Leandro Higo outworked Joe Taimanglo at Bellator 184 for his first victory since arriving in the organization earlier this year.
The judges scored the contest 29-28, 30-27, 30-27, all in favor of the 28-year-old Brazilian. Higo (now 18-3) has now erased the memories of a nightmare start in the promotion. When offered a title fight with “Dudu” only a couple of weeks after joining Bellator, Dantas gladly accepted the offer to replace Darrion Caldwell with just four weeks to prepare. After missing weight, the fight was reduced to a non-title match. Higo went on to lose a three round split decision against Eduardo Dantas.
This performance against Joe Taimanglo was a much-needed bounce back from the Eduardo Dantas defeat, which remains his only loss since 2012.
After managing an unbelievable upset against Darrion Caldwell at Bellator 159 last year, Joe Taimanglo (now 23-8) has now lost his last two fights. One of these was the highly anticipated rematch with Caldwell at Bellator 167. Now, Taimanglo and Bellator will be heading back to the drawing board to work out where exactly he ranks inside Bellator’s bantamweight division.
The fight began with Joe Taimanglo pushing Leandro Higo into the cage where the two fighters battled it out for the first two minutes. The story was told in these opening moments, though, as Taimanglo either lacked explicit understanding of how to work offense from this position or was incapable of working against Leandro Higo who maintained a tight base and posture. After realizing that he was unable to generate offense against the cage, Taimanglo disengaged and the two separated.
When they separated, Higo started to land with his punches. But it wouldn’t last long as Taimanglo pushed Higo to the cage a second time. After a Higo hip throw attempt, Taimanglo ended up on top but it wouldn’t last long as Higo scrambled immediately. Continuing with the theme of the fight so far, Higo returned the favor and started pushing Taimanglo against the cage.
Tonight was my first step towards getting back to where I belong. During my debut, I was filling in on short notice and unfortunately missed weight.
For this fight, I made sure to come in at 135-pounds to show my commitment to becoming a world champion. It doesn’t matter who wins tonight’s main event, the bantamweight belt will be mine.
The most significant moment of round one came when Higo dropped Taimanglo with a punch and stunned him. Higo followed him down to the canvas before ending up in Taimanglo’s butterfly guard. Higo proceded to smash the guard and passed to half guard with head and arm control. From here, it seemed as though Higo would continue to work either submissions or transitions. However, Taimanglo started to attack from the bottom and Higo chose to separate.
The second round featured more striking exchanges than the opening round. Higo was aggressive and attempting to strike away at Taimanglo with long punches, but Taimanglo was trying to make it scrappy. The back-and-forth action continued for minutes until Leandro Higo took Taimanglo to the mat with an outside trip from a clinch.
Higo was having success with straight punches, which ensured that Taimanglo couldn’t counter back with hooks and other short punches. However, when Higo attempted to move in and close the distance, Taimanglo began to plant his feet and return heavy counter shots. Towards the end of the round, Taimanglo tried to take the back of Higo, and he managed to sink hooks in while standing but gave up on the attempt as Higo maintained good posture and wrist control.
The fight finished with Leandro Higo squeezing at the neck of his opponent as Taimanglo gave up a deep guillotine attempt. Higo secured full guard and was in the correct position to finish the submission. He was not able to finish the submission in time, though, not just because he ran out of time, but it looked as though Taimanglo was relatively safe.
Leandro Higo did enough to win the bout but never really looked like the dominant fighter we expected. When he crossed over from Legacy Fighting Alliance, expectations for Higo were high. He didn’t seem all that impressive on the mat against Joe Taimanglo in this contest, though. Additionally, the fight was probably closer than the scorecards suggested.
Fight rating: 59/100
Is this step up in competition proving too much for Leandro Higo? He did enough for the win, but that was precisely it. He did enough.
On the mat, he couldn’t pass the guard of Joe Taimanglo. Higo also experienced difficulties when Taimanglo started striking from the bottom. His guillotine attempt at the end of round three should have been enough to finish most opponents, but maybe his choking prowess isn’t as good as advertised.
Who knows, maybe I’m a little harsh on Leandro Higo. But we’re going to need to see more than this if he wants to win Bellator’s Bantamweight Championship eventually.
It was never apparent what Joe Taimanglo’s game plan was during this fight. At the start when he pushed Higo against the cage, it was a confusing strategy as he never tried to initiate any offense from the clinch. Rather than attempting takedowns or backing up to create room for strikes, Taimanglo separated.
Taimanglo had success standing in the pocket with heavy feet as Higo walked in. He also showed excellent scrambling ability and an under-rated jiu-jitsu game.
Jake is The Body Lock's Editor in Chief, based in Tasmania, Australia.