Friday night from Bellator’s stomping grounds at the Pechanga Resort & Casino in Temecula, Calif., Bellator 137 will go down, featuring a main event of Brandon Halsey defending his middleweight championship for the first time since winning the belt in an upset last September over Alexander Shlemenko. Halsey (8-0) is something of a question mark at this point: was the upset win over Shlemenko a one-off, or is the undefeated fighter just now reaching his full potential as a mixed martial artist?

Standing against him will be MMA journeyman Kendall Grove, well known to fight fans as the winner of The Ultimate Fighter 3 in 2006. It’s a bit of a contentious pick for Halsey’s first title defense. Grove’s career never went as planned in the UFC, and after a pair of back-to-back losses against Demian Maia and Tim Boetsch, he was released in 2011. From there, he would bounce around from promotion to promotion: KSW, ProElite, AFC, GWC and others.

Then in 2013, Bellator MMA came calling. Grove was coming off a win at Global Warrior Challenge, and was a known name at a time when the promotion was hungry for name value. Though many felt he was done as a top level mixed martial artist, he has managed to go 2-1 in the promotion to date.

The debate over his title shot at Bellator 137 is essentially about whether he has done enough under the banner to warrant a title shot so soon. His two wins sandwiched a loss against Brett Cooper — who, coincidentally, Halsey defeated in the final of Bellator’s season 10 middleweight tournament to earn his shot against Shlemenko.

However, he’s a marketable fighter and one who, win or lose, will be recognizable to fans — which might boost Halsey’s profile in a win, if just a little.

Putting the booking questions aside, this should be a fun fight. As should the co-main event of former bantamweight champion Eduardo Dantas taking on Mike “The Marine” Richman as Dantas looks to bounce back after losing his title to Joe Warren in October.

Here’s a breakdown of the main card:

Darrion Caldwell vs. Rafael Silva

Opening up the Bellator 137 card is a bantamweight fight featuring Rafael Silva (22–4), whose only loss in the last four years came at the hands of Joe Warren in May of last year, taking on Darrion Caldwell (6-0), who is coming off his third straight Bellator win over Anthony Dizy in October.

While undefeated, Silva is a big step up for Caldwell. Look for Silva to come out on top in this one.

Prediction: Silva by TKO, Round 1/2

Fernando Gonzalez vs. Curtis Millender

The second bout of Bellator 137 features a welterweight clash between WEC and KOTC vet Fernando Gonzalez (23–13) and Fight Club OC stalwart Curtis Millender (7-1), who was defeated in his Bellator debut back in February by Brennan Ward. Things aren’t about to get any easier to Millender, as Gonzalez has gone 3-0 so far in his Bellator run. At the time, Millender was a short-notice replacement for Michael Page. He’ll be looking for a better showing this time out.

The problem is, Gonzalez has been overachieving of late, including a win over former Bellator welterweight tournament winner Karl Amoussou. Look for him to continue that trend Friday.

Prediction: Gonzalez by Decision

Eduardo Dantas vs. Mike Richman

Can Eduardo Dantas get back on track in Bellator’s bantamweight division, or will “The Marine” continue his winning ways? Richman (18-5) is coming off wins over Ed West and Nam Phan, with Phan arguably being his biggest conquest to date. Dantas (16–4) is 2-2 in his last four, with one of those losses being a non-title bout against Tyson Nam outside of Bellator, a situation that caused quite the headache for the promotion, which had allowed its reigning champion to fight outside the company for the Shooto Brazil bout in 2012.

This is destined to be a great scrap, but Dantas should still see his hand raised in the end.

Prediction: Dantas by Decision

Brandon Halsey (c) vs. Kendall Grove

Consider this bout a bit of a test for Brandon Halsey (8-0). A lot of questions are going to be answered about how established he can actually become as champ. On the flip side, we’ll also learn a lot about what Grove has left in the tank. Grove (21–14 (1)) has been fighting as a pro since 2003, and while he’s only thirty-two, that’s a lot of mileage.

Unfortunately for Grove, Halsey has looked better and better each time he has entered the Bellator cage. At age twenty-eight he’s just hitting his prime, and you can expect him to continue his undefeated streak here.

Prediction: Halsey by submission, Round 3

About The Author

Senior Staff Writer

Covering the sport of MMA from Ontario, Canada, Jay Anderson has been writing for various publications covering sports, technology, and pop culture since 2001. Jay holds an Honours Bachelor of Arts degree in English from the University of Guelph, and a Certificate in Leadership Skills from Humber College under the Ontario Management Development Program. When not slaving at the keyboard, he can be found in the company of his dog, a good book, or getting lost in the woods.