Bellator bantamweight champion Zach Makovsky is not one to mince words.
The former Drexel University wrestling standout defends his belt for the first time at Bellator 65 on Friday night at the Boardwalk Hall in Atlantic City, N.J. Standing across the cage will be Season 5 tournament winner Eduardo Dantas, a hungry 23-year-old produced by the vaunted Nova Uniao camp in Brazil.
Though Dantas has looked impressive in his Bellator career thus far, Makovsky speaks frankly and analytically when discussing his upcoming opponent.
“I know Eduardo Dantas is a very hungry guy, and I know he is following his dream right now,” Makovsky recently told Sherdog.com “He has had a lot of success with Bellator, and I know he is coming into this fight very confident. Eduardo has really great striking, and he is good on the ground, but I think my advantage will be my ability to take the fight where I want it. I expect him to fight back to his feet at least a couple of times in this fight. He is good about using the cage and popping back up.”
In light of Dantas’ ability to regain his vertical base, Makovsky -- known primarily for his excellent wrestling skills -- has prepared himself to engage with the dangerous “Dudu” in the standup department.
“I don't expect to be able to take Eduardo down and control him for all five rounds, and I don't want to go into the fight with that kind of mentality,” Makovsky admitted. “I think that any time you go into a fight with just one game plan and you feel like you have to fight that way, it's never a good thing.
“I have to be able to stand with him the entire fight if that is what I have to do, and I definitely think I can. I have to be careful, for sure, but I think I have the skills to deal with him on the feet for as long as I need to, especially when it comes to setting up the other areas of my game.”
In preparing for an opponent as formidable as Dantas, Makovsky was led to a place many might consider an unlikely haven -- the den of former adversary Ed West. “Fun Size” originally captured his title by besting West at Bellator 32, and “Wild” previously tangled with Dantas in the Season 5 semifinals this past October at Bellator 55.
Citing similarities in West’s fighting style when compared to Dantas’, Makovsky reunited with the cagey International Fight League veteran to ready himself for the Brazilian’s unpredictable attack.
“I went down to Tucson, Ariz., for about a week to train with Ed West,” said Makovsky. “ I thought it would be a smart thing to do, being that he has a very similar fighting style to Eduardo and also because he fought [Dantas] before. He knows what to look for, and he knows how [Dantas] fights. I figured it would be very helpful, and it was.”
Though Makovsky began his Bellator career with three decision victories in his first four fights, the 29-year-old has earned finishes in each of his last two contests -- a trick he hopes to repeat against Dantas.
“Ideally, I would like to finish Eduardo in this fight, but he is extremely well rounded, and I know he is going to be extremely tough to finish,” said Makovsky. “I think anyone can get caught and submitted or knocked out, and Eduardo is no different. The way [he] always presses forward, I think it leaves him open to some of my strikes. If I can get on top of him and pass [his guard], I think I can definitely submit him.”
However, win, lose or draw, Makovsky views his title defense against Dantas as simply another experience on his road to fulfilling his potential as a mixed martial artist.
“I love being a champion, and I want to remain a champion for as long as I can, but I don't want to put any extra pressure on myself to go out there and win this fight,” said Makovsky. “I'm always fighting to win, but ultimately I'm in this sport for the journey. Winning or losing doesn't define me as a fighter. I'm in this sport to grow and to learn and because I just love it. I'm going to just continue to focus on my love of the sport, and whatever happens, happens.”