In an outcome few odds makers expected, former Bellator featherweight champion Joe Warren became the new Bellator bantamweight champion after defeating Eduardo Dantas at Bellator 128 on Saturday. The event took place at the WinStar Casino in Thackerville, Oklahoma. The main card aired live on Spike TV.
Warren opened the first round immediately clinching with Dantas, securing double underhooks and driving the champion into the fence. Warren switched to a double and even a single leg attempt against the cage, but without much success. Warren was able to separate, but still scored with two knees before the exit. It was actually Dantas who then initiated the clinch and cracked the American with a hard elbow on the exit.
Warren managed to score with another knee, which he used to pick up and take down Dantas, transitioning to his back as he turtled. Dantas shucked him off, but wasn't able to create separation.
In the second round, Dantas started things off with a kick, which allowed Warren to take him to the ground. Along the fence, though, Dantas was able to stand and separate. Dantas then initiated his own clinch, knocking Warren to the ground with a foot sweep and moving immediately to mount with Warren's back against the cage. Warren, though, was able to explode out the position where the two resumed fighting on the feet.
Dantas began to open up with strikes toward the later portion of the round, cracking Warren with an elbow, spinning back fist and a hard knee up the middle. Warren was able to secure a foot on a takedown attempt, but Dantas patiently waited to escape while clearly turning up the offensive pressure.
Dantas would strike first in round three, landing a three-punch combo that landed expertly, popping Warren's head back and to the side as each landed cleanly. The Brazilian also began to switch stances, but Warren was able to time a double leg in the middle of the cage where Dantas elected to work from full guard.
After a failed armbar attempt, Dantas worked his way to the cage and back to the feet. Warren, again, however, managed to secure a waistlock, which he used to plant Dantas on the mat with a backwards trip. Warren spent the rest of the round trying to work from half guard, landing a few small strikes and stifling Dantas' attempts to sweep or stand.
As the fourth round began, Warren secured a brief backtake that Dantas was eventually able to scramble out of and stand. Dantas got to work standing about halfway into the bout, scoring with another three-punch combo. Yet, Warren was all over him, attempting explosive, running takedown after takedown. Dantas was able to stuff them, but had trouble getting off the kind of offense he was attempting.
Dantas would strike the best blows of the round, cracking Warren with two knees up the middle that clearly had the American hurt. Dantas followed up with a spinning back fist, but it missed just before the bell sounded. Dantas was able to shuck off a number of other takedown attempts and a late backtake, but didn't score much in the way of strikes late.
Warren kicked off the fifth round with a double, but Dantas nearly secured a triangle choke. That created a scramble, but an awkward position where both fighters were placed on their shoulders. Warren used it to land a kick to Dantas' face, an illegal strike by the Unified Rules. Referee John McCarthy temporarily halted the action and issued Warren a verbal warning, but the bout resumed on the bout.
Once they stood, Dantas landed another hard knee, but Warren crowded the Brazilian with another waist lock. Warren attempted to take the back, only to be shucked off and nearly have his back taken. Warren exploded and separated again, but wouldn't relent with his takedown attempts. Dantas managed to stop them for getting anywhere, but never could create enough space.
In the end, the judges scored it unanimously for Warren, awarding him the contest 48-47 across all three judges' scorecards.
"Yes, that is a great opponent. I take my hat off to Dantas. I'm just honored to get an opportunity to win another belt for Viacom and Spike. Thank you, Bellator," Warren said to commentator Jimmy Smith after the fight.
"The key was heart," Warren said of his game plan. "I was going to keep pushing until that bell rang. He kept hitting me hard. I kept moving. Baddest man on the planet, baby."
As for a message for the rest of the division, Warren kept it plain and simple. "No message. You just watch me. Watch out," he said.
In the co-main event of the evening and in the toughest fight of his career, British welterweight striking sensation Michael Page squared off against Strikeforce and UFC veteran Nah-Shon Burrell.
In the first round, Page immediately took center of the cage with Burrell consistently trying to clinch and force Page against the cage. Close to the middle of the first round, Burrell even managed a takedown only for Page to immediately score a reversal and get back to his feet.
Burrell over committed chasing Page and fell to the ground, which nearly allowed Page to get his back, but both fighters were clinched on their feet when the round ended.
By the second frame, Burrell attempted to pick back up where he left off, clinching with Page and trying to press him against the fence. Page was able to nullify Burrell's offense, but wasn't able to get much going of his own. With a minute left in the round, Page was able to score an outside trip from double underhooks, but Burrell was able to stand.
In the last round, the fighters didn't do much differently than they did in the first two. Page opened up a little bit more with leaping jabs and timed uppercuts to a charging Burrell. He also blocked essentially all portions of Burrell's offensive attacks, but never managed to score a heavy blow.
In an uneventful affair, the judges scored it 30-27, 30-27, 30-27 for Page, leaving the unorthodox striker undefeated.
The second bout of the main card featured Bellator staple Alexnader 'Tiger' Sarnavskiy and late replacement Dakota Cochrane. Unfortunately for the American, Sarnavskiy controlled everything for the duration of the bout with Cochrane doing little more than surviving or responding to offense. The Russian opened the bout battering Cochrane with hard strikes from the outside, stopping
The beginning of the end came from a stinging jab followed by a jumping switch knee that forced Cochrane to turtle. Sarnavskiy pounced, sunk the rear naked choke with both hooks, leaving Cochrane no choice but to tap.
The end came officially at 2:32 of the first round.
In the opening bout of the main card, The Ultimate Fighter (TUF) and UFC veteran Bubba McDaniel squared off against Bellator newcomer and Argentine Emilino Sordi.
Sordi scored the first shot with a right hand that forced McDaniel to shoot. In the ensuing scramble, McDaniel tried to fight off the arm-in guillotine while hopping to the opposite side of Sordi to relieve in the pressure. In so doing, he actually jumped into Sordi's full guard, giving the Argentine full leverage to extend the choke.
At nearly the same time, Sorid was able to switch to the full guilotine, no arm, which forced the tap from McDaniel within a matter of seconds as Sordi cranked.
The end came officially at :58 seconds of the very first round. Full Bellator 128 results are available here.