At 40 years old, the odds are against Alexis Vila becoming a force in MMA. But the Cuban-born Olympic freestyle wrestler is just one win away from winning Bellator's current 135-pound tournament and running his record to a perfect 12-0 in the process.
A man 18 years his junior -- Eduardo Dantas -- stands in his way and the former Shooto champion is looking to complete his first run in a Bellator tournament with a big win.
Vila (11-0) and Dantas (12-2) meet Saturday in the co-main event of Bellator 59 in Atlantic City, New Jersey, the promotion's final event of 2011.
Vila represented Cuba in the 1996 Olympics, taking home a freestyle wrestling bronze medal in the light flyweight division along with medals in several World Championships and the Pan-Am Games in the early-to-mid 1990s. After defecting to the United States in 1997 and later serving a three-year prison term, the American Top Team member debuted in December 2007 and ran up a 9-0 record on regional shows before being signing with Bellator earlier this year.
Despite being 22, Dantas also started in 2007 and competed mainly in Shooto in both Brazil and Japan before getting inked by Bellator. Dantas competed for the Shooto 132-pound title in 2009 and lost a decision to Masakatsu Ueda -- one of just two career losses. He comes into Saturday on a five-fight win streak.
How do these two stack up?
Vila: 40 years old | 5'4" | Preferred form of win: knockout (63%)
Dantas: 22 years old | 5'10" | Preferred form of win: decision (42%)
Before his decision victory in the semifinals, Vila had won six straight by T/KO and hasn't been past the second round in three years. While the majority of Dantas' wins are by decision, seven of his wins have come via T/KO or submission and before the West victory, he had finished straight four opponents.
How did these two get here?
In the tournament's opening round in late-September, Vila knocked out current 145-pound champion Joe Warren in 64 seconds, while Dantas knocked out Wilson Reis in 62 seconds with a flying knee strike. In the tournament's second round in late-October, Vila was on the right side of a controversial split decision win over Marcos Galvao, while Dantas also won a close split decision over Ed West.
Why should you care?
Makovsky needs quality opponents and either man will give him a run for his title. The story here is really Vila due to his age and his story, but a great fight could help create another two solid names that will be part of their bantamweight division for the next few years. One X factor? Dantas' six-inch reach advantage.