They are former training partners whose chosen profession has made them enemies once again.
The Bellator MMA bantamweight title will hang in the balance when champion Marcos Galvao meets challenger Eduardo Dantas in the Bellator 156 headliner on Friday at the Save Mart Center in Fresno, California. The Brazilians will front a four-fight main card that features a welterweight tilt pitting onetime Tachi Palace Fights titleholder Chidi Njokuani against Thiago Jambo Goncalves in the co-main event and a pair of middleweight battles, as Brandon Halsey faces John Salter and Chris Honeycutt confronts Mikkel Parlo.
Galvao has rattled off four straight wins since his technical knockout loss to Dantas at Bellator 89 a little more than three years ago. The 33-year-old Long Island MMA rep last competed at Bellator 135 in March 2015, when he submitted Joe Warren with a second-round kneebar to capture gold at 135 pounds. It was the first submission victory of the multiple-time Brazilian jiu-jitsu world champion’s 24-fight MMA career. Galvao owns a 7-3 record inside Bellator.
Spawned by the same Nova Uniao camp at which Galvao once trained, Dantas has posted three wins over his last four outings, a unanimous decision loss to Warren the lone setback. The 27-year-old last appeared at Bellator 137 some 13 months ago, when he took a unanimous verdict from Mike Richman. Victories over Shinichi Kojima, Wilson Reis, Zach Makovsky and Alexis Vila anchor the Dantas resume.
With the Galvao-Dantas rematch as the centerpiece, here is what to watch for at Bellator 156:
Halsey has a reputation to repair.
The 29-year-old HB Ultimate standout will fight for the first time since surrendering the Bellator middleweight championship to Rafael Carvalho in October, when he was victimized by a second-round body kick. Halsey wrestled collegiately at Cal State Bakersfield, where he was a Pac-10 Conference champion (2007) and NCAA All-American (2009). His .788 career winning percentage ranks 22nd and his 16 career pins rank 27th on the school’s all-time leaderboard. Halsey had started his run in MMA at a perfect 9-0 prior to his ill-fated encounter with Carvalho, including victories over “The Ultimate Fighter” Season 3 winner Kendall Grove, Alexander Shlemenko and Brett Cooper.
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Ultimate Fighting Championship washout John Salter has been tasked with opposing Halsey. The Gardendale, Alabama, native also has a successful background in amateur wrestling upon which to lean, having won a national championship in 2007 at Lindenwood University, an NAIA school in St. Louis. Salter, 31, has gone 6-1 since being released by the UFC following a submission loss to Dan Miller in 2010. All 14 of his pro fights, 11 wins and three losses, have resulted in finishes.
Trouble with the Curve
The learning curve has grown a little steeper for Njokuani.
The 27-year-old Resurrection Fighting Alliance veteran will enter his co-main event against Pitbull Brothers rep Thiago Jambo Goncalves on the strength of a four-fight winning streak. Njokuani made a successful promotional debut at Bellator 146 on Nov. 20, when he claimed a three-round unanimous decision from Ricky Rainey at the Winstar World Casino in Thackerville, Oklahoma. He has not lost a fight since March 2013.
Goncalves, 35, has won six of his past seven bouts. He last fought under the World Series of Fighting banner a year ago, when he stopped Matt Baker on a second-round technical knockout. A replacement for Douglas Lima, Goncalves has honed his skills inside the Pancrase, Jungle Fight and Cage Warriors Fighting Championship promotions.
Bellator it seems has not yet determined the ceiling for Honeycutt.
The 27-year-old Dethrone Base Camp export rebounded from his first professional setback -- a 40-second technical knockout loss to Paul Bradley -- with a unanimous decision over Matt Secor at Bellator 153 on April 22. Honeycutt boasts five finishes among his seven victories. He was a two-time NCAA All-American wrestler and 2012 national finalist at Edinboro University in Pennsylvania, where he holds the sixth-best winning percentage (.855) and seventh-most career wins (130) in school history.
Parlo, 26, has proven a difficult puzzle to solve throughout his career. A finalist in the Bellator Season 9 middleweight tournament, the well-rounded Dane has pieced together a modest two-fight winning streak since succumbing to second-round punches from Brennan Ward in late 2013. Parlo last appeared at a German MMA Championship event on Nov. 7, when he pocketed a unanimous verdict against Abusupiyan Magomedov.