After three weeks break, Bellator comes up with another huge event this weekend. The Bellator 259 main card holds five fights, with the fierce featherweight champion Cris Cyborg in action against “The Peacemaker” Leslie Smith in a rematch between the pair. With the main event previewed, we look at the other four fights held on the Bellator 259 main card.
Bellator 259 Main Card Preview
Co-Main Event – Bantamweight Bout: Darrion Caldwell vs Leandro Higo
Darrion “The Wolf” Caldwell and Leandro “Pitbull” Higo face off for the second time in their careers this weekend. Caldwell was the victor out of the two when Higo challenged him for his bantamweight belt back in 2018. Midway through the first round and it was all over. Caldwell’s takedown attempt paid off and after 30 seconds of getting Higo on the floor, he found the guillotine and choked him out to defend his title for the first time.
Caldwell has grown up as an athlete, he excelled in several sports like American Football and Baseball in high school. Wrestling is where he really showed his skills though, as he was a three-time state champion with a record of 148-4. He only lost one bout in his final three years in high school.
The American is a four-time Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC) Champion and a one-time NCCA Division I wrestling champion. His victory in the final was one of the most iconic in NCCA history. As Caldwell went running away doing his celebratory trademark backflip, his opponent the undefeated and number one seed Brent Metcalf was clearly not happy with his loss and the way Caldwell was going about it. When Caldwell was mid-air, Metcalf pushed him in anger and Caldwell landed dangerously on his back.
A shoulder injury affected Caldwell’s chances of getting into the USA Olympic Wrestling Freestyle Team. He competed in the trials, but he did not place. This led to Caldwell choosing the path of an MMA career. He joined the Legacy Fighting Championship in 2012 and after three fights he was undefeated, eventually being signed by Bellator.
“The Wolf” submitted his first two opponents in the promotion Lance Surma and Joe Pingitore, with neither fight going past the first two minutes, never mind the first round. He started his career as a featherweight, but in his seventh career bout, he moved down to bantamweight. He overcame Rafael Silva by unanimous decision after three rounds in his debut in the division.
His first extreme test and main event in Bellator came against former bantamweight champion Joe Warren. He eased himself to victory though, with another first-round submission and Caldwell was close to a title shot. Joe Taimanglo shocked Caldwell in the main event at Bellator 159, with Taimanglo submitting him with a rear-naked choke to hand him the first defeat of his career. Taimanglo missed weight and the two would meet each other again inside the cage five months later.
This time around Caldwell was the victor, with the judges awarding every round to him in the three-round battle. A fight for the title against the champion at the time Eduardo Dantas was next in line. He looked like utter perfection and Dantas struggled to get going the whole fight. Caldwell took him down and controlled the ground game, he even knocked him down with some beautiful striking. Caldwell became the bantamweight champion for the first time, winning via unanimous decision.
After defending his belt against Higo, he moved back up to featherweight, which would see him win against Noad Lahat in his first bout in the division. Caldwell took part in the Bellator vs Rizin inter-promotional champion vs champion against Kyoji Horiguchi. The bout was fought in Rizin and Caldwell was defeated via a guillotine choke. The two fought again in Bellator six months later, with Horiguchi victorious for a second time, becoming the first person to take the belt from Caldwell.
Caldwell would stay at featherweight and enter the Grand-Prix. After beating Henry Corrales and Adam Borics, he faced A.J McKee in the semi-final. The impressive and undefeated McKee finished Caldwell after 1:11 to knock him out of the tournament. Caldwell has since moved back down to bantamweight to face Higo this Friday!
Higo will be desperate to get his revenge on Caldwell in their rematch after tapping out in the first round in 2018. In an interview with MMAJunkie’s Nolan King back in 2019, Higo stated: “With Caldwell, although I was caught in a guillotine choke by more dangerous guys than him and didn’t get close to finishing me, sometimes that happens in fights. I had no other option but to tap.”
He spent the early parts of his career fighting in his home country of Brazil and in his first four years of fighting he built up a 7-0 record, with five submissions and two KO’s. He first tasted defeat in his eighth fight, when he was TKO’d by Marcos Vinicius Costa Silva.
In 2015, his record stood at 13 wins and two losses, he was still competing in South America and was invited onto The Ultimate Fighter: Brazil 4. He defeated Maycon Silvan in his preliminary round with a first-round arm-triangle choke. In the quarter-final, he was submitted in the first round via rear-naked choke by Bruno Rodrigues Mesquita, who was the first person ever to submit Higo. There was hope for Higo, as he accepted to replace the injured Giovanni Santos to face Matheus Mattos in another quarterfinal bout. However, the rib injury he sustained in the fight against Mesquita worsened, which forced him to withdraw.
This built a platform for Higo, and his next fight was in the United States, where he joined Resurrection Fighting Alliance (RFA). After one submission and a TKO victory in his first two fights with the promotion, he faced Joey Miolla for the bantamweight title. This fight was crazy! In the first minute, Miolla slammed Higo on his back and nearly finished him with punches on the ground. Higo worked his way back to the feet and found the back of Miolla. It only took a matter of seconds to get Miolla on the floor and for Higo to find his position. He then choked out Miolla and put him to sleep!
