Fresh off of their announcement that have signed Anthony ‘Rumble’ Johnson, Bellator MMA rolled back onto out TV screens with another event from their quasi-bubble at the Mohegan Sun Arena in Uncasville, CT.
Their latest offering saw Bellator flyweight champion Ilima-Lei Macfarlane put her title on the line versus Juliana Velasquez. It was a battle of undefeated fighters heading into this one and unfortunately for the state of Hawaii, it was only the Brazilian, Velasquez, who would leave the Mohegan Sun with her 0 intact.
New champion Velasquez earned the title with a unanimous decision victory. The former Olympic level judoka advanced her pro record to 10-0 and her Bellator win streak to six fights. For Macfarlane this was her first loss in 11 outings.
Both women started their title fight with plenty of patience, seemingly content to feel each other out and measure their distances. Of the two Macfarlane was slightly more adventurous, sortieing forth to throw overhands and attempt a takedown. Velasquez saw all that coming, though, and was adept at stepping back and avoiding the danger.
The second round was similar, with Macfarlane coming forwards. However, this time, Velasquez was able to catch her with a few light punches when she stepped in. Velasquez was also able to clinch with the champion up against the cage, holding her still, but not offering any other offense. Macfarlane would eventually reverse the position, but also fail to make it count for much. Velasquez, who looked much larger than Macfarlane, was able to turn that into a takedown. But in the remaining minute she couldn’t make that count for anything, either.
In the third round Macfarlane dove in on an ankle and, despite eating a few punches, wouldn’t let it go. She took Velasquez down off that attempt, but the Brazilian popped right back and had the Hawaiian against the cage. They separated soon after, revealing a cut over Macfarlane’s right eye. Macfarlane then struggled to close the distance on Velasquez, as she rushed forwards but mostly missed on her punches. Though, she did land one cleanly. In the last few seconds of the round Velasquez responded with a nifty jumping knee.
In the first of the championship rounds Macfarlane upped the aggression coming forwards with multiple punches instead of a single overhand. Velasquez was still able to see them coming, though, and get out the way. She was also able to catch Macfarlane coming in, making the champ’s nose run red. With Velasquez thinking about striking, Macfarlane was able to catch her off guard and get a good takedown against the fence.
On the ground Macfarlane was able to score with ground and pound, even if it didn’t look hard enough to put Velasquez away.
Macfarlane went for a takedown to start the final round, but Velasquez stuffed it resulting in a clinch against the fence. Macfarlane struggled to get the takedown from there, but did score with knees to Velasquez’s legs. Off a mistake/slip from Macfarlane, the action then went to the ground with Velasquez in her full guard. Macfarlane hustled her way up to her feet, though, and more gruelling clinch work followed. The fight ended with Macfarlane pushing Velasquez up against the cage, but the Brazilian was able to land a judo throw right on the buzzer.
It was a very close fight, but it just felt like Velasquez had won more rounds. All three judges agreed, even if each of them gave a different score for the fight.
The co-main event featured the much anticipated Bellator debut of ‘The Tiger’ Magomed Magomedov (the former ACB bantamweight champion, who has a win over UFC champ Petr Yan). He took on Matheus Mattos.
Magomedov was a handful for Mattos right off the opening bell, the Dagestani was in on him and pulling him to the ground right away with a suffocating style we’ve seen from plenty of his countrymen. Before too long Magomedov elevated his opponent and took him down—head first—with a sickening thud. From there he tried to get on Mattos’ back. Mattos defended well, though, and didn’t take much punishment despite being in such a compromising position.
The second round was much of the same, with Magomedov relentlessly attacking Mattos with his aggressive wrestling. Again Magomedov seemed totally concerned with getting on Mattos’ back. Halfway through the round he achieved that and locked in a body triangle. Mattos stood and tried to fight off the triangle by elbowing his opponent’s legs. Magomedov only let go when he wanted, though, and that was when he saw an opportunity to get Mattos down again. In the waning second of the round Magomedov fired off some offense on his downed opponent and looked to catch him with an illegal knee to the head, which went unnoticed.
In the third Magomedov had Mattos down inside of a minute and was again hanging on his back. From there Magomedov did what he had done the entire fight, completely dominate Mattos on the ground (and talk to him while he did). He landed some offense, but he didn’t need to. Mattos had no idea how to get free. He did manage to spin his way into top position once, but it was with a few seconds left in the fight. Easy decision for the judges.
Magomedov did what was expected of him in his Bellator debut. Now it’s time to speculate just how far he can go in the promotion’s bantamweight division.
Before that Linton Vassell took on Rony Markes in a heavyweight bout. In the first round Markes tried to drag Vassell down to the ground, but wasn’t able to do it cleanly. Instead he slumped to the mat and pulled Vassell right on top of him. Vassell quickly moved from full guard to side control. From there he landed some short elbows and succeeding in keeping Markes both pinned and unable to throw up submission attempts. In the second round Markes again went for the takedown and again ended up on bottom. This time Vassell was able to get full mount and from there he was able to put Markes away with ground and pound.
