Bellator 256: Dalton Rosta guarantees first-round finish

Ahead of his Bellator 256 bout with Tony Johnson, Dalton Rosta says he looks to continue with quick turnarounds and tougher challenges.

With his unbeaten record, youth and potential upside, Dalton Rosta is continuing his battle for respect, and he’ll look to continue his rise and to put more people on notice when he takes on Tony Johnson on the preliminary card of Bellator 256.

This fight with Johnson will be similar to Rosta’s most recent fight, when he took on Ty Gwerder in October at Bellator 250, in that it’s a bit of a step up in competition. While Rosta’s role since signing with Bellator has been an up-and-coming fighter featured on the prelims, he was given some main card exposure in emergency circumstances in October.

Rosta vs. Gwerder was moved up to the Bellator 250 main card after Nick Newell and Veta Arteaga were both forced off their bouts due to positive COVID-19 tests. But in an exclusive interview with FanSided MMA, Rosta said he thought it was a rib when friends and teammates informed him of the news the day of the event.

“They told me whenever I [saw] them that morning, they’re like, ‘You’re on the main card now.’ And I was like, ‘No I’m not,’” Rosta told FanSided MMA. “I had seen the news that they tested positive, and one of them was a main card fighter. And they had a lot of like fights to choose from to bump it up to main card. You had Jake Hager, you had Johnny Eblen fighting Taylor Johnson, you had Adam Borics, you know, and then you have me and Ty Gwerder. Those are all big fights, and for me to get chosen out of all these fights, it was an honor.

“I’m glad that I got to showcase my skills and everything on the main card, and on a bigger stage than usual. I thought they were messing around at first, and whenever I got down there and finally figured out I was on the main card, I was super excited. And not that it changed the fight or anything at all — I went in there, fought the same way, I was planning to and same game plan and everything else — but you know it was just a lot more exciting.”

Against Gwerder, Rosta showcased skills in his grappling, as well as the power he’s put on display previously inside the Bellator cage. Despite being a known finisher and preferring to get the job done as soon as he can, Rosta went the full 15 minutes in a one-sided decision to improve to 4-0.

While some coaches and MMA media would say that a fighter should keep an eye on their cardio and need to go the distance every now and again, Rosta felt not being able to get the finish — especially when he had Gwerder in trouble a couple of times — left him somewhat disappointed.

“A lot of people were like, ‘You don’t always need the finish’ ‘Sometimes fans like seeing it go the distance’ and ‘You had the opportunity to showcase more skills and pull more weapons out of the arsenal,’ all these other things. But at the end of the day I wanted to finish him in the second round. I didn’t want it to be a first-round finish because I wanted to showcase a little bit more of my skills. So I wanted to be a second-round [finish], but I feel like I stepped on the gas a little bit too late and missed my opportunity.

“I think with me kind of slowly progressing as the fight went on, and really not stepping on early and going for the kill like I usually do. I kind of let it slip out on my hands. And then on top of that, there were opportunities I missed — where I took his back and I had the rear-naked choke, and I let go because I didn’t think I had it. Then I look back at pictures, look back at the video after the fight, and it was in. If I could’ve just sunk it in, it was under his chin. Then there was in the third round, whenever I start opening up to the ground and pound, I could’ve gotten th TKO, but I chose position over the finish. I was being safe and sorry, which isn’t me. I usually take risks. When he started scrambling under me, I kind of floated and surfed to his back instead of staying with the ground-and-pound, which you usually see me do.”

Dalton Rosta says a first-round finish of Tony Johnson is ‘guaranteed,’ adds he’ll continue to earn the respect he has to gain

Now Rosta gets set to take on his next toughest challenge in Johnson. Johnson is a 9-2 fighter whose most recent successes came with a unanimous decision win over Alton Cunningham on season three of Dana White’s Contender Series and a third-round knockout of kickboxing great Joe Schilling at Bellator 229. Johnson did not fight in an MMA bout in 2020.

