Eduardo Dantas played to his advantages under less-than-ideal circumstances.
The Bellator MMA bantamweight champion operated behind a punishing jab and damaging leg kicks in claiming a split decision over Leandro Higo in the Bellator 177 headliner on Friday at the Budapest Sports Arena in Budapest, Hungary. Scores in the non-title bout were 30-27 and 30-27 for Dantas, 29-28 for Higo.
Dantas (20-4, 10-1 Bellator) took few risks. He pestered Higo with repeated jabs and beat up his lead leg with kicks throughout their 15-minute encounter. Dantas incorporated more power shots in the second round, where he conceded a takedown before quickly bouncing back to his feet. A replacement for the injured Darrion Caldwell, Higo (17-3, 0-1 Bellator) spent much of his time swinging at air, unable to successfully navigate the reach deficit with which he was confronted. Dantas held him off in the clinch and connected with a spinning back to the chest in the waning moments.
In the featherweight co-main event, former M-1 Global champion Daniel Weichel staked his claim as the No. 1 contender at 145 pounds with a closely contested split decision over John Teixeira da Conceicao. All three cageside judges scored it 29-28, two of them siding with Weichel (online sportsbooks).
Not everything went according to plan for Weichel (39-9, 8-1 Bellator). Teixeira floored him with a stabbing right hand in the first round, swarmed for a possible finish and later paired piercing leg kicks with two- and three-punch combinations to the head. However, the Brazilian’s pace slowed in Round 2, providing Weichel with a path to victory. He did his best work in the third round, where he countered winging power punches from Teixeira (21-2-2, 4-1 Bellator) with tight combinations, a slapping head kick and a glancing flying knee. Those who thought Teixeira had done enough thought wrong.
Weichel, 32, has rattled off four straight wins.
Meanwhile, Lena Ovchynnikova weathered a rough start to dispatch “The Ultimate Fighter 23” quarterfinalist Helen Harper in a featured women’s flyweight battle. The stoppage came in between the second and third rounds.
Harper (4-2, 0-1 Bellator) was in charge for much of Round 1, where she executed a single-leg takedown and advanced to full mount before threatening with an armbar and triangle choke. Ovchynnikova (12-4, 2-1 Bellator) escaped and dragged the match into a second round. There, she picked off Harper with straight punching combinations upstairs that left her bloodied, bruised and unable to continue following the one-minute respite between rounds.
Finally, promising Hungarian prospect Adam Borics remained unbeaten, as he submitted Anthony Taylor with a rear-naked choke in the first round of their featherweight showcase. Taylor (1-3, 1-3 Bellator) bowed out 4:12 into Round 1.
Borics (6-0, 1-0 Bellator) invested in low kicks and fought through a small cut on his forehead, just above his left eye. Taylor seemed to lose his composure after recovering from an inadvertent low blow, inviting counters with wild winging punches before a flurry from Borics doubled over the Californian and set the stage for the finish. The 23-year-old jumped on Taylor’s back, set his hooks and snaked his arms into position for the choke. The Antonio McKee protégé collapsed and tapped out soon after.