Just In Bellator 222 breakdown: A repeat performance for Kyoji Horiguchi vs. Darrion Caldwell? MMA Life
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MMA Junkie Radio co-host and MMA Junkie contributor Dan Tom breaks down the Bellator’s top bouts. Today, we look at an interesting cross-promotional title fight at Bellator 222.
Bellator 222 takes place Friday at Madison Square Garden in New York. The main card streams on DAZN following prelims on MMA Junkie.
Darrion Caldwell (12-2 MMA, 9-1 BMMA)
- Height: 5’10” Age: 31 Weight: 135 lbs. Reach: 74″
- Last fight: Submission loss to Kyoji Horiguchi (Dec. 31, 2018)
- Camp: Alliance MMA (San Diego, CA)
- Stance/striking style: Southpaw/kickboxing
- Risk management: Good
+ Bellator bantamweight champion
+ NCAA Div. 1 wrestling champion
+ Multiple wrestling accolades
+ 2 KO victory
+ 5 submission wins
+ 6 first-round finishes
+ Athletic and explosive mover
^ Closes distance quickly
+ Steadily improved striking ability
+ Strong inside the clinch
+ Superb takedown ability
^ Seamlessly chains and transitions
+ Excellent top game and control
^ Floats and rides positions well
Kyoji Horiguchi (27-2 MMA, 0-0 BMMA)
- Height: 5’5″ Age: 28 Weight: 135 lbs. Reach: 66″
- Last fight: Knockout win over Ben Nguyen(April 21, 2019)
- Camp: American Top Team (Florida/Japan)
- Stance/striking style: Switch-stance/kickboxing
- Risk management: Good
+ RIZIN Bantamweight champion
+ Black belt karate (2nd degree)
+ RIZIN bantamweight grand prix champ
+ Multiple Shooto titles
+ 14 KO victories
+ 3 submission wins
+ 10 first-round finishes
+ KO Power
+ Fast hand and foot speed
^ Superb blitzes and lateral movement
+ Solid pocket awareness
^ Moves head and counters well
+ Improved wrestling and scrambling ability
+ Dangerous ground striker
Point of interest: Blitzing vs. countering
Serving as an interesting piece of cross-promotional candy, Bellator 222 will kick off its main card with a rematch between the promotion’s bantamweight champion Darrion Caldwell, who will be looking to avenge a loss to Rizin FF bantamweight champ Kyoji Horiguchi.
Considering that both men tend to favor fighting on the outside to stage counters and blitzes, it will be interesting to see which man decides to lead the exchanges this time around.
Despite being an accoladed wrestler who unabashedly works toward his strengths early and often, Caldwell has quietly been crafting his striking behind the scenes. Working with Alliance MMA in San Diego for the past few years, the All-American wrestler offers some intriguing offense.
Operating out of a southpaw stance, Caldwell will usually circle on the outside as he offers up different feints and fakes. Utilizing his exceptionally long frame and reach for the weight class, the 31-year-old launches disruptive jabs and crosses that can halt his opponent’s initial momentum.
Embracing his southpaw sensibilities, Caldwell also carries hard kicks that he variates between the body, head and legs. Although I don’t expect Caldwell to trade back and forth with Horiguchi, his upgraded confidence and technique point to signs of improvement.
Even in his fight with former champion Eduardo Dantas, Caldwell was able to parlay failed offense into opportunity, hitting a slick elbow off a separation that dropped his foe and helped turn the tide of the fight. Nevertheless, the American will need to be careful going against a fighter who makes his money in and out of the breaks.
Training in martial arts since the age of 5, Horiguchi shows the preternatural understanding of combative ranges you only see from years of emersion.
Effectively circling on the outside, Kyoji will masterfully blitz once finding an angle to his liking. But what makes Horiguchi an above average Karate striker is his superb pocket awareness and lateral movement, something he uses to roll underneath offense to come back with shots of his own.
The Japanese standout also wields some wicked-fast kicks and knees off of his lead leg, which could help serve as a deterrent for the looming level-changing threats that will likely await him in the Bellator cage.
Next point of interest: Wrestling in the cage
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