After the merger with Legacy Fighting Championship and Resurrection Fighting Alliance, Higo headlined the first-ever Legacy Fighting Alliance (LFA) event in January 2017. Higo and Steven Peterson fought for the inaugural bantamweight championship, with Higo being the RFA titleholder and Petersen the LFC holder. After five rounds, Higo out-struck his opponent, and all three judges scored the bout 50-45, for Higo to win the first title in the newly-made LFA.
Higo made his Bellator debut three months later as a late replacement for Caldwell, where he faced bantamweight champion Dantas in a non-title bout. Two judges scored the bout 30-27 to Dantas, whilst one judge scored Higo the winner 29-28. Higo fought well but lost his promotional debut by a split decision. He bounced back with his first promotional victory in an impressive performance winning via unanimous decision against Taimanglo.
The first loss to Caldwell would see him step up to the featherweight division to face Aaron Pico. His attempt at conquering the division failed in the first round. A stunning elbow from Pico wobbled Higo to the ground and two punches would see the fight stopped. It was a horrid start to Higo’s Bellator career, but two submission victories in his last two fights against tough opponents Shawn Bunch and Ricky Bandejas have made him a threat again in the bantamweight division.
Middleweight Bout: Fabian Edwards vs Austin Vanderford
Fabian “The Assassin” Edwards has been displaying his skills in Bellator since his professional debut in 2017. He put on a show against Rafal Cejrowski in his first bout, a flying knee to the face was enough to finish his opponent inside the first round. Edwards is Jamaican-born, and he moved to Birmingham when he was seven years old with his family and his notable brother, UFC welterweight Leon Edwards.
Edwards fought nine amateur fights in the space of 17 months, before turning pro. He turned professional as an undefeated amateur, finishing eight of his nine opponents. Seven of these TKO/KO’s came inside the first round. Edwards fought in British promotion BAMMA after his first fight in Bellator. In his four fights with the promotion, he came away with four finishes, in which three of those make up the only three career submission finishes on his record.
He returned to Bellator to face Lee Chadwick in February 2019, as Edwards was looking to become a force in the middleweight division after being so impressive with his striking and ground game. Chadwick was the first person to take Edwards to a decision, but the judges scored the fight in Edwards’ favor, who won unanimously.
Edwards was on a roll, with an undefeated record of 6-0. His next opponent Falco Neto Lopes was all over Edwards on the ground, taking him down and controlling him inside the first round. With just over a minute to go in the first, Lopes stood up, whilst Edwards was still on the ground. Edwards was clever and he up-kicked Lopes, which connected cleanly to the face. He did it once more, then a third time wobbled Lopes and Edwards flew to his feet and knocked him out with his fists. It was an extraordinary finish!
The undefeated record was almost taken from the Englishman Mike Shipman in an extremely close affair. The two shared some beef in the face-off, when Edwards put his arm in the face of Shipman, causing things to escalate from there. They certainly took the beef into the fight, with Edwards winning via split decision, which savored his record of 9-0.
At Bellator Milan in September 2020, Edwards was defeated. His competitor was Costello van Steenis, who took the victory by split decision. In a close first round, van Steenis edged the striking and landed several leg-kicks. In the second, van Steenis controlled it on the ground, and in the third, it was the other way round with Edwards controlling from the back. The bout could’ve gone either way, but Edwards faced the defeat.
Austin “The Gentleman” Vanderford has been a ruthless competitor since his amateur days, where he was undefeated in four fights before he turned pro. He’s continued his unbeaten streak into his professional career, with him currently holding 10 wins and no losses on his record.
Vanderford is known for his brilliant ground game, as he is a former 2-time NAIA All-American and National Champion wrestler. He’s also married to Bare Knuckle Fighting Championship (BKFC) star Paige VanZant. He started his professional career in 2017, and his first four fights came in four different promotions. The results were the same though with Vanderford coming away victorious on every occasion.
In his fifth fight, Vanderford appeared on Dana White’s Contender Series Season 2 Episode 5. In an impressive submission victory over Angelo Trevino. Dana White chose not to sign Vanderford for the UFC. In an interview with MMAJunkie’s Steven Marrocco in February 2019, Vanderford declared things worked out for the better him signing for Bellator and not the UFC. Vanderford stated: “I think this is the perfect fit for me, and I love the promotion. I love the way they treat fighters and everything Bellator stands for. I feel like they’re looking out for their fighters more.”
At Bellator 215, Vanderford made his promotional debut against Cody Jones. With 11 seconds left in the first round, the domination on the ground from Vanderford paid off, with him finding the arm-triangle choke to finish the fight. He completely destroyed Joseph Creer in his next fight, with the doctor stopping the fight at the end of the second round. Vanderford sat on top of Creer and landed ruthless elbows and punches throughout the two rounds.
