Bellator 181: "Campos vs. Girtz 3" takes place tomorrow (Fri., July 14, 2017) at WinStar World Casino and Resort in Thackerville, Okla. As you’d expect from the name, the main event is a trilogy fight pitting long time Bellator veterans Derek Campos and Brandon Girtz against each other in a key fight for the Lightweight division.
It would be hard for any promotion to follow the amount of hype that led into Bellator’s “Sonnen vs. Silva” pay per view, and while this card doesn’t pack the punch of Matt Mitrione and Fedor Emelianenko, we’re quietly getting an excellent line-up that includes both Kendall “Da Spyder” Grove and the returning Joe Warren free on Spike TV.
Let’s break it down.
155 lbs.: Brandon Girtz (14-6) vs. Derek Campos (18-6)
If you were looking for two 155 lb. divisional fighters who hadn’t received a title shot yet in Bellator, these are your men to pair off. Campos had an inauspicious start when Rich Clementi submitted him at Bellator 70 in 2012, but since that time he’s run off both a five fight win streak and a currently ongoing three fight streak. While he hasn’t had a title fight, he has fought former champions like Michael Chandler and highlight reel finishes like Melvin Guillard. Standing 5’9” with a 68” reach, Campos is ready to take the lead in his trilogy with Girtz and a fourth straight win — possibly vaulting him into contention for new champion Brent Primus in the process.
“Cold Roll” Brandon Girtz isn’t going to let Campos just roll through him though. Campos got the better of him by decision in their first encounter, and Girtz responded by blasting his way through Campos in just 37 seconds at Bellator 146. Though he’s been on a two fight skid since then the relentless wrestler was a Division II All-American who developed a well rounded game since making the jump to mixed martial arts. He’s a little smaller than Campos at 5’7” with a 67” reach but as we’ve learned from their last meeting “size ain’t s—t” if you put one on somebody’s chin.
It’s never easy to predict a trilogy fight when each man has a definitive win over the other. Campos will be wary of the punching power of Girtz and not walk forward with his head squared up to present him a target. Girtz will be wary of the size and strength advantage he knows Campos has over a long fight, but knows he can’t take the well rounded Campos lightly in any area with five knockouts and five submissions. The best news for Campos here is that he had already started training for a Patricky Freire rematch, so he was preparing for a smaller opponent with prodigious punching power either way. Factor in his current momentum in the division and things stack up in Campos’ favor provided he can make the weight.
Final prediction: Derek Campos wins via unanimous decision
125 lbs.: Jessica Middleton (2-1) vs. Emily Ducote (5-2)
If your only metric for measuring a fighter was their respective records, you’d assume Emily Ducote was a heavy favorite, especially coming off an impressive Bellator 174 submission. She’s got a lot more experience than Jessica “Million Hits” Middleton, and has only lost once in her Bellator career thus far. Coincidentally though both women have their only Bellator loss to the exact same opponent — Ilima-Lei Macfarlane.
Ducote gives up some size to Middleton at only 5’2” versus 5’7”. What she doesn’t give up is a proven ability to finish. Middleton’s two pro wins come by decision, but Ducote has tapped out opponents in three of her last four fights. Being smaller is actually advantageous in this case because Ducote can pack more muscle into a smaller frame and will have more power if she goes for a double and yanks on Middleton’s legs. There’s little question Ducote is just as ready to stake a claim to the as yet uncrowned Flyweight title as the aforementioned Macfarlane.
Final prediction: Emile Ducote finishes Jessica Middleton via rear naked choke
135 lbs.: Joe Warren (14-6) vs. Steve Garcia (7-1)
“The Baddest Man on the Planet” Joe Warren is returning to familiar territory in Thackerville as four of his last six fights have been at WinStar World Casino and Resort. Unfortunately for Warren he lost all of those aforementioned fights EXCEPT for his title fight with Eduardo Dantas. It’s been a little rough for the two time, two weight class champ of late. At 40 years of age some might say that Warren is past his prime as a competitor, losing that quickness in his step that made the elite level wrestler so dominant in putting his opponents on the mat (or laying them out flat).
Things aren’t going to get any easier against the “Mean Machine” Steve Garcia, well rested and ready after his Bellator 162 victory against Ronnie Lawrence. He’s got a whole lot going his way in this fight at 25 years old, with an exceptional frame for a Bantamweight, standing 6’0” with a 73” reach. He could arguably fight one or two weight classes up. Warren may be smaller at 5’6” with a 69” reach but you never tell Warren the numbers because he doesn’t listen and he won’t believe you. It’s that dogged determination that made a multi time gold medalist at the world championships and a multiple time world champion in Bellator. I don’t favor him in this fight but I won’t be stunned to be wrong.
Final prediction: Steve Garcia wins via knockout
185 lbs.: Kendall Grove (23-16, 1 NC) vs. John Salter (13-3)
“Da Spyder” Kendall Grove was on a little bit of a win streak until Alexander Shlemenko stormed in and shut it down. The TUF 3 winner and seven fight Bellator veteran would love to get things going his way again, but John Salter is going to make that extremely difficult. He’s only lost one fight from 2011 to now in his last nine bouts, and has looked like a physical wrecking machine ever since his promotional debut in 2015. Grove owns the height and reach advantage as he does with nearly all of his opponents at 6’6” with a 79” wingspan, but it’s only of late that he’s been using those tools to knock out foes. If he defaults back to his jiu-jitsu Salter would be happy to go to the ground. He has nearly as many submissions (six) as knockouts (seven). In age they are not so different — Salter is 32 and Grove is 34 — but in physical wear and tear Salter is the fresher man of the two.
Final prediction: John Salter wins via rear naked choke
That’s a wrap!
MMAmania.com will deliver coverage of Bellator 181 tomorrow with results from the “Prelims” card starting at 7 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.