In the unpredictable world of MMA, being in the right place at the right time is often more than enough for a fighter to change the entire course of his career, and for Bellator bantamweight Anthony Leone, an unexpected shot at the promotinon’s 135-pound title is definitely that type of opportunity.
Originally scheduled as the bantamweight showdown between current king Eduardo Dantas (15-3-0) and the division’s 2013 Summer Series tourney champ Rafael Silva (21-3-0), the main event at Bellator 111 was put in jeopardy this past week when Silva suffered a knee injury during training and was subsequently forced to withdraw.
After unsuccessfully attempting to replace Silva with Joe Warren who is dealing with knee troubles of his own, Bellator CEO Bjorn Rebney contacted Leone who was anxious for a crack at Dantas and his 135-pound belt.
A pro since the summer of 2008, Leone initially stormed into the world of MMA with wins in each of his first eight bouts while fighting his way through many of the sport’s lesser-known promotions. But a meeting with current UFC bantamweight marvel Renan Barao in June of 2010 saw Leone on the wrong end of a third-round armbar, and began a miserable run in which the former journeyman lost four of five outings.
Realising that a change was needed, Leone vacated the featherweight division in 2012 in order to compete as a bantamweight, and quickly begun building a reputation in his new environment with four-straight victories.
His last time out, Leone’s winning streak came to an abrupt halt when Silva defeated the one-time Strikeforce competitor in a three-round, unanimous decision win in October of 2013 during the finals of the 135-pound tournament.
Since first winning the Bellator bantamweight title against Zach Makovsky in April of 2012, Dantas has entered the cage only twice. In his first bout after attaining the 135-pound belt, a return appearence for his former employers at the Shooto promotion cost Dantas a first-round, knockout-loss to Tyson Nam during a non-title fight in August of 2012.
Anxious to remind his fellow 135-pounders that he held the belt for a reason, Dantas earned a second-round win over his close friend Marcos Galvao in February of 2013, but due to an ankle injury, the Brazilian hasn’t fought since and will have to shake off nearly 13 months of ”ring rust” when he faces Leone,
Set for March 7th at the Winstar World Casino in Thackerville, Oklahoma, the main card at Bellator 111 will also feature the opening round of the promotion’s heavyweight tournament with bouts between Lavar Johnson (17-8-0) and Ryan Martinez (10-3-0), Peter Graham (9-6-0) and Siala-Mou Siliga (5-2-0), and Mark Holata (12-4-0) against Alexander Volkov (19-4-0).
Expected to be an exciting evening with some interesting matchups, the preliminary card will be available to fight fans on Spike.com, and the evening’s main card will be aired on Spike TV.