Bellator 184 is a huge show as it pertains to shaping Bellator's future. Darrion Caldwell fully expects to be an integral part of that future after Friday night's show.
The 29-year old Caldwell isn't exactly new to big fights -- he's headlined several Bellator shows on Spike before. But at Bellator 184, Caldwell vies for the company's Bantamweight Championship against a man in Eduardo Dantas, who has twice his MMA experience and is a year younger than him. It's a far cry from fighting Shawn Bunch, Joe Warren and Joe Taimanglo, who all had a few years on him.
Speaking of Taimanglo, Caldwell seemed to be on a collision course with this title fight well before 2017. Unfortunately for him, he ran into the aforementioned Taimanglo last July. Taimanglo would lock on a guillotine early in the third round and hand Caldwell his first pro loss. Caldwell would get an immediate rematch in December and gain his revenge with a unanimous decision. When we spoke to Caldwell, he said it was a hurdle he had to clear.
"He was a fighter I knew I could beat. I had to make some adjustments. It was something I had to get back. I know I could beat anyone, and if I didn't beat him it would always stick in the back of my mind. Now Joe Taimanglo isn't someone I think about very much," Caldwell told us.
But he can't escape Joe Taimanglo just yet. That ghost will still be around to haunt his presence at least in some form -- Taimanglo is also on the Bellator 184 card. When we asked if this was a conscious effort on Bellator's part, Caldwell certainly seemed to think so.
"Yeah, I think that's possible. I'm not concerned. I feel like he's a good fighter. I don't think he's on my level, though. I know nine out of ten times I can beat that guy. It does make for a good rematch for me, though. Give me a guy I know I can beat," said Caldwell.
A tool at Caldwell's disposal is his frame. You're not going to find many 5 foot, 10 inch bantamweights with his wrestling pedigree. Comparatively speaking, his 74 inch reach puts him beyond UFC Light Heavyweight Champion (and undefeated heavyweight) Daniel Cormier's 72.5. He's only a half-inch shorter than the 205-pound king. Caldwell admitted his future may be elsewhere because of that frame.
"Bodies are weird. One day you're making 135, and the next your body is saying 'I'm not doing that anymore.' I've done well at 145 pounds, so it's not something I'm going to shy away from. Being a long, lanky wrestler always works to my benefit. I've always believed leverage outweighs bulk. I think Dantas is about the tallest, lankiest fighter I've fought, but I think I still have reach on the guy," Caldwell said.
Bellator 184 takes place Friday, October 6 from the Winstar Casino in Thackerville, Oklahoma. Fightful will have full live coverage and discussion, and will talk about the show on their Saturday night post-UFC 216 podcast.