Bellator MMA already has one champion-versus-champion super fight on its 2018 schedule. Darrion Caldwell would apparently like to see it add another one.
UFC Fight Night in Beijing will feature a heavyweight bout between Francis Ngannou and Curtis Blaydes, sources tell ESPN’s Ariel Helwani.
Caldwell (13-1) dominated Noad Lahat (12-4) in a non-title featherweight fight at Bellator 204 on Friday, at the Sanford Pentagon in Sioux Falls, South Dakota. Caldwell, who is already the promotion’s bantamweight champion, finished Lahat via TKO at 2:46 of the second round.
It was Caldwell’s first appearance at 145 pounds since October 2014. Fighting out of Alliance MMA, Caldwell seems to be putting the wheels in motion for a potential champion-versus-champion fight against current featherweight champion Patricio “Pitbull” Freire.
“I’m looking for the armpit brothers, and when I catch them, I’m going to deodorize them,” Caldwell said. “You keep talking s—, sign on the dotted line. Step up if you want these hands. Drop the contract, sign it against me. You know that belt is going to be mine.”
Caldwell’s move up in weight comes at a time when Bellator has already booked a major, cross-divisional bout. Next month, middleweight champion Gegard Mousasi is scheduled to face welterweight champ Rory MacDonald in San Jose.
Freire, who is scheduled to defend his title against Emmanuel Sanchez on Nov. 15, responded on social media.
“We’ll fight, but at bantamweight,” Freire wrote on Twitter. “I’ll be the double champ, not you.”
Friday saw a classic performance by Caldwell, an NCAA national wrestling champion in 2009. He took Lahat down early in the first and second rounds, and easily controlled him on the ground.
The finish came after Caldwell rotated to Lahat’s back and landed several hard shots to the chin and temple. It is Caldwell’s fourth consecutive win. Prior to moving up on Friday, he had recorded one defense of his 135-pound championship.
Ricky Bandejas spoils James Gallagher’s title plans
New Jersey bantamweight Ricky Bandejas silenced an outspoken James Gallagher with a wicked knockout finish at 2:49 of the opening round — and may have spoiled Bellator’s 135-pound title plans in the process.
Bandejas (11-1) dropped Gallagher (7-1) with a right hand to the chin in the center of the cage, midway through the first round. Gallagher bounced back to his feet, but he was still dazed. Bandejas rocked him with another right hand, and a side kick to the face, before finishing the bout with strikes on the ground.
Prior to the fight, Gallagher said Bellator had promised him a 135-pound title shot at the end of the year in Dublin, where he trains alongside Conor McGregor at SBG Ireland. Those plans are obviously now on hold, following Bandejas’ electric win.
“He’s tough. He gets you with the talking, but you have to block that out and get the finish,” Bandejas said. “Not until he came in the ring, was when he was really getting in my head. But we practiced time and time again in the gym, and I’ve got the best coaches.”
Gallagher, who fought his entire career at featherweight prior to Friday, had some early success with leg kicks, but Bandejas began to counter him effectively with the right hand. It is the fourth knockout win of Bandejas’ career.