What Next For The Bellator Bantamweight Title?
By Dan McConnell
Due to ongoing safety concerns surrounding the Coronavirus Bellator MMA recently announced that three upcoming live events scheduled for May have been postponed.
There also is a level of uncertainty with the Bellator bantamweight division right now, with no champion and the title unfortunately gathering dust for the past five months.
So let’s take a look as why this is, the division as a whole and possible matchups to compete for the vacated bantamweight title!
It all started in June of 2019, when Rizin 135-pound champion Kyoji Horiguchi made the trip to America to take on Bellator’s own 135-pound champion Darrion Caldwell. This would allow either man a chance at becoming a two promotional world champion!
Horiguchi defeated ‘The Wolf’ Caldwell by unanimous decision but later was forced to vacate the Bellator bantamweight title in November 2019 due to injury. The title hasn’t been seen ever since.
With the start of the Bellator featherweight Grand Prix in 2019, which is still ongoing and into the semi-final stages, unfortunately there has been a lack of movement within the 135-pound division with no champion to spearhead the drive.
The bantamweight division features huge names such as Darrion ‘The Wolf’ Caldwell (15-3) and Juan ‘The Archer’ Archuleta (23-3) who both have fought down at 135-pounds before.
Archuleta was recently put out of the featherweight tournament but defeated Henry Corrales last time out. While Caldwell faces the unbeaten AJ McKee in the semi-final of the 145-pound grand prix in June.
The most underrated and undefeated fighter in the division is Patrick ‘Patchy’ Mix (12-0) who in his recent fight made the trip over to Japan in December 2019, for the annual Bellator-Rizin crossover card and beat Yuki Motoya in the very first round.
Also, James ‘The Strabanimal’ Gallagher (10-1) deserves a mention who has headlined three straight cards and is currently riding a three-fight win streak. The man who handed him his first loss Ricky Bandejas (13-3) is also a dark horse in the division.
Other names to mention such as former Cage Warriors star Nathan Greyson, SBG Ireland’s Frans Mlambo, Cal Ellanor, Manny Vasquez and Dominic Mazzota round off the division.
With the conclusion of the Bellator featherweight tournament there is no doubt that the bantamweight world title will be the focus of attention and put back on the line.
With the most high-profile names in Caldwell and Archuleta considering a jump back down to 135-pounds, this can only be healthy for the division as a whole!
If Caldwell wins the Bellator featherweight tournament I would like to see him given a shot at becoming a two-division champion, and facing either Archuleta or Patrick Mix later on in 2020.
But for me Juan Archuleta v Patrick Mix is the fight to make for the vacant 135-pound title when the time is right.
However, if James Gallagher comes through the test of Cal Ellanor with the re-scheduled Bellator London card, I wouldn’t rule this possibility out of the question. Gallagher is one of the most talented fighters on Bellator’s European roster and has been rising steadily since his shock loss to Bandejas in 2018.
Upon completion of the featherweight tournament, I’m sure we will see some level of movement with the vacated title.
President Scott Coker will certainly have some magic up his matchmaking sleeve.