One of MMA’s most under appreciated prospects steps into the Bellator cage this Friday, as Darrion Caldwell takes his highest profile fight against Joe Warren in the Bellator 151 main event. Caldwell has added a dangerous submission game and a nice striking arsenal to his impressive wrestling base, and has impressive wins over Rafael Silva and Shawn Bunch in his last two fights. Warren continues to outlast his expectations in MMA, as the now 39-year-old held the Bellator bantamweight title until March of last year after beating the likes of Eduardo Dantas and Silva. Always relying on his wrestling, Warren has added a nice clinch striking game to his arsenal, and has some sneaky submissions. Bellator 151 also features Fernando Gonzalez trying to extend his four-fight winning streak against late replacement Gilbert Smith. A pair of featherweight prospects look to stake their claim in the division as Bubba Jenkins and Goiti Yamauchi square off. Opening up the card, UFC veteran Sirwan Kakai makes his Bellator debut against Joe Taimanglo. Hold on a second. This is a Bellator card. And it’s good. MMA oddsmaker Nick Kalikas opened the betting odds for Bellator 151 today at Several Bookmakers. Take a look: ——————– MAIN CARD (Spike TV, 9pm ET)
——————– Brad’s Analysis: I think Darrion Caldwell is an improved version of Joe Warren in nearly every aspect. I realize that their wrestling backgrounds are vastly different, so it’s not necessarily the best comparison to make in the first place, but Caldwell has added so much more around his game in his short career. That doesn’t even mention Caldwell being the significantly faster fighter of the two, or having taken way less damage in his career. I think Caldwell manages to avoid any takedowns Warren throws his way, batters the older fighter on the feet, and may even throw in some takedowns of his own to mix things up. Regardless of how he chooses to do it, I think Caldwell takes a wide decision. Despite Fernando Gonzalez having four MMA fights in Bellator, we still haven’t really seen how he fares against a grappler. That’s going to change when he takes on Gilbert Smith, and I don’t think Gonzalez will like the results. At range, Gonzalez is going to be the far more active fighter, but as soon as these two engage in the clinch, he’s going to be vastly outpowered, and Smith has a big advantage on the mat. Gonzalez’ saving grave here could be the short notice for Smith, which may allow him to take over late in the fight. Other than seeing Darrion Caldwell in a featured role, Jenkins/Yamauchi is the fight to watch on this card. After having his bandwagon tipped over early in his career by LaRue Burley and then against by Georgi Karakhanyan, Bubba Jenkins has quietly made solid improvements to his overall game and preparation. Skill-for-skill, he’s not as good as Goiti Yamauchi, but he doesn’t have to be in order to win this fight. Yamauchi showed that his weakness is takedown defense against Will Martinez, and Jenkins is a better wrestler than Martinez. There is definitely some danger in this bout, but I think Jenkins can get the takedowns easily enough that he won’t run into that third round wall he hit against Burley. Why is Sirwan Kakai not in the UFC still? He got cut after a split decision loss to Frankie Saenz, who then proceeded to give Urijah Faber a hell of a fight. It was a strange decision, but it allowed Bellator to bolster their 135lb division. Kakai gets a Bellator debut that is very winnable, but could also be a bit difficult to look impressive in. Joe Taimanglo is tough to finish, but he’s outmatched at range and should be outpowered if he gets inside in this one. I don’t think Kakai finishes, but I think he clearly wins here.