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Bellator 159 predictions, preview for 'Caldwell vs Taimanglo' on Spike TV

Bellator MMA

Bellator 159 "Caldwell vs. Taimanglo" takes place July 22, 2016 at Kansas Star Arena in Mulvane, Kansas. The main card is headlined by a bantamweight showdown between "The Wolf" Darrion Caldwell and Joe Taimanglo, winner of three straight fights.

To some degree this show has the unfortunate distinction of having to follow Bellator 158 "London" less than a week later, but the promotion has done their best to shore up the card with interesting bouts in several weight classes and the return of a hometown favorite.

Let's break it down:

135 lbs.: Darrion Caldwell (9-0) vs. Joe Taimanglo (22-6)

The undefeated Caldwell is known almost as well for his uncensored opinion and his celebratory backflip as he is for his sterling record. Make no mistake about it though that Caldwell is a phenom with a rocket strapped to his back going straight up. If his unanimous decision win over former interim title contender Rafael Silva didn't prove it, his first round victory over Shawn Bunch and domination of former champion Joe Warren should have been all the evidence you need. It feels like he should actually be having a title fight right now and not another divisional scrap.

While he waits for Eduardo Dantas to become available "The Wolf" will stay busy and keep the money coming in by fighting "The Juggernaut" on Friday. Taimanglo has three times as much experience as Caldwell and shouldn't be taken lightly. Even his recent losses in 2013 and 2014 (to Justin Wilcox and Rob Emerson respectively) were fights that went to decision, with the latter being his first Bellator bout at Bantamweight. With 16 finishes out of 28 fights (five knockouts and 11 submissions) he stops his opponents more than half the time -- better than a coin flip.

The reality check comes when you measure up their physical stature. Taimanglo packs a lot of power into a 5'4" frame given he can carry more muscle than taller guys in his class, but the 65" reach really hurts here. At 5'10" Caldwell is almost the opposite extreme of being too big for Bantamweight, but he doesn't have a track record of missing weight and with a 74" reach he never needs to step into the pocket to touch his foe. Caldwell prefers submissions and gets them 44% of the time, but given his title aspirations and the size disparity I expect him to make a statement.

Final prediction: Darrion Caldwell wins via first round knockout

155 lbs.: Dave Rickels (17-4, 1 NC) vs. Melvin Guillard (32-16-2, 2 NC)

It has to be frustrating to be "The Caveman." He's consistently one of the most popular fighters in the lightweight division and absolutely beloved every time he fights in Mulvane given he's from nearby Derby (just ten minutes away). Unfortunately with two losses to the current champion Michael Chandler and a knockout loss to the man that Chandler just SMOKED at Bellator 157, he's pretty far down the list of contenders in the division. He's only got three wins in his last six fights, although arguably he'd be four out of six were it not for one accidental illegal knee.

It's even more frustrating to be "The Young Assassin" though, who is no longer so young given Rickels is 27 and Guillard is 33. He's only won three out of his last 11 fights dating back to 2012 including three straight losses to Justin Gaethje, Brandon Girtz and Derek Campos. Each time Bellator has given him a chance to be the Guillard with 21 knockouts out of 32 wins (65%), it's evident by the fight's end that Guillard is half what he used to be. The most telling thing is that in his loss to Campos he got rocked in the first round before his round two KO loss -- his chin is gone.

Final prediction: Dave Rickels wins via first round technical knockout

145 lbs.: Daniel Weichel (36-9) vs. Emmanuel Sanchez (13-2)

This is potentially the most important fight of the Bellator 159 card. There are no shortage of contenders in the featherweight division right now, with Sanchez having one of the better claims given his current three fight win streak and the fact he's five out of six since joining the roster. Weichel's only lost one of his last nine fights, and that fight was a title shot against Patricio Freire at Bellator 138 that he was literally one second away from winning in round one.

Weichel stamped his place in line with a decision win over fellow contender Georgi Karakhanyan last December, but Sanchez is proving to be an incredibly tough out for his fellow Featherweights, taking all three of his recent wins by split decision. Decisions are becoming his bread and butter, coming in just over half of his wins and just under half of his total fights (seven of 15). They are nearly identical in size on paper with both men having a 71" reach and Weichel being just slightly taller at 5'10". Does that mean we're in for another split decision? I'll say yes but with a twist given Weichel's experience will like Pat Curran before him (the last man to beat Sanchez) create an edge.

Final prediction: Daniel Weichel wins via split decision

205 lbs.: Philipe Lins (9-1) vs. Guilherme Viana (7-2)

Lins was once among the hottest prospects in Bellator until he suffered his first career loss to Kelly Anundson at Bellator 122, blowing out his knee in the process. Viana once missed the cut for The Ultimate Fighter Brazil, then made a less than impressive Bellator debut losing a decision to Francis Carmont, but since rebounded nicely with a TKO win over Houston Alexander. Viana is big for the weight class at 6'4" with a 78" reach, but it's Lins who carries the nickname "Monstro" at 6'2" with a 79" reach. Although two years off though ring rust is a serious problem for Lins, Viana is far too inconsistent for my liking and doesn't seem to use his weight to his advantage.

Final prediction: Philipe Lins wins via unanimous decision

115 lbs.: Bruna Ellen (2-0) vs. Jessica Middleton (Debut)

I respect anybody who is willing to make their pro debut on a live televised card in front of a national audience but Middleton is overmatched here. Ellen has improved in every single fight, winning her first fight as an amateur by split decision and her second fight as a pro by unanimous decision. A first round TKO in her last bout says the Team Nogueira Campinas prospect should have little trouble with someone who has never had a fight, but Middleton does have a few wins as an amateur and could turn out to be very surprising here.

Final prediction: Ellen takes a very close unanimous decision

That's a wrap! will deliver live coverage of Bellator 159 "Caldwell vs. Taimanglo" tomorrow night, with real-time results throughout the evening followed by 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.

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