It was supposed to be a night where former NCAA Division I national champion wrestler and top bantamweight prospect Darrion Caldwell assumed the no. 1 contender spot for a shot at Eduardo Dantas' title. Instead, Bellator 159 ended up being a reminder of the unpredictability of mixed martial arts as Caldwell succumbed to a sudden and surprising submission at the hands of Joe Taimanglo despite being dominated for almost the entirety of their bout.
Caldwell kicked things off by attempting a low single, but the Guam native read it and was able to easily walk out of it. Not thirty seconds later, however, Caldwell timed a beautiful double leg that planted Taimanglo on his back. Taimanglo attempted to stand out of it, but nearly gave his back before briefly giving up mount. 'Baby Joe' managed to find half guard and eventually full guard. Soon thereafter, Taimanglo was able to stand and with Caldwell attempting a standing kimura as a wrestling ride, Taimanglo was able to reverse position briefly and get behind Caldwell in turtle. The round would end, however, with the NC State national champion on top.
The pair would spend the first minute of the second round simply pawing at each other before Caldwell would score a jumping knee. Caldwell would attempt an outside trip after stunning Taimanglo, but couldn't make it work. Just after resetting, however, Caldwell was able to go back to the outside trip and this time it planted Taimanglo on his back. After prolonged relative inactivity, referee John McCarthy would stand both up, but only with less than thirty seconds in the round.
Seemingly out of nowhere, Caldwell attempted another low single, but instead of backing out when it failed, tried to transition to a double to start round three. On instinct, Taimanglo jumped on Caldwell's neck, secured a guillotine choke and forced the top prospect to tap just nine seconds into the final frame.
"It feel amazing," Taimanglo told Bellator commentator Jimmy Smith after the fight. "Thank you, Bellator. I know I earned that number one spot against a tough opponent like Darrion. He is blessed to be with his talent. I appreciate him coming in tonight. I know he was in line for a title, but you know, I gotta steal your thunder, bro.
"It's my time to come in, this little boy from Guam," he continued. "The Juggernaut's going to come in and represent this beautiful island called Guam. Man, it's amazing."
The co-main event of Bellator 159 was a lightweight fight between Bellator fixture David Rickels and UFC, WSOF veteran Melvin Guillard. The pair did not patiently approach one another, swinging and exchanging nearly from the opening bell. It would be Rickels who would land the more notable strikes at first, scoring with knees and overhand punches before a low blow from the hometown favorite landed on Guillard and temporarily halted the action. After action resumed, Rickels would attempt the first takedown and within tight quarters, Guillard would score two over the top elbows that dropped 'Caveman' to the mat.
From within Rickels' open guard, Guillard continued to bomb on Rickels, landing a series of crushing elbows that forced the stoppage at just 2:14 of the very first round.
Bellator also featured a women's flyweight contest between Bruna Vargas and Emily Ducote. Despite having the striking pedigree, Vargas would be rocked first as two blistering right hands from Ducote forced a clinch. From there, Ducote scored an inside trip, but in a scramble, ended up on her back. From there, however, there wouldn't be much action. Ducote would hold half guard for nearly two minutes and only locked up full with 30 seconds before the round ended.
However, Ducote picked up exactly where she left off in round two, cracking Vargas with the same right hand she scored in the first. Vargas spun on an axis as she collapsed to the mat with Ducote jumping on her back and locking in a rear naked choke to close the show. The end came officially at
In the opening bout of the night, rising prospect Emmanuel Sanchez out of Duke Roufus' gym took on perennial contender Daniel Weichel in a featherweight contest. In the first round, it was a largely even striking affair, albeit with the German sneaking through a couple of popping right hands. In terms of the ground, however, Weichel was able to briefly bring Sanchez to the mat, but the American refused to play guard and instead, found a way to his feet relatively quickly each time.
Sanchez turned it on somewhat in the second round, offering stern resistance to fewer takedown attempts and landed more strikes. Weichel, for his part, scored consistently as well. By the third frame, Weichel went back to the take down, which worked, but only as a ride as Sanchez resisted and squirmed, eventually finding his feet. The two traded for the rest of the round as Sanchez shucked off the occasional takedown attempt and threw spinning heel kicks.
Ultimately, the judges' scores reveals it was a close fight, but the split decision victory went to Weichel. The judge scored it 30-27, 27-30, 29-28.
Bellator 159 took place at the Kansas Star Arena in Mulvane, Kansas. The main card aired on Spike TV. For full results, go here.