Knowing what kind of momentum he wants and the kind of fighter he is, as well as the way he likes to finish people, Rosta is expecting nothing less than a first-round finish this time. And Rosta feels such a win should earn him a spot in the recently-established Bellator rankings.

“It’s not an if, it’s a when I’m gonna finish him in the first round,” Rosta said. “And when I do that, I think it’s going to put a lot of people in the 185-pound division on notice. There are some people that already playing with the thoughts of my name and already thinking about me as a potential next opponent. But I think this will solidify me in the top 10 and put me up there with some of the bigger names.”

Rosta and Johnson, however, will be a preliminary contest and not a main card bout in spite of both men competing on the main cards in their most recent Bellator bookings. Rosta admits the decision is a bit disappointing, but at the end of the day, he’s here to get the job done and compete in the profession he has his heart on.

“I know the circumstances that got me on the main card last time, but I’m 4-0, I was on the main card last time. I’m a highly-touted prospect,” Rosta said. “Tony Johnson’s a very good fighter, has a few good knockouts to his name, just knocked out Joe Schilling, and he was on the main card against Joe Schilling himself. So, to take two fighters that were both on the main card in their previous fights, and something that has the potential to be a Fight of the Night if those bonuses were awarded, and put them on the prelims, it is a little bit disappointing.

“But at the end of the day, I’m in there to take care of business. I fight because I love fighting. It doesn’t matter if there are cameras on me at all. I’ll still be on in there do the same thing.”

Even if he’s back on the prelims, however, there may be a chance for Rosta to continue to grow his brand at the rate he hadn’t before. Bellator 256 marks just the second card in the Bellator on Showtime era, and considering Showtime’s history with boxing and StrikeForce, Rosta feels it’s an opportunity to get onto more radars of fight fans and get both Bellator’s brand and his name out there.

For that to be successful, however, Rosta feels he needs to not be on long breaks between fights, and he’s previously stated that he doesn’t personally like long layoffs. Rosta has a personal preference of not having that long of a turnaround between his MMA contests, and he feels it’s more than important ever now.

“You know, there’s a lot of boxing fans, that obviously watch boxing on Showtime, that’s gonna bring a lot of the boxing world over the MMA, and also I think it’s a little bit of a bigger platform that has more eyes in general. So I think obviously it’s going to help develop the Bellator brand. And as long as I have the opportunity to showcase my skills on a regular basis, I see it elevating my brand a lot.

“It’s hard sometimes, but like last year, I got to fight in August and October. Two months apart from each other; that’s how I like to fight. The year before that, I fought March and October. That’s too long in between fights. Not only for me because I like being more active, but as a fan, whenever you notice a fighter, or you find a fighter you like, if they do something good, people start talking about it. You let too long go in between those fights — like three, four, or five months go in between those fights — they start forgetting. You got to have people constantly talking and that’s how you see these guys that fight three times in two months and three times in three months, people will start talking about them more because they’re active. They’re doing good things in each fight, and then they’re constantly in the news, constantly in the media, and it elevates their brand, which elevates the promotion even more.”

At the end of the day, Rosta knows his worth as a top prospect to the promotion, and he is on a mission to ensure respect is put on his name and he continues to get bigger challenges. And if he doesn’t have the respect already, he’ll continue to work and earn it.

“Maybe from the fans and peers, maybe not so much [the] competitors yet,” Rosta said. “We got to see, you know. Like I said, open my name up to the bigger guys in the division. As for [respect from] Bellator, I still don’t think so yet. But, you know, I’m early in my career still, 4-0. That’s completely understandable. At the end of the day, if they don’t respect me yet, I’ll earn their respect. Respect’s earned, not given, and I have no problem going out there and earning it.”

Bellator 256 takes place on Friday, April 9, 2021, live from the Mohegan Sun Arena in Uncasville, CT. Follow along with FanSided for all your live news and highlights.

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