Darrion CaldwellThe 2009 NCAA champ for North Carolina State won the belt Friday night at Bellator 184 at WinStar World Casino and Resort in Thackerville, Okla. by earning a unanimous decision over defending champ Eduardo Dantas in the evening's main event.
All three cageside judges scored the five-round title bout in favor of Caldwell, 48-47, 48-47 and 50-45.
In describing how the former collegiate mat champ won his Bellator belt, MMAJunkie.com reported, "Caldwell, who'd most recently avenged his sole career loss by beating Joe Taimanglo at Bellator 167, wrestled his way to his career's biggest win yet."
"Darrion Caldwell had a game plan and he stuck with it," the website added.
Sherdog.com concurred, opening its coverage of the headline event thusly: "Darrion Caldwell fought his fight."
MMAFighting.com was a bit more cautious in its assessment of the Caldwell-Dantas title fight, writing, "It wasn't the most dominant performance, but the 29-year-old Caldwell mixed in his wrestling with a steady diet of leg kicks to earn the nod, with one judge rewarding him a lopsided score of 50-45."
(In its live play-by-play account of the bout, Sherdog.com had Caldwell winning three rounds -- first, second and fifth, each by the score of 10-9 -- for a final score of 48-47.)
The closeness of the final scoring may be indicted by this statement from MMAJunkie.com.
"While Dantas did a good job at defending relentless takedown attempts -- granted, with the occasional help from the fence -- the time spent trying to escape the challenger's grip meant less offense on his end.
"The result was a five-round contest in which neither fighter gave up -- but that could have used more urgency by Dantas in the fifth."
Close or not, after winning the title, the newly crowned champion Caldwell posted this message on his TheWolfMMA Twitter account : "Thanks to my family, friends, teammates and sponsors. Hard work pays off!"
With the win, Caldwell not only won the Bellator bantamweight belt, but also improved his record to 11-1 overall, and 8-1 in Bellator competition… while Dantas fell to 23-3 overall, and 10-2 in Bellator.
Prior to entering MMA competition in September 2012, Darrion Caldwell was a two-time NCAA Division I All-American at N.C. State, winning the 149-pound title at the 2009 NCAAs with a stunning win over defending champ Brent Metcalf of the Iowa Hawkeyes in what the late amateur wrestling historian Jay Hammond considered to be one of the three biggest upsets in NCAA finals history. Caldwell was named Outstanding Wrestler for that tournament.
Caldwell launched his professional MMA career in September 2012.