Bellator 181 is upon us as the Winstar Casino in Thackerville, Oklahoma will be the scene for the marquee matchup, Derek Campos vs. Brandon Girtz 3. The co-main event of the evening will see Kendall Grove look to get back on track, as he takes on dangerous middleweight John Salter, who is in search of his 6th straight win. Tune in to the Bellator 181 main card on Spike TV, Friday night at 9:00 P.M. ET with the prelims streaming online at 8:00 P.M. ET.
Main Card: 9:00 PM ET on Spike TV
Derek Campos (18-6 MMA; 7-4 Bellator) vs. Brandon Girtz (14-6 MMA; 6-4 Bellator) 3: Catchweight of 158
The main event of Bellator 181 involves a rubber match between the streaking Derek Campos and the skidding Brandon Girtz. The first time these athletes faced off, at Bellator 96 in 2013, Campos earned the unanimous nod, but Girtz showed up big time for the rematch as he picked up a brutal :37 TKO at Bellator 146 in 2015.
Since their last meeting, Campos has picked up 3 straight victories, including knocking out Melving Guillard at Bellator 149, and earning a hard fought decision over Derek Anderson at Bellator 170 back in January. With a boatload of momentum behind him, will Campos avenge his TKO loss, move to 4-straight wins, and possibly enter the conversation for a title shot?
Life hasn’t been so easy for Girtz since his 2nd bout with Campos, as he underwent knee surgery following his spectacular win. Post knee surgery, Girtz dropped a unanimous decision to up and coming prospect Adam Piccolotti, and then dropped a catchweight decision to the 8.3 pounds heavier, Fernando Gonzalez, back in March of this year. With his back to the proverbial wall, can Girtz get his career back on track, and once again topple Campos to move up 2-1 in the series?
Kendall Grove (23-16 MMA; 4-2 Bellator) vs. John Salter (13-3 MMA; 3-0 Bellator): Middleweight
After knocking out Joey Beltran and Francisco France respectively, it seemed as if Kendall Grove was coming into his own with his range striking, until falling victim to a Alexander Shlemenko TKO at Bellator 162 in October of 2016. Grove was lured away from his newfound use of his length, and resorted back to the pocket brawling style that we have come to expect from “Da Spyder.” John Salter can be a dangerous threat both standing and on the ground, but so can Grove; the question is, which Kendall Grove will show up?
John Salter has been flawless thus far inside of the promotion, as he has finished each of his 3 Bellator opponents before ever reaching the third round, including a blood-soaked Triangle Choke of the former champ Brandon Halsey. The last time we saw Salter, he ran through some local talent with a swift 1:40 TKO of Claudio Annicchiarico back at Bellator 168 in Italy. Salter brings with him a kill or be killed attitude, as he has yet to endure a decision in 16 professional fights. With another impressive win, could Salter be knocking on the door for a middleweight title shot?
Jessica Middleton (2-1 MMA; Bellator) vs. Emily Ducote (5-2 MMA; 3-1 Bellator): (W) Flyweight
Emily Ducote has been one of the most active women flyweights on the Bellator roster, as she had 3 fights in 2016 and 1 fight already this year, drawing 3-1. In her last outing, a grappling clinic was on display as Ducote found top position, held it, and secured a Rear-Naked Choke on Katy Collins in the 1st round of their Bellator 174 meeting. Ducote is set to face a less experienced replacement opponent in Jessica Middleton, and will have to manage a sizable height and reach advantage. Will the heavy handed Ducote put on another stellar performance, and solidify her spot as one of the top flyweights that Bellator has to offer?
Jessica Middleton is looking to get back into the win column, as she steps in to replace Valerie Letourneau, who withdrew from competition citing an injury. Middleton will possess a 5 inch height and a 7 inch reach advantage over Ducote, which could play rather well into her rangy striking game. After suffering a 1st round submission loss to Ilima-Lei Macfarlane at Bellator 167, expect Middleton to want to keep this one standing and avoid the grappling exchanges if she can help it. Can Middleton keep her opponent off of her for 3 rounds, and straight-punch her way to victory?
Joe Warren (14-6 MMA; 12-5 Bellator) vs. Steve Garcia Jr. (7-1 MMA; 5-1 Bellator): Bantamweight
Bellator’s former 135 and 145 champion Joe Warren is returning to action following a majority decision loss to Eduardo Dantas in a Bellator 166 title fight, this past December. At the ripe old age of 40, Warren is still trucking along as a professional mixed martial artist, but instead of competing for a world title, the veteran will now be playing the role of gatekeeper to an opponent 15 years his junior. Will Warren pull from his savvy bag of veteran tricks to get himself back into the win column, or will Father Time rear his ugly face?
The 25 year old Jackson/Wink product, Steve Garcia, will get his toughest test to date, as the 7-1 prospect faces former 2-division champ, Joe Warren. Look for Garcia to want to maintain his distance from the accredited wrestler, in order to dispatch some of his unique volume while also remaining out of the way of potential takedowns. Although his striking can be a bit flashy at times, his ability to land unorthodox combos on top of his active footwork could be the winning ticket against the decade-and-a-half older Warren. Will Garcia claim his first big name and possibly add to his already 5 KO’s?
Jordan Howard vs. Johnny Marigo: Bantamweight
Rafael Lovato Jr. vs. Mike Rhodes: Middleweight
Bruna Vargas vs. Katy Collins: (W) Flyweight
Romero Cotton vs. Arron Rodriguez