Fans know by now the MMA world always has a surprise or three around the corner.
No, I don’t mean Anthony Johnson’s upset victory over Phil Davis. The UFC isn’t all of MMA, as Cage Potato proves with their satirical take on MMA history.
No, I’m not talking about Rousimar Palhares cancelling an upcoming bout against John Fitch for World Series of Fighting for undisclosed personal reasons.
I’m talking about Bellator MMA, or more specifically, Bellator 118, which will be televised live from the Revel Casino in New Jersey on Friday on SPIKE TV in the US.
A bantamweight title defense was set as main event, featuring one of Bellator’s most popular fighters in Joe Warren. Warren, a former champion at featherweight, is enjoying a three fight winning streak since moving down in weight in 2012 — with two of those wins coming via second-round finish. He also gained fans with his energetic appearances for Bellator’s reality series Fight Master where the self-proclaimed “Baddest Man on the Planet” memorably traded verbal jabs with MMA legends Randy Couture and Frank Shamrock. A former Greco-Roman champion at both the Worlds and the Pan-American Games, Warren was now looking to become the first two-division champion in Bellator’s history.
The reigning Bellator bantamweight champion, Eduardo Dantas, looked great in his two title defenses, stopping both Anthony Leone and Marcus Galvao. The Nova União standout looked to match his solid defensive wrestling and vicious Muay Thai attack to Warren’s classic North American “wrestle-box” style, and it looked like good news for fans.
Last Saturday, Bellator revealed that Dantas has been forced off the card due to injury, and will be replaced by fellow Brazilian Rafael “Morcego” Silva. Silva and Warren will now contest an Interim championship, with the winner to face Dantas at a later date.
Warren has taken to Twitter to bash Dantas (profanely), and Dantas has responded:
— Eduardo Dantas (@DuduDantasMMA) April 27, 2014
But for now, Warren has a new challenge to fend with: Rafael “Morcego” Silva.
Silva, whose nickname translates as “Bat” in Portuguese, is 21-3 as an MMA pro and has won his past 14 straight fights — including two wins for Bellator to earn Silva the 2013 Summer Series Bantamweight Tournament. His win over Anthony Leone last year was supposed to earn Silva a shot at Dantas at Bellator 111, but a knee injury forced him out of that opportunity.
One door closes, another opens.
Silva should be in shape and should provide an excellent opponent here. Silva is of similar size (just two inches shorter) and you might think he employ a similar style as Dantas — but that’s not the case. Silva shoots more takedowns, as in his slow, grinding win over Anthony Leone, and generally favors a ground-based attack. Against Rodrigo Lima, he exhibited some flashy Capoeira kicks as well. Warren may seem the higher caliber athlete but he has to cope with a very different opponent here.
Both guys are riding high on their win streaks and eager to raise a championship belt.
It’s not what we planned, of course. It’s disappointing to learn of Dantas’ injury, but sometimes we end up with a good fight all the same. Friday night, we’ll find out how good.