Bellator 195: “Caldwell vs. Higo” takes place tomorrow night (Fri., March 2, 2018) at WinStar World Casino and Resort in Thackerville, Oklahoma. Darrion Caldwell — who claimed the Bantamweight title in Oct. 2017 — will put that same prize on the line this week against top contender Leandro Higo. Caldwell will see some familiar faces in Thackerville this weekend, including the multiple-time world champion he beat to prove he deserved a title shot (Joe Warren), and the only man to hand him a loss thus far in his career (Joe Taimanglo). It promises to be a very intriguing card for the fans watching on Paramount Network.
Let’s break it down:
135 lbs.: Darrion Caldwell (11-1) vs. Leandro Higo (18-3)
Four years ago, “The Wolf” Darrion Caldwell’s ascent to the top began at Bellator 112 in Hammond, Indiana. After submitting Lance Surma with a guillotine choke in just 50 seconds, Caldwell immediately went from an unknown undercard fighter to a former collegiate national champion who had added devastating submissions to his wrestling game. His upward momentum continued from there, culminating in a dominating victory over Joe Warren in Thackerville. A world title shot seemed next for Caldwell, but one mistake against Joe Taimanglo briefly slowed his roll.
Caldwell rebounded from that loss to defeat Taimanglo in a rematch and then take the belt from Eduardo Dantas in the same venue as Friday’s fight. Waiting for him there will be “Pitbull” Leandro Higo, a fighter who was relatively unknown outside Brazil until he took Dantas to a split decision in a non-title fight. Having made his name off that match he returned to Bellator and soundly defeated Taimanglo on the same night Caldwell won gold, setting up an eventual showdown between the pair.
The greatest strength for Caldwell has thus far proven to be his only weakness. His wrestling pedigree gives him both the confidence and ability to take down almost any opponent — even decorated wrestlers like the aforementioned Warren — but a technique better-suited for collegiate wrestling often leaves his neck exposed when he shoots for a double leg. An experienced Brazilian jiu-jitsu practitioner can do exactly what Taimanglo did — let Caldwell’s weight and momentum carry him right into a guillotine choke when he completes it. The bad news for Caldwell is Higo has gotten 56 percent of his wins by submission (10 of 18). The good news is that none have come via guillotine.
Caldwell has a size advantage going into this contest, standing 5’10” with a 74-inch reach, while Higo comes either 5’6” or 5’8” (it depends on who you believe) with a 72-inch reach. That makes Higo almost small enough to be a Flyweight and Caldwell almost large enough to be a Lightweight. While the submission skills of Higo should not be taken lightly, Caldwell will almost certainly own the distance between the two and land first in any exchange. And if he softens up Higo standing the way Dantas did, the takedowns that follow should come easily. Unless Caldwell makes a foolish mistake like telegraphing a takedown from a mile away or pulling guard to ice a round this should go his way.
Final prediction: Darrion Caldwell wins via unanimous decision
135 lbs.: Joe Warren (15-6) vs. Joe Taimanglo (23-8-1)
Our preview of the main event has established who both of these men are so let’s get down to brass tacks. Joe Warren has not lost two MMA fights in a row since Bellator 60 in 2012, having most recently defeated Steve Garcia in Thackerville. Taimanglo, on the other hand, has been on a skid, losing back to back bouts to the aforementioned Caldwell and Higo. While Taimanglo certainly has the heart and experience with over 30 fights on his resume and 17 of 23 wins (74 percent) coming by submission (12) or knockout (5), his diminutive stature at 5’4” with a 65” reach comes up short compared to Warren at 5’6” and 69.” Even though Warren relies heavily on his Greco-Roman wrestling with 10 out of 15 wins (66 percent) coming by decision, there’s no reason for him to not take advantage of the reach differential and box Taimanglo then ice rounds with takedowns late.
Final prediction: Joe Warren wins via third round technical knockout
125 lbs.: Kristina Williams (1-0) vs. Emily Ducote (6-3)
The brash upstart Kristina Williams surprised the mixed martial arts (MMA) world with a one-sided massacre of Heather Hardy at Bellator 185 that required the boxer-turned fighter to get plastic surgery on her nose. We’ve been waiting to see what else Williams could do since that day, but while Hardy was a great boxer who had to learn on the job the hard way, the hard-nosed “Gordinha” Emily Ducote has already stacked plenty of MMA experience. She’s 4-2 in six Bellator appearances and has not lost two in a row in her entire career to date. The Oklahoma City native will have the crowd on her side and an arsenal of submissions in her back pocket, picking up 50 percent of her wins to date via one form or another. Williams could surprise us again by keeping Ducote at range and messing up her face with kicks, but it’s a safe bet Ducote read the scouting report and won’t make that same mistake.
Final prediction: Emily Ducote wins via rear-naked choke in the second round
145 lbs.: Juan Archuleta (18-1) vs. William Joplin (17-14)
It seems as though Bellator is making a habit out of putting at least one of its prospects on the card each time now. Although that ramps up the pressure on younger, more inexperienced fighters who are just getting their feet wet, it also gives Bellator a chance to make new stars. There’s definitely a lot to like about Archuleta, whose only professional loss was at WSOF 19 back in 2015. He’s a heavy hitter with 44 percent of his wins (eight of 18) coming by knockout. Joplin, on the other hand, is 2-3 in his last five and was knocked out in all three of those losses. You do the math.
Final prediction: Juan Archuleta wins via first round knockout
That’s a wrap!
MMAmania.com will deliver coverage of Bellator 195 tomorrow with Paramount Network fights starting 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.