The memories of Oct. 10, 2014 and a unanimous decision defeat to Joe Warren still sting for Eduardo Dantas.
Dantas will defend the Bellator MMA bantamweight championship in a rematch against Warren in the Bellator 166 main event on Friday at the Winstar World Casino in Thackerville, Oklahoma. Meanwhile, undefeated prospect A.J. McKee will lock horns with Ray Wood in the featherweight co-headliner, as he looks to further his cause at 145 pounds.
Anchored at the star-studded Nova Uniao camp, Dantas will enter the cage on a two-fight winning streak. The 27-year-old Brazilian last fought at Bellator 156 on June 17, when he captured promotional gold for a second time with a lopsided unanimous decision against former teammate Marcos Galvao at the Save Mart Center in Fresno, California. Talent has never been in question for Dantas, and Andre Pederneiras protégé who owns victories over former Shooto champion Shinichi Kojima, onetime EliteXC titleholder Wilson Reis, 1996 Olympic bronze medalist Alexis Vila and ex-Bellator titlist Zach Makovsky.
Warren has been a pillar of the Bellator organization since 2010. He last competed at Bellator 161 on Sept. 16, when he submitted American Top Team’s Sirwan Kakai with a third-round guillotine choke at the HEB Center in Cedar Park, Texas. The 40-year-old has alternated wins and losses in each of his past four appearances, with victories over Kakai and L.C. Davis offset by defeats to Galvao and Darrion Caldwell. Warren was an NCAA All-American wrestler at the University of Michigan and a Greco-Roman gold medalist at the 2006 FILA Wrestling World Championships.
With the Dantas-Warren rematch front and center, here is what to watch for at Bellator 166:
Many view McKee as a star in the making.
The 21-year-old Team Bodyshop representative has emerged from the shadow of his father -- he is the son of former Maximum Fighting Championship titleholder Antonio McKee -- and carved out a place as a potential cornerstone for Bellator. McKee has won all five of his pro bouts, finishing four of them inside one round. He has not fought since he dispatched Cody Walker with a second-round guillotine choke at Bellator 160 on Aug. 26.
Wood, 27, will serve as a short-notice fill-in for McKee’s original opponent: Emmanuel Sanchez. He saw a modest two-fight winning streak come to a stop at Bellator 154 in May, when he submitted to a rear-naked choke from the unbeaten Adam Piccolotti. Wood had been preparing for a battle with Treston Thomison on the undercard.
The aforementioned Galvao finds himself on the rebound following his ill-fated encounter with Dantas and draws Davis in a pivotal bantamweight feature.
A multiple-time Brazilian jiu-jitsu world champion, Galvao has never suffered back-to-back losses in his 25-fight career. The 34-year-old Long Island MMA rep has proven to be an attritive competitor in MMA, with 12 of his 17 career victories resulting in decisions. A Shooto, World Extreme Cagefighting and Ring of Combat veteran, Galvao has rattled off seven wins across his past nine outings; Dantas was responsible for both defeats.
Davis, 36, has been a hired gun for most of his career and has spent much of his career bouncing between organizations, from Titan Fighting Championship, the International Fight League and Sengoku to Affliction, the WEC and Victory Fighting Championship. The Kansas City, Missouri native has gone 3-1 since arriving in Bellator in 2014.
In Rebuild Mode
The Chris Honeycutt rebuild has gone according to plan.
The 28-year-old has pieced together back-to-back victories over Matt Secor and Mikkel Parlo in wake of his surprising 40-second technical knockout loss to Paul Bradley at Bellator 148 on Jan. 29. Honeycutt made his MMA debut in 2013 and proceeded to go 6-0 with five finishes, surfacing as a prospect with the Dethrone Base Camp outfit in California. He wrestled collegiately at Edinboro University, where he was a two-time NCAA All-American. Honeycutt still ranks ninth on the school’s all-time list in winning percentage (.855) and 10th in career wins (130).
The once-beaten Ben Reiter will serve as Honeycutt’s latest obstacle. Reiter, who owns a gaudy 17-1-1 record, last fought at Bellator 156 in June, when he took a three-round unanimous decision from A.J. Matthews. The Nesconset, New York, native trains out of Peru.