Darrion Caldwell paid close attention to the Bellator bantamweight title fight between Eduardo Dantas and Marcos Galvao last month. Caldwell knew there was a good chance he'd get the winner, so he scouted it out.
Dantas ended up defeating Galvao to win the title via one-sided unanimous decision. And nothing really surprised Caldwell about how it went, he said.
"I feel like [Dantas] can be broke and he's shown that," Caldwell told MMA Fighting. "Once you start putting pressure on him, you put him on his heels, he starts to fold. That's something Galvao never did throughout the fight. He was always on his heels. That's where Dantas wants to be. Dantas wants to be the guy striking and holding up his piece. If you can eliminate that, he's gonna break."
Caldwell (9-0) will get his chance to try and prove that — provided he can get by the dangerous Joe Taimanglo in the main event of Bellator 159 on Friday in Kansas. The former NCAA wrestling champion earned the title shot after beating former champ Joe Warren by first-round submission in March. But Caldwell chose not to sit on his hands and wait for the Dantas-Galvao fight to play out, so he accepted this fight with Taimanglo.
"I don't want to sit idle," Caldwell said. "I want to fight. I want to continue to improve my game and get in the cage and show what I have. It's no need to sit around and wait. I feel like any man I'm faced with, anybody I fight, I'm gonna take them down. I'm gonna train hard to beat that guy and I'm gonna do what I have to do to get the win."
Caldwell, 28, is an über prospect, one of the best young, up-and-coming stars on the Bellator roster with a skill set matching his oversized personality. Faced with the chance of testing free agency back in the spring, the New Jersey native chose to re-sign with Bellator for another seven fights. He does not regret that decision one bit.
"They pay their fighters what they deserve," Caldwell said. "They pay me what I deserve. They've put me in a position to grow as a fighter and set myself up to be a world champion. I think Bellator knows what they're doing. I think it was a strategic move on my end, as well, to stay with Bellator. You see what's going on in the UFC, fighters aren't really happy over there. To have Bellator in my corner and want to really get behind me and make me one of their stars and their guys for the upcoming years is a blessing. I couldn't be any more happy with everything going down with Bellator."
The one thing Caldwell isn't as pleased about is not having the ability to face UFC bantamweight champion Dominick Cruz and some of that promotion's elite fighters in the 135-pound division. But he believes he'll quickly get over that.
"That aspect kind of hurts, because I do want to test my skills with those guys," Caldwell said. "I do believe I can beat those guys, I do believe that I'm the No. 1 fighter at bantamweight on the planet. And for those guys to be in another organization and the organization is considered if you're No. 1 in that organization, you're No. 1 in the world. That's not true, as we've seen with Eddie Alvarez transitioning over and winning a world title in the UFC. It does leave a little sour taste in my mouth, but I feel like with the performances I'm gonna have in a dominant manner, there's not going to be any question eventually who's the best 135-pounder in the world."
Caldwell can continue on that path Friday against Taimanglo. It won't be easy. "The Juggernaut" has three straight wins in Bellator. Caldwell, though, has never been lacking in confidence.
"He's got one-punch knockout power," Caldwell said. "He's got tools to beat a lot of guys. But I just feel like we're in a different league. I feel like if I go out there and do what I'm supposed to do and go out there and perform, I don't have to worry about that."