Bellator 184's Steve Kozola ready for big fights – but needs the big money, too

Steve Kozola is ready to break into the elite tier of the Bellator lightweight division. Before he does that, though, he is seeking greater compensation from the organization.

Kozola (8-0 MMA, 3-0 BMMA) is rising up the divisional ranks and will take another step forward if he can get past Carrington Banks (6-0 MMA, 2-0 BMMA) on Friday at Bellator 184, which takes place at WinStar World Casino and Resort in Thackerville, Okla., with a main card that airs on Spike following prelims streamed on MMAjunkie.

With two fights remaining on his current Bellator deal, Kozola said he’s ready to fight out his contract if necessary. However, if he does that, he believes he will continue to get mid-tier competition. In order for him to step in the cage against some of the bigger names at 155 pounds, he said a better deal is in order.

“Under this contract, it’s not reasonable for me, from a business perspective, to fight those top guys,” Kozola told MMAjunkie. “Let’s renegotiate, let’s put the right amount of money in my pocket so I can take care of my family and then we can fight these big names like Josh Thomson, Benson Henderson, Patricky ‘Pitbull’ (Freire) and all these top guys out there. I truly believe I can compete, and not only compete, but win decisively against any one of them and be a champion in this division.”

Kozola has the utmost confidence he could give Bellator its monies worth, and his track record to this point shows why. Kozola has earned all eight of his career victories by stoppage, with five of those wins coming inside the opening round.

An argument can be made Kozola hasn’t been tested enough, and that’s why he’s been able to put opponents away in such a one-sided fashion. That may be true, but Kozola said it’s more about how he approaches the fight.

“I don’t prepare to go three minutes,” Kozola said. “I prepare to dominate. So whether it’s in the first, second or third round, my goal is always to finish and win decisively and in impressive fashion so I can get in there and get out healthy and get ready for the next one.”

The only thing somewhat bothersome for Kozola going into Bellator 184 is the fact his fight with Banks won’t be seen by as many people as it could. The matchup is tucked away on the prelims, which Kozola said is somewhat disappointing, even if he understands why.

“I was a little bit just because with my last performance being as good as it was, I thought the whole prelim thing would be done with,” Kozola said. “But when I was looking at the main card and seeing all the fighters on it, these guys have 20-plus fights. They deserve to be where they are. They’ve put in the time and put in those miles. Respect to them. They deserve their spot. I’ll just keep on putting on devastating performances and be entertaining and I’m sure Bellator will find a spot for me on the main card permanently after this fight.”

Regardless of what time or which platform the fight airs on, Kozola said it’s not going to change how he performs. He intends to go into the cage and made a statement against Banks, the same way he’s done against his previous eight foes.

“I’m going to go in there and assert myself as one of the top guys in this division,” Kozola said. “I’m ready for a top-five contender, for sure.”

For more on Bellator 184, check out the MMA Rumors section of the site.

Filed under: Bellator, News
Source: MMA Junkie

5 reasons to watch Bellator 184 with all its title implications at bantamweight, featherweight

Bellator returns to Oklahoma on Friday for Bellator 184, a card heavy on former champions, fighters with championship aspirations, and in the main event, one current champ defending his title.

In the headliner, Eduardo Dantas puts his bantamweight belt on the line against up-and-coming Darrion Caldwell. If Dantas proves victorious, he will leave the cage with six title-fight victories, the most in Bellator history.

In the co-main event, two-time featherweight champion Daniel Straus looks to get back into the title mix against Emmanuel Sanchez.

Before the headlining bouts, two-time featherweight champion Pat Curran ends a long break against John Teixeira, who was one scorecard away from possibly earning a title shot in his most recent fight.

Bellator 184 takes place at WinStar World Casino and Resort in Thackerville, Okla. The main card airs on Spike following prelims on MMAjunkie.

Here are five reasons to watch the event.

1. I see what you did there

Self-belief is wonderful. In a sport like MMA, it’s essential to have an overabundance of confidence. If doubt creeps into a fighter’s mind, for even a second, things can go bad. Dantas, the No. 7 ranked bantamweight in the most recent USA TODAY Sports/MMAjunkie MMA rankings, takes the concept of self-belief to another level. The two-time champion, despite a title-losing defeat to Joe Warren in 2014, sees himself as undefeated inside the Bellator cage.

“I only lost once in Bellator, and I got payback,” Dantas told MMAjunkie, referring to his 2016 rematch win over Warren. “So I’m not really 10-1. Since I returned the favor, I feel undefeated.”

As we all know, that’s not the way things work. A loss remains a loss no matter what happens after that result. But that kind of thinking gives you an idea as to the kind of fighter Dantas is.

Dantas (20-4 MMA, 10-1 BMMA) looks to make the second defense of his second run as champion against Caldwell. If you use Dantas’ “get one back” logic, Caldwell (10-1 MMA, 7-1 BMMA) is also undefeated (he’s not), since he avenged his sole loss when he defeated Joe Taimanglo in his most recent bout.

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Dantas has more experience than the No. 15 ranked Caldwell, but the challenger is a fantastic wrestler with a smothering top game. He should give Dantas, whose goal is to be “the best bantamweight in history,” a tough test in this title fight.

