It wasn’t pretty, but Darrion Caldwell ground out a victory at Bellator 184 to take the Bellator Bantamweight Championship from Eduardo Dantas.
Darrion Caldwell improves his record to 11-1 en route to an impressive win over Nova Uniao starlet Eduardo Dantas. The new bantamweight champion impressed in the early rounds with his striking and elite grappling. Alliance MMA is no stranger to success at 135, and Caldwell is just the latest champion to come out of the elite camp.
Eduardo Dantas’ game plan in the early rounds became disrupted with Caldwell’s striking. Dantas was outshone in several exchanges early on, taking damage from vicious elbows and high kicks from Caldwell. Dantas’ experience in the championship rounds shined through at points, but ultimately Caldwell walked away victorious as a new champion is crowned.
Darrion Caldwell showed off in the opening rounds as his lethal array of strikes off the back foot kept Dantas guessing. Dantas’ ability to set the tempo with his strikes was the benchmark to some of his biggest victories in the Bellator cage. But Caldwell’s ability to strike as Dantas plants his feet led to huge problems for the Brazilian’s game.
Dantas’ ability to adapt under pressure shows in the later rounds. Championship poise would prove to be insufficient though as Dantas couldn’t overwhelm Caldwell’s early onslaught. Caldwell utilized several leg kicks and knees to create space for his hands. He also employed his boxing effectively with quick crosses that surprised Dantas in attack.
Caldwell’s striking arsenal was integral to his success in this bout. His takedowns and strength to lift Dantas off his feet on multiple occasions also helped to secure points in close rounds. Caldwell’s ability to dictate the pace of the fight was the critical factor in victory. A 48-47 unanimous decision is a rightful result as a new champion is crowned in Thackerville.
Darrion Caldwell has officially made his mark on the Bellator promotion. It will be interesting to see if Caldwell can keep his promise of holding on to the title going forward. His first championship fight was a success, and it will be interesting to see his growth as a champion under Eric Del Fiero.
Fight rating: 75/100
Eduardo Dantas can hold his head high even after a loss. The Nova União product is young with much to fight for. As the future unfolds for Dantas, it will be interesting to see how this loss affects him moving forward. Rest assured he will return to the cage as a more complete fighter.
Few fighters at bantamweight have the same skills that “The Wolf” has to offer. Skies are the limit for Caldwell as he continues to grow as a fighter. His work with Eric Del Fiero at Alliance has paid off heavily en route to the title. The goal of ruling bantamweight at Bellator is well within reach, and it doesn’t look like anyone can stop him.
English Student at Rollins College with a passion for all things combat sports. Mixed martial arts isn't just entertainment; it's an art form.