Eduardo Dantas has recorded seven wins in his last eight outings. | Photo: Dave Mandel/Sherdog
Highlighted by a bantamweight title headliner and the Bellator MMA Season 8 middleweight tournament quarterfinals, Bellator 89 takes place on Thursday at the Bojangles Coliseum in Charlotte, N.C. The main draw airs live on Spike TV, while the preliminary card streams immediately prior on Spike.com. Here is what to watch for when you those of you who do not have significant others tune in for Bellator 89:
Fans of Eduardo Dantas must have been shocked.
Here was a 23-year-old champion coming off a dominant, title-winning performance against the highly regarded Zach Makovsky taking what essentially amounted to a tune-up fight against unheralded Tyson Nam at a Shooto Brazil event. The only problem was that somebody forgot to tell Nam he was supposed to lie down.
In hindsight, Dantas’ decision to take such a fight looks like a head-scratcher, but that is only because of the unfavorable result brought on by the Brazilian’s apparent in-cage attitude. Am I crazy, or was “Dudu” projecting an air of Cobra Kai arrogance in that fight? Where were the razor-sharp strikes, the careful defense, the footwork and the angles and the controlled -- not expectant -- aggression?
Instead of applying the approach that navigated him to Bellator’s title, Dantas appeared totally unconcerned with Nam’s abilities, leading with lunging knee strikes several times. Each time Dantas did so, Nam tried to counter with a right hook over the top. Low and behold, one of those counters landed after a particularly aggressive flurry from Dantas just 96 seconds in.
Now five months removed from the devastating knockout, what has Dantas learned from the setback? Will we see a return to form from “Dudu” when he defends his bantamweight belt for the first time against fellow Nova Uniao representative Marcos Galvao?
Not Such a ‘Sweet Swede’
Remember last year, when Andreas Spang made headlines by nearly starting brawls with two future opponents on two separate occasions? I have no idea what Bellator CEO Bjorn Rebney said to Spang after he shoved both Brian Rogers and Maiquel Jose Falcao Goncalves and jeopardized the conclusion of Bellator’s Season 6 middleweight tourney, but I like to think that speech went something like this:
“Look, Andreas. We know you like to shove people when they get up in your Swedish meatballs, and we respect that. We totally respect that. Brian and Maiquel are big, magical guys, and I know the qualitative level of risk you must have felt when you decided to almost ruin our tournament -- twice -- simply because they stood a little too close to you. In other words, they tried to take a nibble off your lingonberry pancakes, and rather than just tell them to back off, you nearly incited a full-on s---storm of violence that would have totally wrecked every scrap of momentum we had tried to build. In the heat of the moment, I probably would have done the same thing. Even so, Andreas, I have to let you know something. I promise you, so help me God, that if you ever pull that Jason Miller s--- on me again, I will dig a hole in the California desert, bury you up to your neck and leave you to the buzzards with nothing but a small, magical flute placed carefully between your lips so you can ward off any evil spirits that may try to carry your doomed soul past Hades and down into the unspeakably terrible Tartarus. Are we clear?”
For legal purposes, I think I am required to say that in no way is that an actual transcript of any speech that Rebney may or may not have given. Still, I hope that somebody got in Spang’s ear and let him know that such behavior will simply not fly in the big leagues. Bottom line: the “Sweet Swede” owns a dynamite left hook and always brings it hard in spite of his cardio issues. If Spang comes to fight in shape, keeps his chin down and stays away from any pre-fight tomfoolery, he could be a serious contender to win the Season 8 tournament. The first act of that hypothetical begins when Spang collides with former World Extreme Cagefighting light heavyweight champion Doug Marshall.
Even if Rogers is not your favorite fighter, you have to feel a little bad for “The Professional Predator.”
The 28-year-old is one of the most aggressive fighters Bellator has under contract, and were it not for the ungodly power in Spang’s left hand, I think there is a good chance Rogers would have won the Season 6 tournament and secured his rematch with unbreakable Russian Alexander Shlemenko for the vacant middleweight title.
Rogers is the classic example of a talented, highly watchable fighter who just cannot seem to get over the hump. Now in his third tournament try, the former owner of MMA’s premier set of dreadlocks takes on American Top Team talent Dan Cramer. In my opinion, Rogers should be regarded as the clear-cut favorite to win not just this fight but the entire tournament.
Can he take a successful first step against Cramer on his path to a long-awaited $100,000 payday and a guaranteed title shot?