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2. Not your stepping stone

Straus was on the shelf for more than 17 months after he broke his hand in the first round of his 2015 fight against Patricio Freire. Despite the injury, Straus won that five-round contest by unanimous decision. The victory earned him the featherweight title for the second time. When he returned from rehabbing his hand, Straus gave the title back to Freire when he submitted to a guillotine choke in the second round of their Bellator 178 matchup.

Straus, the No. 9 ranked featherweight, was never really able to get going in that fight, his fourth against Freire. When he shot for a takedown early in the second stanza, Freire clamped on the choke and Straus was forced to tap.

If Straus (24-7 MMA, 11-4 BMMA) wants to earn a shot at becoming a three-time featherweight champion he has to get past Sanchez (15-3 MMA, 7-2 BMMA). Sanchez enters this fight on the strength of a unanimous decision win over former bantamweight champion Marcos Galvao. The one mark against Sanchez is he came in more than three pounds overweight for that contest.

After his win, Sanchez apologized to the promotion for missing weight and asked for a title shot. If he can defeat Straus he’ll have a solid argument that he deserves that fight. As for the former champ, don’t expect him to look as tentative in this bout as he did against Freire. There’s no way he wants to lose two fights in a row for the first time in his eight-year career.

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3. A former champ returns

If the fight between Straus and Sanchez isn’t intriguing enough for you, there is another important 145-pound fight on the card. In that contest, former two-time champion Pat Curran squares off against John Teixeira.

Teixeira lost a heartbreaker in his most recent scrap. The Brazilian saw his 10-fight unbeaten streak come to an end when he dropped a split decision to Daniel Weichel. The victory earned Weichel a November matchup against champion Patricio Freire.

As for Curran, the former champ has put a rough 1-3 patch behind him with victories in his two most recent outings.

Curran (22-7 MMA, 12-4 BMMA) has not been very active as of late. This is just his third fight in more than 27 months. Knowing that, don’t be surprised if the aggressive Teixeira (21-2-2 MMA, 4-1 BMMA) steps on the gas even more in this contest in the hopes of exploiting any ring rust Curran has amassed since he last fought in May 2016.

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4. Look up

If Joe Taimanglo and Leandro Higo need inspiration for their bantamweight matchup they just need to look at the top of this fight card. The two fighters competing for the 135-pound division title are the last two fighters they lost to.

At Bellator 159, Taimanglo (23-7-1 MMA, 6-3 BMMA) submitted Caldwell early in the third round. When the two ran things back at Bellator 167, Caldwell won a unanimous decision. That victory earned Caldwell his shot at Dantas’ belt. Higo (17-2 MMA, 0-1 BMMA), the former LFA bantamweight champion, lost to Dantas in his most recent bout, where he dropped a split decision to the champion. Unfortunately for Higo, what was supposed to be a title fight, turned into a non-title contest when he came in four pounds overweight.

A win here will put the victor in the mix for a shot at the winner of this card’s headlining bout.

5. Clash of styles

If you need a reason to catch the Bellator 184 prelims, look no further than the clash of styles in the bout between unbeaten lightweights Steve Kozola and Carrington Banks.

Kozola is a finisher. Since he turned pro in 2013, he hasn’t left the second round. Over that time, he’s racked up seven victories via knockout and one by submission. His most recent bout ended in 28 seconds. In that contest Kozola used a barrage of strikes to hand Jake Roberts his first career knockout loss.

Unlike Kozola (8-0 MMA, 3-0 BMMA), Banks (6-0 MMA, 2-0 BMMA) has gone the distance in four of his six career fights. Banks has some striking skills, but he relies heavily on his wrestling, even when it looks like he can finish a fight with his hands. Banks has good takedowns and a grinding top game that could test a fighter like Kozola, who has never been deep into a fight.

The winner of this bout could take a big step up in competition in his next outing.

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For more on Bellator 184, check out the MMA Rumors section of the site.

Filed under: Bellator, Featured, News
Source: MMA Junkie

Steve Kozola vs. Carrington Banks added to October's Bellator 184 in Oklahoma

What does Steve Kozola have in store for a follow-up to his impressive Bellator debut? We’ll find out soon.

The undefeated Kozola (8-0 MMA, 1-0 BMMA) will make his second appearance for the promotion at Bellator 184, where he’ll meet another undefeated opponent in Carrington Banks (6-0 MMA, 2-0 BMMA).

Bellator 184 takes place Oct. 6 at WinStar World Casino and Resort in Thackerville, Okla., and will air live on Spike with prelims streaming on MMAjunkie. The even is headlined by a bantamweight title fight between champion Eduardo Dantas and Darrion Caldwell.

Kozola will look to build on the momentum from his March 31 Bellator debut, when he defeated Jake Roberts at Bellator 185 via 28-second TKO finish. All eight of Kozola’s victory have come by stoppage, with the last seven via knockout or TKO.

Banks will enter looking to stay perfect in three Bellator appearance. His last two fights with the promotion have resulted in unanimous-decision victories.

With the addition, the Bellator 184 card now includes:

  • Champ Eduardo Dantas vs. Darrion Caldwell – for bantamweight title
  • Emmanuel Sanchez vs. Daniel Straus
  • Leandro Higo vs. Joe Taimanglo
  • Carrington Banks vs. Steve Kozola

For more on Bellator 184, check out the MMA Rumors section of the site.

Filed under: Bellator, News
Source: MMA Junkie