It was as close to a ho-hum title defense as one could imagine.
Alliance MMA’s Darrion Caldwell retained the Bellator MMA bantamweight championship, as he dispatched Leandro Higo with a guillotine choke in the first round of their Bellator 195 main event on Friday at the Winstar World Casino in Thackerville, Oklahoma. Caldwell closed the deal 2:36 into Round 1, strengthening his hold on the 135-pound throne.
Higo seemed spellbound by the inevitable, perhaps anticipating one of the champion’s patented takedowns. Caldwell executed two of them. As Higo attempted to stand following the second takedown, he left his neck exposed. Caldwell threaded his arms in place for the guillotine, moved to a mounted position on the panicked Brazilian and forced the tapout.
In the aftermath of Bellator 195 “Caldwell vs. Higo,” here are four matches that ought to be made:
Darrion Caldwell vs. Eduardo Dantas: Caldwell looks like a dominant champion in the making. An NCAA All-American wrestler at North Carolina State University, where he won a national title in 2009, the 30-year-old Rahway, New Jersey, native has made a seamless transition to mixed martial arts. Caldwell has compiled a 12-1 record -- his only loss was later avenged -- and beaten some of Bellator’s best in his climb to the top of the mountain. Dantas was among the victims, as he surrendered the bantamweight title in a unanimous decision loss to Caldwell in October. Nevertheless, they have separated themselves from the rest of the pack at 135 pounds.
Joe Taimanglo vs. Michael McDonald: The often-overlooked Taimanglo keeps plugging along at age 33. The onetime Pacific Xtreme Combat champion snapped a two-fight losing streak in the co-main event, where he eked out a split decision over former two-division Bellator titleholder Joe Warren. Taimanglo now owns a 7-4 mark under the Bellator MMA flag, with all four of his losses coming by decision. Once one of the brightest prospects in the sport, the snakebitten McDonald made his promotional debut at Bellator 191 on Dec. 15 and picked up a unanimous decision over Peter Ligier in Newcastle, England. It was his first win since January 2016.
Kristina Williams vs. Rebecca Ruth-Juliana Velasquez winner: Williams in two appearances has emerged as a person of interest at 125 pounds. The TKO Combat Sports representative battered, bloodied and finished former boxing champion Heather Hardy in her organizational debut on Oct. 20, then backed it up with a unanimous decision over Emily Ducote as part of the Caldwell-Higo main card. Williams has fought with poise and purpose thus far, and she figures to cause more noise in the flyweight division as she develops her skills further. Ruth and Velasquez will square off at Bellator 197 on April 13.
Juan Archuleta vs. Noad Lahat: Not much can be gleaned from Archuleta’s lopsided decision win over short-notice replacement William Joplin, other than the fact that he is more than just a gaudy record. The former King of the Cage champion paired repeated takedowns with ground-and-pound and positional control on the overmatched Joplin, sweeping the scorecards with 30-26, 30-24 and 30-23 marks from the judges. On a 13-fight winning streak and undefeated since suffering his only professional defeat in 2015, Archuleta serves as a welcomed addition to Bellator’s featherweight division. Lahat last competed at Bellator 188 on Nov. 16, when he pocketed a unanimous decision against Jeremiah Labiano in his native Israel.