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Bellator 177 preview, predictions for 'Dantas vs Higo' on Spike TV

Bellator 177
Bellator 177
Bellator MMA

Bellator 177: "Dantas vs. Higo" takes place tomorrow (Fri., April 14, 2017) at Budapest Sports Arena in Budapest, Hungary. Fans will be treated to a Bantamweight fight from the lightning-fast Eduardo “Dudu” Dantas as he faces The Ultimate Fighter (TUF) “Brazil” star Leandro Higo.

That’s just the main event, though. Indeed, Bellator MMA has brought another hybrid mixed martial arts (MMA) / Kicboxing card to international soil. We’re previewing just the Spike TV-televised portion here, though, which includes two Featherweight bouts and the return of a Ukranian kickboxing star seeking her second MMA win in Bellator.

Let’s break it down:

135 lbs.: Eduardo Dantas (19-4) vs. Leandro Higo (17-2)

Dantas was originally set to face Darrion Caldwell in a title shot for which “The Wolf” has been waiting a long time. The injury that forced him out of this card means he has to wait a little longer, but the twist here is that it’s actually worse news for Dantas. I’m not trying to say Caldwell is predictable as a fighter, but anybody with his wrestling pedigree and success at using it in fights tends to use it until it bites him in the ass. Preparing for Caldwell would have meant drilling takedown defense and emphasizing Dantas’ already impressive speed to stay effective and elusive while throwing strikes.

The change to Higo throws all of that out the window.

Bellator’s newest “Pitbull” may not be the biggest name outside of hardcore MMA maniacs, but he’s quietly built an enviable career outside of Bellator which includes his time on TUF and four straight wins in the U.S. on AXS TV televised fights. With 59% of his wins coming by submission (10 out of 17) Dantas doesn’t just have to worry about not being taken down — he has to worry that Higo may simply opt to pull guard and let Dantas on top while he fishes for ways to spin to a submission. If he gets a takedown and sinks in the hooks on a back mount, that’s even worse. Four of his last six wins have come by rear naked choke — even Team Alpha Male is impressed.

What’s a dude like “Dudu” to do? He needs to not freak out about it and stick to what brought him to the dance. Speed kills and Dantas’ uses it better than anybody at 135 pounds save for former UFC champion Dominick Cruz. How did Cruz lose? Two knee surgeries and a groin tear took their toll. And even losing 1 percent of his speed was more than he could afford against the younger and hungrier Cody Garbrandt. Dantas needs not fear that here. Both men are 28, Dantas is 5’10” with a 69” reach, Higo is 5’8” with a 72” reach, but it’s telling that Higo once had to shave his head to make weight for a fight and didn’t make weight here either. For Dantas to win he needs to stay fast and elusive and make Higo try to stretch out that reach as far as possible. As a counter striker he can hit without being hit back, and if Higo’s face is a mess after three rounds, it won’t be a surprise.

Final prediction: Eduardo Dantas retains via unanimous decision

145 lbs.: Daniel Weichel (38-9) vs. John Teixeira (21-1-2)

One of these men is potentially a challenger for the winner of “Straus vs. Pitbull 4,” but that goes for a lot of the Featherweight division right now from A.J. McKee to Emmanuel Sanchez ... just to name two. This fight should at least get us one step closer to sorting out the pecking order. Weichel has won 10 of his last 11 fights, with his only loss coming in a title shot against former champion Freire. With three straight wins since then, a fourth puts him close enough to getting a second shot that he might even be able to taste it right now.

The Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) veteran and current Bellator standout John Teixeira isn’t going to make that easy, though.

Teixeira is perfect (4-0) in Bellator. In fact, he hasn’t lost a fight since June 2012. His last fight with Justin Lawrence started out competitive and turned into a one-sided beating at the end. It certainly made Teixeira look ready for a title shot, even though if you had to give him a knock, it would be that he hasn’t finished an opponent by knockout or submission since 2014. In fact, all of his Bellator wins save for Lawrence were split decisions with the judges.

With two competitors this strong it always helps to look at the hard facts of the stats. Teixeira stands 5’7” with a 68” reach and is 30 years old. Weichel is 5’10”, has a 71” reach, and is 32. That takes it from coin flip territory to a slight lean in favor of Weichel, who has already proven that if he has to fight someone known to go to decision he can turn it in his favor. Weichel is also deadly on the ground with 58 percent of his wins (22 of 38) coming by submission. Teixeira has never been submitted, though, so it’s not impossible — just a bit unlikely.

Final prediction: Daniel Weichel wins a unanimous decision

125 lbs.: Lena Ovchynnikova (11-4) vs. Helen Harper (4-1)

After a surprising loss in her Bellator debut, kickboxing and MMA veteran Lena Ovchynnikova turned things around against Karla Benitez at Bellator 164 and now seems poised to move up the ladder to contend for the Flyweight title (once Bellator gets around to creating one, anyway). However, TUF veteran Helen “Hellraiser” Harper has other ideas. Harper had two opponents fall through at Bellator 169 and has to be chomping at the bit to finally get this chance to prove herself. She’s a natural Strawweight, though, so 125 pounds is doable for the 5’1” fighter, but the 5’6” Ovchynnikova is going to have a monstrous size and weight advantage that’s just impossible to ignore.

Final prediction: Lena Ovchynnikova wins via technical knockout

145 lbs.: Anthony Taylor (1-2) vs. Adam Borics (5-0)

Anthony Taylor gets a second chance just because “Pretty Boy” did such a good job promoting his fight with James Gallagher even though he essentially got crushed in that bout. That puts Borics in an interesting position as the lone home country fighter on this televised card. And much like Gallagher, he’s not going to want to disappoint the local fans. He’s undefeated, but the more interesting fact is that three of five wins (60 percent) come via triangle choke. I doubt he pulls that off again here, but I also doubt Taylor has improved his submission defense that much since facing Gallagher. He’s mostly mouth and a big punch and beyond that doesn’t stand much of a chance.

Final prediction: Adam Borics wins via submission

That’s a wrap!

MMAmania.com will deliver coverage of Bellator 177 tomorrow with results from Spike TV 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.