Darrion Caldwell came up short in his bid to become a champion in two promotions, falling to Kyoji Horiguchi at Rizin 14 on New Year’s Eve.
The former NCAA national champion wrestler adopted a conservative approach, taking Horiguchi to the canvas in each round of their bantamweight title bout at Saitama Super Arena in Saitama, Japan. However, in the third stanza, Horiguchi secured a guillotine choke and forced Caldwell to tap out at the 1:19 mark of the period. With the win, Horiguchi captured Rizin’s inaugural bantamweight strap.
Caldwell, still the reigning Bellator 135-pound king, would like to get a crack at Horiguchi on familiar ground next time.
“No regrets, just lessons learned!” Caldwell wrote on Instagram. “Next time we dance in the cage. I’m still the best in the world!”
The chance of a rematch in Bellator seems quite likely. In a recent interview with MMAjunkie.com, Bellator president Scott Coker revealed the terms of the agreement he made with Rizin president Nobuyuki Sakakibara, which included Horiguchi fighting in the California-based promotion if he defeated Caldwell in Japan.
“If he goes there and ‘DC’ [Caldwell] loses, there’s a guaranteed rematch in Bellator as part of the deal,” Coker said. “And if he goes there and wins then I agree with Sakakibara that once a year ‘DC’ will go to there to defend the Rizin belt. And if Horiguchi beats ‘DC’ here, as well, then we have to have access to Horiguchi to fight in Bellator once a year to defend his Bellator belt.”
Caldwell had won four consecutive fights before his loss at Rizin 14. Horiguchi, a former UFC flyweight title challenger, has won his last 11 bouts.