Bellator MMA is back with another Thursday throwdown this week as the featherweight grand prix continues. Bellator 253’s main event features Darrion Caldwell looking to gain momentum after an even 2-2 split in four bouts. Meanwhile, undefeated A.J. McKee hopes to keep his streak alive.
This bout features two high-level wrestlers. Sometimes when two fighters have backgrounds in the same style, they cancel each other out. This could become a stand-up affair. If that happens, who has the edge?
McKee is known for putting the pedal to the medal from the word go and his stats back that up. Looking at the specifics of his unblemished 16-0 record, he’s finished 11 fights or 69%. It’s a pretty even split between KO/TKOs and submission wins at 38% and 31% respectively. Eight of those 11 finishes came in the first round, the last being in just eight seconds.
The 15-3 “Wolf” Caldwell has just two finishes by throwing hands compared to six submissions, which make up 40% of his victories. If Caldwell still shoots for the takedown, that presents McKee with an opening. Julius Choi of Combat Press wrote:
“Now, the more glaring Achilles’ heel that tends to rear its ugly head is when Caldwell becomes hyperfocused on chomping down on his mouthpiece and scoring a takedown. It is during these overcommitments that he leaves himself susceptible to a submission via guillotine choke.
That’s how his fights have ended on numerous occasions, but most notably in his first meeting with Horiguchi in Japan for RIZIN.14 and in the first of the two fights he had against Joe Taimanglo. In the second fight against Taimanglo at Bellator 167, Caldwell almost got submitted again with the same technique.”
McKee, the betting favorite at -230, should get the job done. He’s well-rounded enough that predicting how he does this is the hard part. To keep things simple, OddsUSA predicts an overall finish.
Bellator 253 Betting Prediction: A.J. McKee Finishes Darrion Caldwell
McKee then wants to take both Patricio Pitbull’s featherweight and lightweight titles. Pitbull advanced to the semifinals opposite Emmanuel Sanchez after stopping Pedro Carvalho in the first round. USA Today’s MMAJunkie is currently calling Pitbull “arguably the greatest fighter in the promotion’s history.”
“That’s an easy fight,” McKee told MMA Junkie Radio. “That’s a warmup. … That’s what I’m looking forward to doing, getting that first belt out the way. I’m gonna do it like Drake said, ‘back to back.’ I want both of them, back to back. I’m gonna give ‘Pitbull’ a little warm up.
“He’s been ducking me since day one. He acts like he doesn’t know who I am or what I’m coming for. He knows that time is coming, but I’m gonna make the first fight look so easy, he’s gonna rethink the second one or his ego’s gonna get in the way and he’s really gonna want the second one. It’s gonna be another cakewalk, I told him I got that leash in the kennel, whenever he wanna go to the pound, I’m ready to take it.”
Note: After Bellator 252 ended, MMAJunkie noted that betting favorites, such as 253’s McKee, improved to 11-2 in main events. Additionally, Freire’s 11 stoppage victories in Bellator featherweight competition are tied with A.J. McKee for most in divisional history.
If things play out right, Bellator is going to put on a very fun fight in the near future.