A workmanlike performance got Darrion Caldwell his first world title.
The former NCAA wrestling champion outworked Eduardo Dantas over five rounds to win the Bellator bantamweight crown by unanimous decision in the main event of Bellator 184 in Thackerville, Okla., on Friday.
Caldwell stifled Dantas' striking with his first-rate wrestling, and while the Brazilian stuffed most of his shots with the stout takedown defense that's become synonymous with the Nova Uniao camp (and some help from the fence), "The Wolf" mounted just enough offense to pick up his second straight victory and improve his Bellator record to 8-1.
After pocketing the otherwise tepid Rounds 1 and 2 with a suplex and a knockdown off a step-in elbow, respectively, Caldwell found himself on the losing end of a scramble and rear-naked choke attempt from Dantas in the championship rounds. The Brazilian managed to cap the fight with another back take, but his glaring lack of urgency on the feet and Caldwell's incessant efforts to take the fight to the ground - despite their negligible returns - proved enough for the judges to crown a new bantamweight king with scores of 48-47, 48-47, and 50-45 for the New Jersey native.
Dantas' second reign and a four-fight win streak are halted by his first defeat in three years.