MMA fans don’t have to wait much longer for some good Bellator fights! On August 17th Sioux Falls, South Dakota, will play host to Bellator 204: Caldwell vs. Lahat. This featherweight bout will have the bantamweight Champion Darrion Caldwell move up in weight class to fight against former UFC fighter Noad Lahat in a non-title bout. Also on the card, rising stars Tywan Claxton and James Gallagher, and seven year Bellator veteran AJ Matthews.
Tywan “Air” Claxton (2-0) vs. Cris “Sunshine” Lencioni (3-1)
Claxton- Tywan Claxton made quite a scene in his first professional bout with a first-round flying knee knockout that went viral instantly!
He followed that performance with a technical fight in which he utilized his speed and wrestling to get his opponent to the ground and do enough damage in one and a half rounds to force the referee to step in and stop the fight.
Claxton is long and, I am sure you all could guess it, fast. Add in his wrestling, striking and takedown setups, and he can be a dangerous force in Bellator for some time!
Lencioni- Coming off of a unanimous decision loss in his last fight, Cris Lencioni will look to land back on the win column and derail the hype train surrounding Tywan Claxton.
Though Sunshine just lost in his last fight, it is the only professional loss of his career. Among his victories are two submission wins, as well as a unanimous decision win.
If this fight gets to the ground, it could favor the submission specialist, who also touts three additional submission wins in his five amateur fights.
PREDICTION: Tywan Claxton- TKO (RND 2)
James “The Strabanimal” Gallagher (7-0) vs. Ricky Bandejas (10-1)
Gallagher- Simply put, this kid is good. The featherweight is 7-0 inside the cage with six of those seven wins by submission.
Bellator 204 will be a little different for the 21-year-old though as Gallagher will be making his debut at bantamweight, in an attempt to get a title shot against the champion, Darrion Caldwell.
A feisty fighter out of SBG Ireland (same gym as Conor McGregor) Gallagher has had to sit for over a year since his last fight. The longest layoff of his career.
He will face promotional newcomer Ricky Bandejas, whose only loss has been via submission.
Bandejas- Ricky Bandejas is a Bellator promotional newbie, but will make his debut with a 10-1 record. The Catone MMA product has fought all eleven of his fights for Cage Fury Fighting Championships (CFFC) not losing since May of 2016.
Bandejas has a mix of knockout, submission and decision victories on his resume, showing that he is a versatile fighter. His only professional loss (as well as his only amateur loss) came by way of submission.
Facing a phenomenal BJJ practitioner in Gallagher, Bandejas will have to very aware of the submission setups every time the fight gets to the ground.
PREDICTION: James Gallagher- Submission (RND 1)
Logan “Storm” Storley (8-0) vs. A.J. “The Mercenary” Matthews (9-7)
Storley- Undefeated prospect Logan Storley will step into the co-main event slot to take on the Bellator veteran, A.J. Matthews.
The South Dakota native brings a strong wrestling background and is very good at keeping fighters pinned to their backs. Once Storm has his opponent on the mat, he throws vicious elbows and is relentless in top position.
The constant pressure that Storley can apply could be enough to stifle the offense of A.J. Matthews. Look for the takedowns to come early and often.
Matthews- A.J. Matthews is really in a slump over his last five fights, losing four of those contests. In his last fight, he was able to secure a decision victory, albeit a very close split decision.
Matthews has some highlight level knockout wins but seems to have lost his luster recently. Matthews is a pressure fighter that will take a punch to land a punch. This style is a blessing and a curse, sometimes you go viral for a soccer kick KO and sometimes you get caught yourself.
If Matthews is able to secure a win against Storley, it should give him a boost of confidence moving forward, and would get him out of the slump he has been in, and set him back on a winning streak.
PREDICTION: Logan Story- Decision
Darrion “The Wolf” Caldwell (12-1) vs. Noad “Neo” Lahat (12-3)
Caldwell- The bantamweight champion is moving up to featherweight in hopes of becoming a two-division Bellator champion.
The move up is not the first stint for Caldwell as a featherweight. He is already 6-0 at that weight, including three wins under the Bellator banner before his drop to bantamweight.
The Wolf’s only loss came at the hand of Joe Taimanglo, who interestingly enough, had missed weight for that bout. Caldwell got a little too aggressive and was caught in a guillotine choke in the opening seconds of round three.
The rematch was a dominant decision victory for Caldwell, that earned the Alliance MMA product a title shot, which he capitalized on.
Caldwell’s wrestling is phenomenal, among the best in MMA. While he isn’t known for his knockout power, his ground control has led him to six decision wins and five submission wins. As is the case of many of his fights, I expect the two-time all American to work his takedowns and ground control while he fishes for submissions.
Lahat- Having fought four times in the UFC, big stages under the bright lights do not bother Noad Lahat. The Israeli has won three of his four fights in Bellator, with his loss coming last year to Henry Corrales by unanimous decision.
The 34-year-old has a black belt in BJJ and Judo and has six submission victories. Lahat also has two knockout victories and four decisions.
With the stand up leaning slightly in favor of Neo, Caldwell is sure to look for the takedown. If Lahat can use his BJJ and Judo background advantageously, anywhere the fight ends up could very well favor the Xtreme Couture fighter!