Darrion Caldwell, 30, boasts an impressive 12-1 professional record and will ride a three-fight winning streak into his latest assignment, as the reigning Bellator MMA bantamweight champion moves up to 145 pounds to face Noad Lahat in the Bellator 204 main event on Friday at the Sanford Pentagon in Sioux Falls, South Dakota.
Ahead of Caldwell’s showdown with Lahat, here are five things you might not know about him:
1. He is a talented sportsman.
Caldwell excelled at baseball and football at Rahway High School in Rahway, New Jersey, but the wrestling Mat was where he really shined. He was a three-time state champion, compiled a 146-4 record and lost only one match in his final three years of high school. Caldwell went on to become an All-American at North Carolina State University, where he completed his career with a remarkable 109-13 record. During his 2008-09 campaign, he finished with a 38-1 mark on his way to becoming an NCAA champion at 149 pounds.
2. He is a fan of the suplex.
Caldwell utilizes numerous techniques from his amateur wrestling background in the cage. However, one stands out in particular: the suplex. This signature move has come to epitomize Caldwell. His most notable employment of the technique in an MMA fight was early in his bantamweight title-winning clash with Eduardo Dantas at Bellator 177. “The Wolf” even managed to pull off the maneuver on 2006 Greco-Roman wrestling world champion Joe Warren at Bellator 151. More evidence of Caldwell’s infatuation with the suplex came in the form of an instructional video he posted to Twitter in which he broke down the move in intricate detail.
3. Injuries are not foreign to him.
Caldwell has endured a number of ailments, particularly those involving his shoulder. He missed much of the 2009-10 wrestling season due to shoulder surgery, and in 2011, he suffered another shoulder injury in the second match of the NCAA championships -- a development that scuttled his chances for a second national title and ended his college career. Injuries also derailed his attempts to qualify for the 2012 United States Olympic team. Although Caldwell competed at the trials, he was not fully recovered from surgery and was eliminated in the third round.
4. He should probably avoid backflips.
Considering his obsession with the suplex, it should come as little surprise that Caldwell is also an avid back flipper. The supple athlete has been executing the impressive stunt since his youth. A self-proclaimed adrenaline junky, Caldwell confessed in an interview to performing one while roller skating in his teens. However, his antics have not always gone according to plan. As a 2009 NCAA wrestling match with Brent Metcalf was nearing its end, Caldwell, confident in victory, started an early celebration that consisted of a handspring and his customary backflip. The whistle had just sounded when Metcalf pushed Caldwell while he was in mid-air, causing him to fall heavily on his back. Fortunately, he was unscathed and jumped to his feet to continue celebrating. Fast forward six years to Bellator 143. Following his submission win against Shawn Bunch, Caldwell delivered a backflip off the top of the cage, landed on a camerawoman and knocked her to the ground. Luckily, she was not injured. Caldwell was extremely apologetic.
5. He never had an amateur fight.
Caldwell intended to compete at the 2012 Olympics, but he was still recovering from a freak roller-skating injury and did not make the cut. Despite the setback, he had a burning desire to compete, which led to his decision to transition to mixed martial arts. Having opted against an amateur career, he made his successful professional debut at Legacy Fighting Championship 14 in September 2012.