Rizin 14 featured a cross-promotional match between two champions. Bellator bantamweight champion Darrion Caldwell faced Rizin champion Kyoji Horiguchi in a three-round fight on New Year’s Eve. Caldwell who most recently fought, and won, a featherweight match against Noah Lahat, made it clear, that he wants to hold multiple belts. While initially, we thought he meant in different weight classes, he must have also meant in various promotions. Fight fans were informed of this decision via a tweet by Bellator’s president Scott Coker.
Sending our Alpha Wolf to
Japan 🇯🇵 – @TheWolfMMA let’s go get you another belt.
See you all NYE. pic.twitter.com/bRZdrZhk2j
— Scott Coker (@ScottCoker) November 29, 2018
However, Horiguchi was more than happy to play spoiler. The Japanese native spent three years in the UFC and had won ten fights in a row entering this contest. His last loss came to none other than Demetrious Johnson at UFC 186, where he challenged for the flyweight title.
As far as this fight goes, Caldwell did what we expected of him. He used his size advantage to keep Horiguchi at length and set up takedowns. Once on the ground, Caldwell used his superior wrestling to control the fight and mixed in submission attempts and strikes. Caldwell did lock in a Kimura that landed the two fighters halfway out of the boxing style ring that Rizin uses for their events. Horiguchi was able to escape unscathed and land a few shots of his own. But Caldwell’s ability to control the fight both at range and on the ground won him the first round (according to Ambush Sports).
The second round was much of the same. The American was able to to get takedowns, and landed some hard knees as Horiguchi was standing back to his feet. Ground control was all in favor of the Bellator champ, but Horiguchi did present a challenge to Caldwell by not just laying down. He was able to pop up multiple times and caused Caldwell to spend his time keeping Horiguchi down and not doing damage. With the majority of the second round having Caldwell in the more dominant control position, I have Caldwell up two rounds.
The third round started with Horiguchi being the ultra aggressor. Landed a hard body shot that looked to hurt Caldwell, then followed it with a left hand behind Caldwell’s ear as he attempted a takedown. Once on the ground, Caldwell’s arch nemesis reared its head. Horiguchi was able to sneak his arm towards Caldwell’s neck and cinched in a guillotine choke. Caldwell tapped seconds later. Horiguchi won via submission (guillotine choke).
This isn’t the first time Caldwell has dominated a fight only to be caught by a guillotine choke in the third frame. His only loss, previous to this fight, was a guillotine submission defeat by Joe Taimanglo at Bellator 159. Much like this fight, Caldwell controlled that fight with his wrestling, and shot early in the third round, leaving his neck exposed. Baby Joe locked under Caldwell’s chin, and the rest is history.
Bellator and Rizin expect this cross-promotional friendship to extend beyond this fight. Horiguchi should be coming to Bellator in an attempt to claim that belt. As a fight fan, I hope that Coker and Sakakibara (Rizin FF president) can make this a common thing. It will create that little extra storyline that can turn a mediocre fight into quite a big deal! Rizin 14 delivered for me, and I can’t wait to see the rematch in Bellator!
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