Caldwell vs. Taimanglo was supposed to be a title eliminator bout, but that changed when the Taimanglo, the unlikely winner, missed weight one day prior. Instead, Joe Warren will face Eduardo Dantas for 135-pound gold at Bellator 166 on Friday, while the Caldwell-Taimanglo rematch will headline the Bellator 167 bill on Saturday.
The defeat, the first of Caldwell’s pro MMA career, was an eye-opening experience for the former NCAA national champion wrestler from North Carolina State University. After all, Caldwell looked primed to claim his place atop the division after manhandling Warren earlier this year. However, the 28-year-old admitted that his training camp effort ahead of the Taimanglo fight was not what it should have been.
“I can’t put in 50 percent of the work and expect to be the best,” he said.
Caldwell left his previous camp, Pinnacle MMA, two days after the shocking defeat to set up shop at Alliance MMA. There was a dramatic difference between the two California-based gyms, he says.
“It was a weird situation for me, that last camp. You should never have to ask your coach, ‘When is practice?’ It should be the same time every day. It should be the same every day at the same time unless it’s an extra workout,” Caldwell said. “Just a weird situation for me where I’m coming from a wrestling background where they’re training hard every day and to where you train three times a week for a title eliminator fight. It just wasn’t right.
“I moved that Monday. I lost on Friday and I moved that Monday. I’m out here at Alliance MMA training with Eric Del Fierro, Dominick Cruz, Jeremy Stephens and Phil Davis,” he added. “Having guys like that around and seeing what they’re going through definitely lit a fire under my ass like, ‘You need to be doing more.’ You’re just doing the bare minimum.”
Now, Caldwell believes avenging the loss to Taimanglo could put him right back on track for the Bellator bantamweight title shot. In their first meeting, Caldwell likely banked the first two rounds behind takedowns and top control before succumbing to the fight-ending choke on an ill-advised single-leg early in round three. With that in mind, “The Wolf” believes he has seen Taimanglo’s best.
“Absolutely nothing [concerns me about Taimanglo],” he said. “The guy is just Joe. He has a guillotine and he’s strong and that’s it. I’m gonna break this fool.”