As Bellator MMA takes time off from its heavyweight grand prix, Darrion Caldwell will defend his bantamweight championship against Leandro Higo in the Bellator 195 headliner on Friday at the Winstar World Casino in Thackerville, Oklahoma. There, the lower weight classes take center stage.
Former two-division champion Joe Warren returns to meet Joe Taimanglo in the co-main event, while Kristina Williams steps back into the cage against Emily Ducote a little more than four months after her violent technical knockout of former boxing champion Heather Hardy.
Here are five reasons to watch Bellator 195:
1. Legacy Builder
One of Bellator’s homegrown stars, Warren climbs into the cage at age 41 looking to further stretch his already lengthy list of accomplishments. The first fighter to win Bellator championships in two weight classes, he can put himself back in the bantamweight title picture with a win over Taimanglo. Regardless, Warren has earned the respect and appreciation of his peers, and there are fewer and fewer opportunities for the MMA community to see a fighter who will retire one day as an all-time Bellator great.
2. First Line of Defense
The Bellator bantamweight crown will be on the line when Caldwell meets Higo in the main event. It serves as Caldwell’s first attempt to defend the 135-pound title -- a championship that has only been retained three times in its history. Expect some top-notch grappling work from two fighters who are known more for their submissions than their standup. Can Caldwell defy the past and become just the second man -- he would join Eduardo Dantas -- to successfully defend the bantamweight belt?
3. Second Act
Williams put herself on the map in her professional debut at Bellator 185 in October. A knockout of Hardy in which she broke the boxer’s nose and turned her face into a bloody mess transformed Williams from a virtual unknown to a commodity in Bellator’s women’s flyweight division. She draws her next assignment against the significantly more experienced Ducote. As Williams makes the switch to a seasoned and well-rounded opponent, it will be interesting to see if she can replicate the success she enjoyed against Hardy.
4. A Night of Prospects
While light on big names, the event is heavy on opportunities for prospects to make their marks. No fewer than nine fighters on the card have five pro bouts or less on their resumes. The unknowns need to grasp the spotlight to make this show a success. With that said, one of Bellator’s longtime selling points has been the chance it gives to unproven talents. Plus, this serves as a break from the recent focus on former Ultimate Fighting Championship stars -- see Quinton Jackson, Chael Sonnen, Matt Mitrione, Ryan Bader and others -- in a bid to capitalize on recognizable names.
5. Heavyweight Respite
With Bellator selling its 2018 heavyweight grand prix, it comes as a surprise that not a single heavyweight fight appears on this card. Instead, it will focus on lower weight classes, particularly the bantamweight and women’s flyweight divisions. The grand prix has entertained the masses and figures to bring Bellator the attention it seeks, but it has come at the expense of lower-weight fighters. Bellator 195 provides a respite and a welcomed change of pace.