Darrion Caldwell Calls Title Defense Against Kyoji Horiguchi “biggest fight of [his] career”

Darrion Caldwell
Photo courtesy of Bellator MMA

Bellator MMA bantamweight champion Darrion Caldwell is extremely confident going into his rematch with RIZIN bantamweight champion Kyoji Horiguchi. Though the first fight did not go in his favor, he appears not to have let it affect him mentally. He is promising a different outcome in this fight. This time, Caldwell’s belt is on the line. The rematch goes down Friday, June 14 at Bellator 222 in Madison Square Garden.

Darrion Caldwell vs. Kyoji Horiguchi 1

The first match between the two happened on New Year’s Eve, 2018 at RIZIN 14, with the inaugural RIZIN bantamweight championship up for grabs. For the first two rounds, Caldwell used his size and superior wrestling ability to take down Horiguchi and kept his back glued to the ring canvas. The third round was going the same way until Horiguchi managed to lock in a guillotine choke and submitted him.

“It’s back to the drawing board for me. I’m not susceptible to losing, anybody can lose. It’s the fight game,” Caldwell said in a post-fight interview after the first fight.

MMASucka 2018 MMA Awards
The first fight saw Caldwell overpowering Horiguchi, but one slip up let Horiguchi lock in a guillotine choke and get the win. (© RIZIN FF)

Rematch at Bellator 222

The stakes for this upcoming fight are higher for Caldwell. He is defending his belt in his home promotion in America. Despite such pressure, the 2009 NCAA Division I Wrestling champion says his camp has been great.

“I feel great. I feel better than I’ve ever felt going into a camp. I know it’s a cliche but hey it is what it is,” he said.

He sees the fight going one way for him: taking down Horiguchi and punishing him.

“I see myself going out there and beating him up. Taking him down, beating him up. Elbowing him. Doing things that I couldn’t do the first time,” he said.

“I expect Horiguchi to be stronger, faster, and more confident in this next go around. But I’m going to shut his body off. It’s definitely the biggest fight of my career. My belt is on the line. I’m going to hold this stead down.”

Next challenger

Caldwell says if he were to win this fight, the most likely next contender would be the winner of Eduardo Dantas vs. Juan Archuleta. This fight will also take place at Bellator 222. When asked if he had a prediction to win that fight, Caldwell thinks Dantas will win.

He said Dantas is “too fast” and “he can scramble.” He can see Dantas turning it up in the second and third round.

Dantas and Caldwell have previously clashed at Bellator 184 almost two years ago. Caldwell won by unanimous decision and also took the bantamweight belt from Dantas.

Bellator 222 takes place at Madison Square Garden June 14 10 p.m. EST and will be available on the app DAZN.

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