Bellator returns for the first time in just over a month, with a Bellator 137 card juxtaposing the organization’s past and future. Middleweight champion Brandon Halsey makes his first title defense against a somewhat surprising foe, Ultimate Fighter 3 winner Kendall Grove. Grove has been competing in MMA professionally for nearly 12 years, while Halsey only has 8 fights to his name, but the champion is expected by most to best the resurgent Hawaiian to retain his title. Former bantamweight champion Eduardo Dantas finds himself in the co-main event against perhaps the heaviest hitter at 135lbs in all of MMA, Mike Richman. Dantas has not competed since dropping a decision (and his belt) to Joe Warren in October 2014, while Richman rides a huge wave of momentum into the bout. The former marine’s bantamweight campaign has seen only 3:30 of cage time, but he has scored devastating KOs over respected veterans Ed West and Nam Phan in that time. This should serve as a defacto number one contenders bout for champion Marcos Galvao (whom Dantas has already defeated). The oft-underrated Fernando Gonzalez brings his 3-0 Bellator to the cage against prospect Curtis Millender in a welterweight contest. Gonzalez has bested Karl Amoussou, Karo Parisyan, and Mariusz Zaromskis in those three bouts, and looks to be at his career best. Millender fell in his first real step up in competition, as Brennan Ward was able to submit him in the first round. Kicking off the main card is another fantastic bantamweight bout, as standout wrestler-turned-undefeated mixed martial artist Darrion Caldwell faces the stiffest test of his career. Rafael Silva has won 14 of his past 15 bouts, with the lone loss coming in a short-notice bantamweight title bout against Joe Warren. While the winner of Dantas/Richman will be above this victor in the 135lb title picture, either man would be closing in on a title shot with a win. MMA oddsmaker Nick Kalikas opened the betting lines for Bellator 137 today at 5Dimes Sportsbook. Take a look: ——————– MAIN CARD (Spike TV, 9pm ET) ——————– Brad’s Analysis: This is by far the easiest fight on the card to predict. Kendall Grove has managed to hang around in the sport much longer than I thought he would once he hit an initial decline after getting cut from the UFC, but he’s overmatched here. On physical skills alone Halsey could probably win this fight, but once his grappling talents are factored in he’s got a huge advantage as long as he doesn’t choose to stay on the outside with Grove. I picture a stoppage, and I think it comes relatively quickly. I’m far more torn on Dantas/Richman. On the ground Dantas has a massive edge, but I question if he’s got the wrestling to get the fight there. Even on the feet he is highly skilled (more technical than Richman), but his durability and power cannot match the American. Richman has hunted down his bantamweight opponents with malice thus far, and I expect that he has a very good chance to do the same to Dantas. If I can get +200 or higher on Richman I absolutely have to play it, and if props come out for this card, Richman ITD or Richman TKO should offer an even juicier number. Even if the line stays where it is, I’m tempted to play Richman here, as I think this is a striking battle and I like his chances there. Fernando Gonzalez has made me some money thus far in Bellator, and I think this could be another opportunity for that to happen. Millender has some good physical tools, but thus far in my eyes he looks the part of a great fighter more than he acts it (at least thus far in his career). He may be the flashier striker than Gonzalez in this fight, but he is also liable to get outworked and lose a decision. I haven’t seen a ton in Millender’s game that can threaten Gonzalez too badly, so I actually lean towards Gonzalez to pick up his fourth straight Bellator win. Darrion Caldwell has been fun to watch progress through MMA, but I think he may just narrowly avoid his first speed bump against Rafael Silva here. Silva actually has excellent wrestling in an MMA context, and was incredibly strong at 135 (he’s moving up to 145 for this fight). His only real hiccup came against Joe Warren in a five round fight that he simply ran out of steam in, but he took that bout on about 10 day’s notice. I think he’ll be able to stop Caldwell’s takedowns, or even surprise with some takedowns of his own, keeping this fight very competitive, and if we see the typical wrestler bias in the betting action, Silva could be worthy of a flier.
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