Scott Coker president of Bellator MMA says that the fight league intends to go to Brazil with its champions once the covid pandemic is over
An emotional, delighted Juliana Velasquez is the new Bellator flyweight champion after dethroning Ilima-Lei Macfarlane in a near-flawless performance at Mohegan Sun, Conn.
The Brazilian remains undefeated and moved to 11-0 with a powerful display on the feet and a composed performance in the clinch as Macfarlane tried and failed to impose herself on the challenger.
A cagey opening round gave way to a more classic Macfarlane performance in the second, as the champion secured her first takedown – but Velasquez’s size advantage and stellar Judo background brilliantly frustrated her rival.
And that was to be the story of the fight, as Macfarlane pushed Velasquez up against the cage again in the third but was badly cut in the scuffle before her opponent landed an eye-catching and painful right knee.
Her cut might have been pouring blood but Macfarlane was on top in the fourth round scoring a sweet takedown, but again Velasquez was able to keep the Hawaiian at bay.
Macfarlane desperately searched for the big finish in the final round with Velasquez some way ahead in the scorecards, but there was to be no Hail Mary moment for the defending champion.
The judges all saw it in Velasquez’s favour, scoring it 48-47, 49-46 and 48-47 as Macfarlane’s three-year reign as Bellator’s inaugural flyweight champion finally came to an end.
Velasquez collapsed onto the canvas when the results were read out and was immediately joined by Macfarlane, who hugged and congratulated the winner.
The new champion gave an emotional post-fight interview, giving special mention to her late brother.
“It feels like winning a gold medal at the Olympics,” she said. “I’m very excited to be the champion. I want to thank my team and my family, especially my brother who I felt was here tonight.
“My goal now is to not just be a champion but be a champion outside the cage too.”
Macfarlane was gracious despite suffering the first defeat of her pro career and said she had no issues with the result.
“You could say could have, should have,” Macfarlane said. “I didn’t find my groove until the takedown. I wasn’t trying to force anything.
“Her game plan was spot on. She’s going to be an amazing champion. She deserves it all. The important thing is to be a champion inside the cage, and outside the cage. In fact, being a champion outside the cage is actually more important.”
Velasquez concurred with the sentiment in her post-fight interview, and caps off a stellar year for Brazilians in Bellator, joining compatriots Douglas Lima, Cris Cyborg and Patrício ‘Pitbull’ Freire in the ranks of champions from that country.
Scott Coker, president of Bellator MMA, told The Telegraph after the Bellator 254 event that the fight league intends to go to Brazil “once the covid pandemic allows” and still plans to create a women’s grand prix tournament in the future.
There were also dominant victories for British heavyweight Linton Vassell and featherweight Magomed Magomedov on the main card.
Bellator 2 54: Macfarlane vs. Velasquez Main Card:
Juliana Velasquez (11-0) defeated Ilima-Lei Macfarlane (11-1) via unanimous decision (48-47, 49-46, 48-47)
Magomed Magomedov (17-1) defeated Matheus Mattos (12-2-1) via unanimous decision (30-26, 30-27, 30-27)
Linton Vassell (20-8) defeated Ronny Markes (19-8) via TKO (strikes) at 3:37 of round two
Romero Cotton (5-0) defeated Justin Sumter (7-4) via submission (rear-naked choke) at 3:36 of round one
Billy Goff (3-2) defeated Robson Gracie Jr. (3-1) via TKO (strikes) at 1:46 of round two
Cody Law (2-0) defeated Kenny Champion (2-1) via TKO (strikes) at 4:44 of round three
Grant Neal (5-0) defeated Maurice Jackson (7-3) via submission (rear-naked choke) at 3:59 of round two
Shamil Nikaev (10-0) defeated Kemran Lachinov (10-3) via unanimous decision (29-28, 29-28, 29-28)