Vanderford’s previous two fights have gone to a unanimous decision against Grachik Bozinyan and Vinicius de Jesus. With Vanderford ranked third and Edwards placed fourth, this is the perfect match-up and we’re going to see one hell of a fight. Vanderford will look to use his wrestling skills, whilst Edwards will surely look to stay on the feet. The winner of this one could see a title fight next on the cards against current champion Gegard Mousasi.
Welterweight Bout: Jaleel Willis vs Maycon Mendonca
Jaleel “The Realest” Willis looks to earn his third victory in the promotion after first making his first appearance at Bellator 162 in October 2016. After three rounds, Willis came on top against Omar Johnson, winning on a unanimous decision. He didn’t compete again in the promotion up until his last fight against Mark Lemminger at Bellator 253. Willis edged the judges’ scorecards with all three scoring it 29-28 after an extremely close affair.
In 2012, Willis started his amateur career and won his first four fights before turning professional in 2014. Willis TKO’d four of his first five opponents and not once did it go past the 1:30 mark in the first round. His following three fights all ended in a decision before he signed up for LFA in 2018.
Willis headlined his first fight in LFA against Kyle Stewart. After a tight affair, Willis lost the fight on a majority decision, meaning his undefeated record was gone in his ninth fight. Another first-round victory for Willis came in his next fight in LFA against Chel Erwin-Davis, but he was TKO’d for the first time against Harvey Park seven months later.
The American worked hard to get his career back on track, and after beating new UFC prospect Dakota Bush, he found two more victories in separate promotions before he came back and fought De Jesus for the LFA welterweight title. In a back and forth battle Willis became the champion, grabbing the vacant belt on a unanimous decision.
Willis was supposed to make his return to Bellator competing in lightweight against Patricky “Pitbull” Freire at Bellator 249. On the night of the event, Freire was diagnosed with Labyrinthitis. Willis then competed a month later, where he beat Lemminger.
Maycon Mendonca is looking more ruthless than ever, with Bellator signing up the Brazilian after he won the LFA welterweight title against Batsumberel Dagvadorj in December 2020. The fight was an absolute brawl from the second it got going, with it being a 2020 “Fight of the Year” nominee. After the five rounds, Mendonca won on a unanimous decision.
Mendonca is a quality striker and he showed it in his title fight, where he now has 4 career TKO/KO’s in his 11 victories. He held a 6-1 record going into LFA in 2017, with his only loss in his first professional fight in 2013 against Emanuel de Oliveira Lopes. He couldn’t have had a worse start in the promotion, losing his first three fights, and being knocked out twice. One of those came in 27 seconds against current UFC welterweight Christian Aguilera.
After a year break from competing, in January 2019, he got back to winning ways over Joshua Moreno. This mounted his charge towards gold in the LFA welterweight division. Three more wins including a submission victory over Kassius Kayne and knocking out Devin Smyth seen him face Dagvadorj for the title.
We’re expecting fireworks between Willis and Mendonca with both fighters on a five-fight win streak. We know they’re both strikers so it’s expected to stay on the feet, with Mendonca the only one with a submission finish.
Light-Heavyweight Bout: Christian Edwards vs Ben Parrish
Christian Edwards is one of the biggest prospects Bellator has to offer. The 22-year-old signed a five-fight deal with the promotion before he even made his professional debut. He competed in three amateur fights, finishing all of his opponents in under two minutes. He also became the Rage in the Cage Amateur Light-Heavyweight Champion in his third bout.
Edwards is a six-foot-five hassler, he chases down his opponents and puts extreme pressure on them till he gets the finish. He stopped wrestling after the sixth grade, stopped playing sports altogether, and instead became a home-schooled mixed martial artist, which has got him to where he is today.
His first professional fight came at Bellator 224 against Justin Vargas. The fight only lasted 54 seconds, with Edwards hammering Vargas with elbows and punches before the referee stopped the fight. In his second bout, came one of the most stunning and satisfying head-kicks we’ve ever seen. Edwards finished Cesar Bennett after 16 seconds.
Edwards dominated DiMarcco Hutchison in his first decision victory, whilst he came up with his first submission in his last fight at Bellator 249 over Hamza Salim.
Ben “Big Tuna” Parrish makes the walk on Friday for the first time since his TKO loss to Logan Woods at Summit FC 33, where a nasty leg injury to Parrish stopped the fight. This was a year and a half ago and ring rust could play the part for Parrish when he comes up against a lethal opponent like Edwards on Friday night.
Parrish became the Summit FC light heavyweight champion in his fourth fight against Teddy Holder. He submitted him with a rear-naked choke after 1:46 in the first round. This was his fourth fight and submission before he lost his undefeated record to Woods. The belt was not lost to Woods though, because they fought at Catchweight (195lbs).
It’s a big risk for Parrish to come back after so long and face a prospect like Edwards, but a victory would do absolute wonders for Parrish’s career. We may not see this go past the first round, so remember this will be the first fight on the Bellator 259 main card.
Which fight are you most looking forward too on the Bellator 259 main card? Let us know in the comments below!