Bellator 189 is in the books as the main event witnessed Julia Budd successfully defend her featherweight crown for the first time, as she realized a split decision victory over Arlene Blencowe in a rather lackluster rematch. The 7-0 Rafael Lovato Jr. continued his unbeaten streak in the co-main event, as he scored the unanimous decision victory over NCAA wrestling product Chris Honeycutt. Chidi Njokuani had a successful debut in the middleweight division as he picked up a unanimous decision over dangerous striker Hisaki Kato, earning 30-27’s on all three scorecards. David Rickels is riding high, as “The Caveman” picked up a dominant decision win over Adam Piccolotti, also earning nothing but 30-27s.
Julia Budd def. Arlene Blencowe by Split Decision (49-46, 47-48, 49-46): (W) Featherweight Title
Budd came out much more assertive than she did the 1st time she fought Blencowe, initiating the clinch right away and controlling for the bulk of the 1st round. The second stanza saw Blencowe take the center of the cage, firing away with 1-2 combos and connecting often. Budd played the outside, attacking with kicks tot he body and legs, but didn’t attempt a takedown until the end of the round. The pace slowed up a bit in the 3rd round, as a bit of a staring contest broke out. Budd would land a few kicks to the body here and there, while Blencowe would land a right hand sometimes. A lot more staring went on in the 4th and 5th round, as even the commentator Mauro Ranallo called for a yellow guard as they did in the glory days of PRIDE. Blencowe vs. Budd 2 was a dud, but Budd kept her belt.
Rafael Lovato Jr def. Chris Honeycutt by Unanimous decision (30-27 x2, 29-28): Middleweight
Lovato Jr came out aggressive on the feet, launching a series of head kicks and jump knees, as if he was unafraid of the takedown. Honeycutt seemed to have difficulty dealing with the volume of his opponent on the feet, so he shot in and shoved Lovato Jr up against the cage. Lovato Jr worked for a standing Guillotine to fight off the takedown as the opening round came to a close.
Lovato Jr again came out looking to throw his strikes without much regard for the takedown. Honeycutt was able to close the distance and finally score a takedown, but Lovato Jr remained active and quickly returned to his feet. Lovato Jr would go on to land several crafty punches to the face before the round ended.
Head kicks were plenty to open up the final frame, resulting in Honeycutt catching a few kicks in search of the takedown. Honeycutt finally found top position off of a caught kick, but Lovato Jr is again quick to stand up. Lovato Jr snagged a takedown of his own, just for Honeycutt to get up and return the favor to finish the round on top. Lovato Jr went on the earn the unanimous nod to remain undefeated in his professional career.
Chidi Njokuani def. Hisaki Kato by Unanimous Decision (30-27 x3): Middleweight
Kato came out working his leg kicks over the first half of the opening round. It wasn’t long before Njokuani found his groove, and started taking control of the fight. Kato continued to attack the legs, but it was Njokuani who was landing with much more significant punches.
The second stanza saw Njokuani shift into 2nd gear while Kato appeared to still be in 1st. Njokuani took to the center of the Bellator cage, forcing Kato to play the outside, struggling to close the distance on the rangy striker. Njokuani had wild success sniping from the outside, picking his shots and making the most of them. Kato continued his kicking attack, but was routinely met with counter punches which appeared to disrupt his rhythm.
Kato came out more aggressive in the final round, throwing his kicks with a sense of urgency, but Njokuani was right there, ready and waiting to counter with whatever sniping technique that he deemed fit. Njokuani even sent Kato flying from a long right hand, as seen below. Kato would finally make his way on the inside, searching for a single leg, but Njokuani was having none it and returned to open space. Jato was unable to make anything happen in the closing moments of the fight, and Njokuani walked away with a unanimous decision.
Watch how Kato chose to kick off the opening round:
David Rickels def. Adam Piccolotti by Unanimous Decision (30-27 x3): Catchweight of 160 pounds
Rickels went right at his opponent, pushing Piccolotti backwards as he worked his punches. Piccolotti had moments of pressing Rickels against the cage, but wasn’t really able to control him for any substantial amount of time. Rickels finished the opening round strong and in pursuit, throwing a flurry just as time ran out.
The second stanza saw Rickels find a home for his right hand rather often whenever Piccolotti would get caught standing in the pocket. Piccolotti was able to put Rickels on his back, but again was unable to control him very much before he returned to his feet. Piccolotti scored another takedown to finish the round on top, but was unable to rack up any damage.
Piccolotti showed up in the 3rd round with a major hematoma under his left eye, which brought the doctor in to take a gander. Once the action resumed, it was Rickels pushing the pace, looking to land more right hands as Piccolotti was on the back step. Piccolotti landed a beautiful overhand right to takedown, but spend his time on top fending off Omoplata and Triangle attempts from Rickels. All three judges saw the fight 30-27 for “The Caveman.”
Watch Rickels rip the right hand:
Preliminary Card: 7:00 PM ET on Live Stream
Sam Sicilia def. Marcos Galvao by Unanimous Decision