bellator 118. Warren used his amateur Greco-Roman wrestling experience to good effect throughout the fight, but it was so close that an accidental illegal kick in the fifth round nearly cost him dearly. Warren ultimately edged out a 48-47 decision from all judges to unify the two titles.
Since that time we've seen a chain of succession that saw Warren lose the title to Marcos Galvao in a rematch, which he then coughed up to Dantas in a rematch. Are you sensing a theme here? The latter fight was arguably Dantas' best performance since first claiming the gold. The speed difference between the two left Galvao frozen in his tracks, eating an increasing amount of damage in the latter rounds to the point a stoppage would have been merciful, but instead drew out to a lopsided five-round decision with scores of 50-45, 50-44 and a rarely seen (but accurate) 50-43.
Warren has already figured out Dantas once, something Galvao couldn't do on two different attempts. Dantas is 27 years old, 5'10" and has a 69" reach, while Warren is 40 years old and 5'6" -- but he also has a 69" reach. Still you'd have to give the physical advantage in speed and power to the younger Dantas, which Warren negated by turning their fight into a grappling war where he could impose his will with superior takedown technique. If Nova Uniao has successfully drilled his takedown defense for this fight, the speed and stamina advantages will be more evident here.
Final prediction: Eduardo Dantas retains the Bantamweight title via unanimous decision
145 lbs.: A.J. McKee (5-0) vs. Ray Wood (7-2)
Bellator has slowly and carefully brought along A.J. McKee, son of mixed martial arts (MMA) veteran and former MFC Lightweight Champion, Antonio McKee, and that booking has thus far paid dividends. McKee has yet to fight a bout that went past the second round, scoring three knockouts and two submissions, emerging as a young stud in Bellator's fiercely competitive Featherweight division. Some might argue that McKee hasn't faced a real test yet in the promotion, but it's hard to blame a promoter for trying to create meaningful stars who could hopefully challenge for a title in the future.
McKee was set to face "El Matador" Emmanuel Sanchez, but since he has withdrawn from the card because of an injury, Ray Wood (7-2) has agreed to face McKee on just one week's notice. Wood is "All Business," but in his last Bellator appearance, Adam Piccolotti gave him the business and choked him out. Even though he was originally scheduled for a "Prelims" undercard bout and is probably in shape for the fight, I can't see a late change of opponent benefiting Wood more than McKee, who should dispatch him just as handily as Piccolotti did.
Final prediction: Antonio McKee finishes Ray Wood with a rear-naked choke submission
135 lbs.: Marcos Galvao (17-7-1) vs. L.C. Davis (23-7)
As previously noted, Galvao is a former champion who beat Warren and was subsequently beaten (for the second time) by Dantas. He'd love to get back into the Bantamweight title picture, but given the one-sided beating he took in his last fight, he'd need a really convincing win (or two) to do it. Davis was on the cusp of a title shot after an exciting fight with Hideo Tokoro, but deja vu may kick in when I tell you Warren beat Davis to end that dream. That's the Bantamweight division for you. Davis is older (36 to 34), but more experienced, and has a small reach advantage (69" to 67"), and Galvao only has finishes in 29 percent of his wins (five out of 17) compared to 65 percent for Davis (15 out of 23).
Final prediction: L.C. Davis scores a technical knockout win over Galvao
185 lbs.: Chris Honeycutt (8-1, 1 NC) vs. Ben Reiter (17-1-1)
Rounding out the first of two nights of fights in Thackerville is a Middleweight war between two fighters who would undoubtedly like to face the winner of "Carvalho vs. Manhoef 2" one week later. Reiter has won three out of four in Bellator and was a knockout artist before he came to the promotion. With nothing but decisions in the promotion, his average has dropped to just over 40 percent of his wins (seven out of 17), but nonetheless, there's power in reserve. Honeycutt was an outstanding collegiate wrestler, then scored a couple of impressive technical knockout wins once he joined Bellator. Since getting blasted in a Paul Bradley rematch, he has outlasted several tough opponents by continuing to rely on his hands. Since Reiter's lone loss is a submission and Honeycutt's is a knockout, this could go either way, but "The Cutt" seems stronger since returning to Middleweight and I believe the less strenuous weight cut gives him the edge.
Final prediction: Chris Honeycutt scores a first round knockout
That's a wrap!
MMAmania.com will deliver coverage of Bellator 166: "Dantas vs. Warren 2" tomorrow night, with results throughout the evening for the Spike TV fights at 9 p.m. ET. To check out the latest Bellator MMA-related news and notes be sure to hit up our comprehensive news archive right here.