Eduardo Dantas rendered Zach Makovsky unconscious with a second-round arm-triangle choke to become the second bantamweight champion in Bellator Fighting Championships history on April 13, a little more than two months after his 23rd birthday.
Soon, the Nova Uniao standout will learn the identity of his first challenger.
Luis Alberto Nogueira will lock horns with Dantas’ stablemate, World Extreme Cagefighting veteran Marcos Galvao, in the Bellator Season 6 bantamweight tournament final at Bellator 73 on Friday at Harrah’s Tunica Casino in Tunica Resorts, Miss. The winner earns a $100,000 payday and draws Dantas in a five-round title bout later this year.
Nogueira has posted 10 wins in his last 11 appearances. The surging 27-year-old Renovacao Fight Team member advanced to the tournament final with victories over 1996 Olympic bronze medalist Alexis Vila and Japanese import Hiroshi Nakamura. Nogueira has faced Dantas once previously, submitting to an armbar under the Shooto banner in November 2008. It remains the only time in his career he has been finished. Nogueira last appeared at Bellator 70 in May, when he knocked out Nakamura a little less than two minutes into their semifinal encounter.
A two-time Brazilian jiu-jitsu world champion, Galvao will carry a two-fight winning streak into the cage. The 30-year-old punched his ticket to the final with wins over Ed West and Jackson’s Mixed Martial Arts export Travis Marx. Galvao has secured 11 of his 12 professional mixed martial arts victories by decision. He has not competed since he outpointed Marx in their tournament semifinal at Bellator 68 three months ago.
The all-Brazilian showdown between Nogueira and Galvao anchors the lineup for Bellator 73, which airs on MTV 2 at 8 p.m. ET/7 p.m. CT. Here is more of what to watch for at the event:
Last Hurdle for ‘Diesel’
Travis Wiuff has his sights set on a rematch with Bellator light heavyweight titleholder Christian M'Pumbu, a man he defeated in a non-title matchup in October. Now, only Attila Vegh stands in his way.
Wiuff will meet the dangerous Slovakian in the Bellator Summer Series light heavyweight tournament final, as the two veterans vie for a six-figure payday and the right to challenge M’Pumbu for the promotion’s 205-pound crown. The two finalists have combined for nearly 100 victories between them.
A seasoned and brutish wrestler who has mastered the art of the weight cut, Wiuff will enter the cage on the strength of a six-fight winning streak. During his tournament run, the 34-year-old Minnesotan carved through Chris Davis in the quarterfinals and Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt Tim Carpenter in the semis. Wiuff has delivered 45 of his 68 career wins by knockout, technical knockout or submission. He owns a stellar 23-2 mark in fights that reach the judges.
Vegh moved into the final with a first-round rear-naked choke submission against Pride Fighting Championships veteran Zelg Galesic and a controversial split verdict over the talented but enigmatic Emanuel Newton. The 27-year-old has won his last seven bouts, finishing four of them.
Mixed Reviews Crossover
Cosmo Alexandre’s muay Thai credentials make him a person of intrigue within Bellator’s top-heavy lightweight division. A product of Mike’s Gym in Holland, he has competed for roughly a decade in the standup arts, but the reviews for his crossover to MMA have been mixed.
A unanimous decision loss to Josh Quayhagen in Alexandre’s debut at Bellator 52 was followed by back-to-back victories over Avery McPhatter and Lorawnt-T Nelson. The 30-year-old Brazilian needed just 20 seconds to dispatch McPhatter with knees at Bellator 58. He has trained extensively with the Imperial Athletics camp in Boca Raton, Fla., in an attempt to round out his skill set.
In his fourth Bellator appearance, Alexandre will tackle journeyman Harry Johnson. The 26-year-old Johnson has lost five of his last eight bouts but has proven dangerous throughout his career; the Tennessee native has stopped three opponents in less than a minute.
Another Spartan Emerges
Graduation day has arrived for undefeated middleweight Joe Williams. Spawned by the Respect in the Cage and King of the Cage organizations, the 27-year-old Californian will make his promotional debut against Andy Uhrich on the undercard.
An Empire Training Center stablemate of Strikeforce middleweight contender Lorenz Larkin, Williams has finished five of his first six foes. He leans on an impressive amateur wrestling background, as he compiled a 171-9 record in high school, with 104 pins. Williams later teamed with former UFC light heavyweight champion Rashad Evans and two-time UFC lightweight title contender Gray Maynard at Michigan State University.
Uhrich, who has one successful Strikeforce appearance under his belt, has rattled off four wins in his past five outings. He last competed in May, when he submitted M-1 Global veteran Joshua Thorpe with a third-round rear-naked choke on the regional circuit.