To open up the main card Romero Cotton made quick work out of Justin Sumter. In the opening seconds Sumter did a good job of using his range in the striking battle against the smaller Cotton, but he could do nothing once the AKA product took him down. On the ground Cotton showed off his top notch wrestling pedigree on route to tapping Sumter with a choke against the fence.
Kemran Lachinov and Shamil Nikaev fought a fun and frenetic fight in the featured prelim. There were big takedowns, submissions attempts and plenty of landed strikes along the way. The Chechen Nikaev got the better of the wrestling exchanges as the fight wore on. In the third, both men were understandably gassed, but they continued to sling punches at each other. Nikaev tried the unorthodox tactic of not raising his hands and daring Lachinov to hit him on the chin. Lachinov accepted the challenge and tagged him about a dozen times, wobbling Nikaev towards the end of the round. Time expired with Nikaev looking like he was one punch away from going down. Unfortunately for Lachinov he needed the finish. Thanks to his wrestling in the earlier rounds Nikaev got the win in his Bellator debut.
Also in prelim action Grant Neal looked a step ahead of Maurice Jackson throughout their entire fight and eventually was able to get on his opponent’s back and slowly work to sink in the fight ending choke. Neal moves to 5-0 with the win and can probably expect a step up in competition next time out.
The second fight of the night saw 41-year-old Kenny Champion come out aggressive versus Cody Law, but the younger man was able to weather the storm and then take over the fight with wrestling and ground control. Law beat up Champion for the entirety of the second round and eventually got a ground and pound win in the third.
To open the event Billy Goff spoiled the perfect 3-0 record of Robson Gracie Jr. (younger brother of Renzo Gracie) with a standing TKO. The end of the fight came early in the second round after Goff cracked an exhausted Gracie with a huge right hook that wobbled the Brazilian. Goff then poured it on, landing heavy elbows against the fence and forcing the stoppage.
Main card (CBS Sports Network at 10 p.m. ET)
Flyweight title: Juliana Velasquez def. Ilima-Lei Macfarlane by unanimous decision (48-47, 49-46, 48-47).
That connected!@JuVelasquezMMA and @Ilimanator are headed into the championship rounds of their #Bellator254 main event LIVE & FREE now on @CBSSportsNet.#USOHolidays #MMA #Bellator pic.twitter.com/XYzq31wFEf— BellatorMMA (@BellatorMMA) December 11, 2020
@Ilimanator gets the takedown late in round 4️⃣.— BellatorMMA (@BellatorMMA) December 11, 2020
The 5️⃣th and final round of this title fight is up next LIVE on @CBSSportsNet in the and with @SkySports Mix in the .#MMA #Bellator254 #Bellator #USOHolidays pic.twitter.com/S7isWHlm68
Bantamweight: Magomed Magomedov def. Matheus Mattos by unanimous decision (30-26, 30-27, 30-27).
Winner by unanimous decision: Tiger Magomedov, thanks to moves like this pic.twitter.com/vtxq5bUTJc— CBS Sports Network (@CBSSportsNet) December 11, 2020
Heavyweight: Linton Vassell def. Ronny Markes by TKO (punches), round 2 (3:37).
Linton Vassell picks up the W in round 2️⃣ at #Bellator254.— BellatorMMA (@BellatorMMA) December 11, 2020
The main card rolls on LIVE on @CBSSportsNet in the U.S. and with @Sky Sports Mix in the U.K. now!#Bellator #MMA #USOHolidays pic.twitter.com/JiIfWDaZ9T
Middleweight: Romero Cotton def. Justin Sumter by submission (rear naked choke), round 1 (3:36).
Round 1️⃣ win by submission, @RomeroCotton adds a 5️⃣th straight victory to his undefeated pro record.— BellatorMMA (@BellatorMMA) December 11, 2020
We are LIVE NOW on @CBSSportsNet in the and with @SkySports Mix in the .#MMA #Bellator #Bellator254 pic.twitter.com/216tnheuQV
Preliminary card (Bloody Elbow at 7:45 p.m. ET)
Welterweight: Shamil Nikaev def. Kemran Lachinov by unanimous decision (29-28, 29-28, 29-28).
Light heavyweight: Grant Neal def. Maurice Jackson by submission (rear naked choke), round 2 (3:59).
.@GrantNeal continues his winning ways at #Bellator254 with his 2️⃣nd pro win via submission.— BellatorMMA (@BellatorMMA) December 11, 2020
The Monster Energy Prelims are LIVE NOW on our YouTube channel.
▶️ https://t.co/4m0HlxFyaw#MMA #Bellator #USOHolidays pic.twitter.com/4Gd1JfP9Tl
Featherweight: Cody Law def. Kenny Champion by TKO (punches), round 3 (4:44).
Welterweight: Billy Goff def. Robson Gracie Jr. by TKO (elbows), round 2 (1:46).