Bellator MMA comes to WinStar World Casino in Thackerville, Okla., tomorrow night (Fri., March 4, 2016) with Bellator 151: "Warren vs. Caldwell," which will air live on Spike TV at 9 p.m. ET.
Following last week's "Galvao vs. Dantas 2" card in Kansas, Bellator MMA is in need of more contenders to the Bantamweight title. The main event between former champion Joe Warren and the undefeated Darrion Caldwell could be just such a fight.
Before the breakdown of the main card begins, I'd like to remind the MMA Mania readers to participate with their own predictions in the comments section below. See if you can best me in determining the outcome of these bouts!
Here we go:
135 lbs.: Joe Warren (13-4) vs. Darrion Caldwell (8-0)
Warren, the self-proclaimed "Baddest Man on the Planet," meets the undefeated "Wolf" in the main event of the evening, but there's more at stake than who gets bragging rights to the better nickname. Following his win over L.C. Davis at Bellator 143, Warren is inching ever closer to redemption and getting the Bantamweight title back. With less fanfare, but equal resolve and wrestling ability, Caldwell has strung together five wins in Bellator, with perhaps the biggest surprise being his domination of Rafael Silva at Bellator 137.
Up to that point Silva had only lost one fight in four years. And it's no coincidence Warren was that one man. Indeed, a pretty clear pecking order has been established here, and if the winner isn't the next challenger for the title, he should probably be fighting whoever else is in consideration in an eliminator match. Warren has a trophy case full of gold medals for Greco-Roman wrestling around the world along with Bellator titles in two weight classes. Caldwell has a national championship and a Dan Hodge Trophy as a collegiate wrestler.
Advantage Warren? Not so fast.
Warren has accomplished more in his career than Caldwell, but he's also 11 years older than Caldwell. And in a sport where speed kills, there's every chance Caldwell can drop levels for a takedown faster -- or even drop Warren with his hands. Caldwell only has one knockout in his eight wins, but Warren has been knocked out in 50 percent of his four losses. Warren's biggest advantage is using takedowns to neutralize his opponents, but Caldwell may stuff his takedowns and then take his back for a rear-naked choke.
In other words, prepare for a very closely contested fight.
Final prediction: Darrion Caldwell wins via split decision
170 lbs.: Fernando Gonzalez (24-13) vs. Gilbert Smith (12-4)
An unexpected change to this card saw Gilbert Smith stepping in to replace Michael "Venom" Page on short notice. Smith vacates his Resurrection Fighting Alliance (RFA) title to make his Bellator debut, though some fans may remember him best for being on The Ultimate Fighter (TUF) 17. Smith tapped out to Bubba McDaniel at TUF 17 Finale and was promptly cut by the promotion; however, he has posted a 7-2 record since that time. Perhaps UFC was a little too hasty.
Gonzalez has posted four straight wins in Bellator MMA's competitive Welterweight division, with his lone loss in that stretch an experimental kickboxing bout with Paul Daley. He fared much better in that fight than most people expected given Daley's decorated kickboxing career, and can still boast he hasn't lost a MMA rules fight in more than two years. Gonzalez is vulnerable to submissions though (38 percent of his losses) and that's Smith's bread and butter (58 percent of his wins). Smith has literally nothing to lose -- knock off Gonzalez and immediately become a contender. And I can't think of better motivation to have the fight of his life.
Final prediction: Gilbert Smith wins via submission in the second round
145 lbs.: Goiti Yamauchi (19-2) vs. Bubba Jenkins (10-2)
There's no two men who have been closer to a Featherweight title shot in Bellator and not earned it than these men. Yamauchi's only loss dating back to 2011 was in a Bellator tournament. Jenkins only loss dating back to 2014 earned Georgi Karakhanyan a title shot, which he was unable to cash in because of injury. If there are two better Featherweights in Bellator who have never fought for the title or been the champion themselves let me know who they are.
On a show headlined by two outstanding wrestlers, Jenkins' own credentials are no joke. He was a champion at 157 pounds at Arizona State University, and he's rounded out his game with striking power (40 percent of wins by knockout) and jiu-jitsu (30 percent of his wins by submission). He's good on the ground, but Yamauchi is great on the ground, taking an incredible 79 percent of his wins (15 out of 19) by submission. That eliminator fight with Karakhanyan? Karakhanyan froze him with a submission. Jenkins will want to abandon wrestling and keep it standing, but Yamauchi will force the issue.
Final prediction: Yamauchi wins via submission in the first round
135 lbs.: Joe Taimanglo (21-6-1) vs. Sirwan Kakai (12-3)
Kakai was cut by UFC following a loss to Frankie Saenz. He'll be out to send a message in his rebound from that fight, but Taimanglo is a six-fight Bellator veteran with a 4-2 promotional record and two straight wins. He's known mostly for submissions (11 out of 21 wins) but showed off improving stand-up with a knockout at Bellator 137. Kakai's only losses in his career are to decision, but he feels to me like a guy who never quite lives up to his potential, twice failing to make it into TUF house. To me Taimanglo is the one whose stock is on the rise.
Final prediction: Taimanglo wins via unanimous decision
That's a wrap!
MMAmania.com will deliver live coverage of Bellator 151: "Warren vs. Caldwell" this Friday night, with real-time results throughout the evening followed by Spike TV fights at 9 p.m. ET.
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