This Friday night, Nova Uniao product Marcos Galvao will return to a familiar career position as he finds himself just one win away from a shot at the Bellator bantamweight world title. All that stands between him and his title shot is a man equally hungry for his own crack at the gold in the form of Luis Nogueira. With Bellator featherweight champion Pat Curran sidelined due to a broken orbital bone, Galvao and Nogueira will take center stage at Bellator 73 as they collide in the final bout of the season-six Bellator bantamweight tournament.

While the $100,000 in prize money means much to Bellator’s tournament participants in general, the pot of gold at the end of the proverbial rainbow—the shot at the Bellator bantamweight championship—means much more to Nogueira and Galvao, as the belt symbolizes being among the best in the world at 135 pounds. Bellator bantamweight kingpin Eduardo Dantas currently holds the gold which both Galvao and Nogueira seek, and as is evident by the way both men earned their place in this bantamweight tournament final, Galvao is hungry to prove he is Bellator’s premier bantamweight come Friday night, as is Nogueira.

Looking ahead to the fight with Dantas, however, the question is, which man appears to stand the best chance to present a challenge to the champ?

The easy answer is Galvao, who trains with Dantas. What happens in the gym might prove an outstanding contrast to what happens in the cage, especially between training partners, but who else would know Dantas’ timing and aggression? Who else would know the technical mistakes Dantas makes when he fights?

Those “little things” that fighters often refer to when they explain why they disliked their performance are all things Galvao would know when it comes to Dantas. Galvao would be able to capitalize on those little things in a way that would help Galvao control the tempo of the fight with his striking, just as he controlled Joe Warren with it in his controversial loss to the former Bellator champion, and just as he did in back-to-back unanimous decision wins over Ed West and Travis Marx.

On the other hand, Nogueira would possess more ways to beat Dantas. After all, we’re talking about a man who not only has his own impressive record of knockouts—two KO’s and three TKO’s, to be exact—but also two submission wins to his credit, and both of those victories came by way of an actual submission. Dantas has been outworked once, disqualified once, and he’s been touched by fighters with some serious hands, but nobody has touched Dantas with Nogueira’s power or hand speed, and nobody has tried to implement Nogueira’s Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu in trying to force a tapout of Dantas.

Galvao is a former two-time BJJ champion, but as his record will show, he’s never submitted anyone in his career. Instead, Galvao has preferred to keep his bouts standing, which is not a problem for most fighters, but against Dantas, that suggests that perhaps Galvao may prove one-dimensional. Therefore, it would suggest that Galvao would not threaten a likely well-conditioned Dantas as much as Nogueira might.

Of course, Nogueira has shown a sound ability to break fighters down methodically through technical striking, especially when he does employ his leg kicks and combinations in spurts. But Dantas does have the movement to frustrate Nogueira and force him to play into whatever game plan Dantas prepares.

In the same respect, Galvao may have his own brand of technical striking to go with the type of cardio and pressure needed to wear Dantas out. But if Galvao fights Dantas, what are the reasonable odds that the Dantas that shows up will resemble anything close to the training partner that Galvao can recall?

Then again, these scenarios are speculation and nothing more—especially considering Dantas must first convincingly defeat Tyson Nam at Shooto Brazil 33 before focusing on the winner of this showdown.

Only until we see the most recent version of Galvao and Nogueira will we definitively set eyes upon the man who will present the most significant challenge to Dantas, and the biggest threat to the 23-year-old prospect’s hold on the Bellator bantamweight title. Until then, we must lie in wait as this Bellator tournament final closes and reminds us why Bellator really is the only organization in the world in which title shots are earned and not given.

One thing we can definitely say, however, is that there lies no question that we do have a pretty good idea as to who might be that man before we even see this final…and it’s not the man closest to Dantas…

..Or, is it?

Photo: Bellator bantamweight champion Eduardo Dantas trains for his upcoming clash with Tyson Nam (Dave Mandel/Sherdog)

About The Author

Dale De Souza
Staff Writer

Dale De Souza is a 22-year-old kid straight out of Texas, who grew up around Professional Wrestling but embraced the beauty of Mixed Martial Arts and Combat Sports at a young age. Dale is a Featured Columnist at Bleacher Report MMA, a writer at The MMA Corner.