It’s unexpected, because up until late June, Campos was training for a rematch with the man who knocked him out in April 2014, Patricky Freire. Don’t think that change sits well with Campos.
For one, Bellator pulled Freire from the card and slotted him opposite former UFC lightweight champion Benson Henderson in the Bellator 183 main event in September. That move was made despite the fact Freire is 1-2 in his past three fights, while Campos is unbeaten in his last three. Campos can’t be faulted if he’s wondering why he didn’t get the chance to face Henderson. A second reason Campos is bound to be salty is the last time he faced Girtz, Girtz knocked him out in 37 seconds.
Bellator 181 also features a stacked preliminary card. While the promotion’s prelims are often loaded with inexperienced local talent, this event features some intriguing matchups, including the second Bellator fight of Rafael Lovato Jr., who faces former UFC fighter Mike Rhodes. Also on the prelims is the latest Bellator signing from the NCAA wrestling ranks, Logan Storley.
Bellator 181 takes place at WinStar World Casino & Resort in Thackerville, Okla. The main card airs on Spike following prelims on MMAjunkie.
1. Familiar foes
The first time Campos and Girtz met was in 2013. Campos won that fight via unanimous decision. Two years later they ran that one back, and Girtz blasted Campos (14-6 MMA, 6-4 BMMA) early, earning a quick 37-second stoppage. Since their second bout, these two have headed in opposite directions.
Campos is on a three-fight winning streak, most recently defeating Derek Anderson by unanimous decision, while Girtz is winless since stopping Campos, his latest loss being a decision to Fernando Gonzalez in a catchweight contest.
For Girtz this lightweight fight is high risk and low reward, for Campos it’s exactly the opposite, which should make for a fun scrap for the fans.
2. A quiet climb
John Salter has quietly put together a five-fight winning streak, with each of his victories coming by way of stoppage. A major reason Salter’s streak has flown under the radar is because it’s come over the course of more than four years. But a streak it is, and three of those wins have come under the Bellator banner, including a submission win over former champion Brandon Halsey.
Salter (13-3 MMA, 3-0 BMMA) looks to add Kendall Grove (23-16 MMA, 4-3 BMMA) to his list of vanquished opponents at Bellator 181. Grove was on a two-fight winning streak before suffering a TKO loss to former Bellator middleweight champion Alexander Shlemenko at Bellator 162.
If Salter can get the best of Grove, he’ll be in line for a top-ranked opponent in his next outing.
3. Opportunity knocks
Steve Garcia has a tremendous opportunity at Bellator 181. The 25-year-old bantamweight is fighting on his first main card for the promotion, and he’s matched up against former two-division Bellator champion Joe Warren.
Garcia (7-1 MMA, 5-1 BMMA) has never faced a fighter with Warren’s (14-6 MMA, 12-5 BMMA) experience, but the members of the Bellator brass must see something they like in the young Jackson-Wink MMA prospect to give him the opportunity to face the veteran combatant, who is coming off a majority decision loss to current bantamweight champion Eduardo Dantas.
A cynic might look at this matchup as one made to give Warren an opponent he should handily defeat, but I don’t buy that thinking. Yes, Warren has alternated wins and losses over his last six fights, but he’s also firmly entrenched near the top of the Bellator bantamweight pecking order, so it doesn’t make sense to try and book him a gimme fight.
On a side note, neither fighter has enjoyed fighting in Thackerville. Warren has lost his last three fights in the city, and Garcia’s sole defeat came in Thackerville.
4. And for his next act …
Lovato, one of the most decorated Americans practicing jiu-jitsu, didn’t need to employ his grappling expertise in his Bellator debut. Instead, Lovato blasted through Charles Hackman in 13 seconds, using knees and punches to get a quick TKO stoppage. At Bellator 181, Lovato (5-0 MMA, 1-0 BMMA), who joined Bellator after capturing the Legacy FC middleweight crown, gets a step up in competition, facing former RFA welterweight champion and three-fight UFC veteran Rhodes (10-4 MMA, 0-0 BMMA). Rhodes, whose most recent victory earned him the Victory Fighting Championship middleweight crown, has won his last four fights.
5. Another notable signing
Bellator has added yet another former NCAA wrestler to its roster. In June the promotion inked Storley, a four-time All-American with the University of Minnesota. The 24-year-old Storley has five pro fights to his name, four with Resurrection Fighting Alliance and one with Legacy Fighting Alliance. Storley has won each of those fights by TKO. Only one of his five bouts has left the first round.
Storley’s (5-0 MMA, 0-0 BMMA) opponent, Kemmyelle Haley, has been a pro since 2012. Haley (7-4 MMA, 0-0 BMMA) has never gone the distance in victory or defeat, most recently competing in 2015.