March 5, 2018

Bellator 195: If You Didn't Know Already, Darrion Caldwell Is Really Good

By Adam Martin

One of the most dominant bantamweights currently competing in MMA is Bellator's reigning bantamweight champion Darrion "The Wolf" Caldwell. The 30-year-old American is 12-1 in MMA, with an impressive 9-1 record in Bellator, including a submission win over Leandro Higo in the main event of this past Friday's Bellator 195 card.

Caldwell was always a hyped prospect, but it's fair to say he's exceeded expectations at this point of his MMA career. The former NCAA Division 1 wrestler has parlayed his success on the mats into a fantastic start to his mixed martial arts career. After opening up with three wins in the then Legacy Fighting Championship, Caldwell signed with Bellator and has become one of the promotion's top fighters.

After beginning his tenure in Bellator in 2014, Caldwell racked up wins over Lance Surma, Joe Pingitore, and Anthony Dizy at 145 lbs, then moved to 135 lbs and quickly picked up a win over veteran Rafael Silva, prospect Shawn Bunch, then former two-division Bellator champion Joe Warren. That earned Caldwell a fight against the underrated Joe Taimanglo, a fight Caldwell was a heavy favorite to win. Caldwell dominated the first two rounds of the fight with his wrestling, but in the third made a mistake and it cost him, as Taimanglo picked up one of the biggest upsets of 2016 with a third-round submission win (though it should be pointed out that Taimanglo missed weight).

Regardless, it was a big upset at the time, and a lot of pundits soured on Caldwell. But he showed in the immediate rematch that he was the better fighter with a dominant decision win over Taimanglo that earned Caldwell a fight against bantamweight champion Eduardo Dantas, and Caldwell went the full five rounds en route to a decision victory to take home the title. And on Friday, he picked up his first title defense with the dominant win over Higo.

Darrion Caldwell is in my opinion one of the top bantamweights in the world, and I believe if he was in the UFC he would be a top-10 fighter. He has a dominant wrestling base that he can rely on, as well as very good submission skills. He can definitely work on his striking and ground-and-pound, but there's no doubt Caldwell is one of the most dominant bantamweights in MMA right now. As for who he could face next, perhaps a trilogy matchup with Taimanglo, who just beat Warren, could make sense, but regardless of his next opponent, don't sleep on "The Wolf," and don't be surprised if one day he decides to test free agency and head to the UFC.

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