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Five Potential Opponents for Bellator’s Latest Signing Valerie Letourneau

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Valerie Letourneau Bellator

Over the past 12 months, the women’s flyweight division has become one of Bellator’s most exciting. The promotion’s mix of fast-developing prospects and established veterans has hit the mark and earned the 125 pounders a great deal of airtime.

On Monday Bellator completed their most notable flyweight signing to date, former UFC title challenger Valerie Letourneau.

Ilima-Lei Macfarlane and Emily Ducote have become recognised names through their performances inside the Bellator cage but were not well known prior to signing. Colleen Schneider is a well-respected veteran of the sport but has never had that UFC shine attached to her career.

Meanwhile, previously unknown Anastasia Yankova has struggled to display a level of ability that justifies her strong promotional push, and Lena Ovchynnikova had gained no real notoriety in the United States from a career spent fighting in Europe and India prior to signing with Bellator.

The addition of Letourneau has increased the legitimacy of Bellator’s 125-pound division. The Canadian was the first fighter in the UFC to take strawweight Queen Joanna Jedrzejczyk to a five round decision.

Life in the UFC has been tough since that November 2015 defeat, but fighting outside of her natural weight class has been a part of Letourneau’s problem. A defeat to Viviane Pereira at UFC 206 in December 2016 came after the American Top Team fighter failed to make weight and looked, not for the first time like she was barely cognizant as she stepped onto the scales to weigh-in.

With Bellator breathing a new lease of life into Letourneau’s 33-year-old body, fans can gain interest in a number of exciting matchmaking possibilities. A late Summer debut has been reported, with an opponent yet to be determined. Here are five options the promotion should be considering for Letourneau’s debut.

Ilima-Lei Macfarlane (6-0)

The signing of Letourneau lends more weight to requests that fighters and fans have been vocalising for some time. The addition of a Bellator title at 125 pounds. While Bellator President Scott Coker has poured cold water on the idea previously, if the promotion is to continue putting stock in their stable of exciting flyweights, it is inevitable that a belt will be added at some point.

If Letourneau is thrown right in at the deep end with a championship bout in 2017, Ilima-Lei Macfarlane is the obvious choice of opponent. The Hawaiian is a perfect 5-0 inside the Bellator cage and has already defeated Bellator’s best flyweight Emily Ducote. Macfarlane vs. Letourneau over five rounds could be the making of a new star, or the reaffirming of Letourneau’s status as one of the best in the world, or both.

Emily Ducote (5-2)

It is also possible that Bellator is eyeing Letourneau for a title fight, but not right off the bat. If that is the case then a title eliminator with Oklahoma standout Emily Ducote would make a whole lot of sense. If Ducote is able to get onto Bellator’s card in Oklahoma on July 14 and secure another win, a quick turnaround is not out of the question.

Ducote has looked outstanding in all three of her Bellator victories, and along with the aforementioned Macfarlane has performed head and shoulders above the rest of Bellator’s flyweights to date. A win for Letourneau would satisfy the hardcore fans who believe title shots must be earned, while a win for Ducote would set up a rematch of her thrilling bout with Macfarlane in December last year.

Rebecca Ruth (6-2)

If Bellator is looking to hold off on adding another title belt, more moderate opposition might be considered. Matching the newcomer up with the absolute top of the division may come later, but pitting Letourneau against inexperienced cannon fodder would not sit well either. Rebecca Ruth is far from that and sits right around the upper mid-card spot in the division.

Ruth shut down Lena Ovchynnikova’s hype train before its engines had been fired up, before being submitted by Ilima-Lei Macfarlane in June 2016. On top of that, Ruth was scheduled as the debut opponent for Colleen Schneider back in January before pulling out injured. Bellator could easily put Ruth in a similar position once again.

Colleen Schneider (11-7)

The most experienced member of Bellator’s flyweight roster, Colleen Schneider is also one of their most talented. In the best form of her career, Schneider has won five of her past six since being submitted by Irene Aldana in 2015. Schneider’s only defeat since then was a decision loss against world-class bantamweight Tonya Evinger for the Invicta FC title in May 2016.

Schneider, like Letourneau, is one of the division’s most proven commodities despite her continued improvement from fight to fight. For Letourneau, it is a fight that would offer the opportunity to make a major statement in her debut. For Schneider, a chance to secure arguably the biggest win of her career to date.

Lena Ovchynnikova (12-4)

Another experienced veteran of the division, Lena Ovchynnikova was given a reasonable promotional push ahead of her Bellator debut against Rebecca Ruth. It was a fight that Ovchynnikova lost as expectations were tempered, but the Ukrainian remains a dangerous flyweight.

Ovchynnikova has since won both of her subsequent Bellator fights, and unlike heavily promoted Russian Anastasia Yankova, has been both impressive, and booked without protection. A bout with Letourneau would be an easy sell on a Spike TV main card and give the victor a tonne of momentum going forward.

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Michael Page Not Focusing on Opponent Ahead of Boxing Debut

Harry Davies

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MMA Latest spoke to Bellator’s Michael ‘Venom’ Page, as he makes his boxing debut this Friday at the Hayemaker Ringstar Fight Night.

Page (12-0 MMA) is renowned for his entertaining fight style inside the cage, with most of his knockout and submission victories ending up in highlight reels online, that almost always go viral.

‘MVP’ was supposed to make his boxing debut on the undercard of David Haye vs Tony Bellew in March of this year, but due to ongoing negotiations with Bellator, his debut was delayed. Shortly after Page signed with Haye’s promotion “Hayemaker Ringstar.”

Q: So, Michael, we’re about five days out now from your big boxing debut, and still we have no name of an opponent? Can you break the big news, who will you be fighting next week?

I honestly couldn’t even tell you his name right now! I know I’ve got an opponent, but I haven’t even looked at him because it has changed so many times. I don’t like to pay too much attention to it, because it’s added stress. For me it’s just a case of turning up, and firing punches at whoever is across the ring.

Q: Is this fight 10 or 12 rounds? Given a standard boxing fight is a lot longer than your typical 15-minute MMA bout, has there been an emphasis on cardiovascular work in your training camp?

Depending on the opponent, I think it’s 6-rounds. The preparation has been different, I’m having to stress out my shoulders and core a lot. The kicking distance as well is very different, getting used to having people a bit closer. I’m getting used to the corners of the ring, I’ve done it before but not to this extent so I am familiar of it, but my body wasn’t really used to it.

Q: So, is this kind of like a one fight deal for Haye’s Ringstar promotion? Regardless of this fight’s outcome, will you return to MMA?

Not at all, I’m taking it seriously. Otherwise, I would have just had a super fight against a big name like McGregor did. This is why I can’t just jump into a 12 round fight, I need to adjust my body and get it prepared for boxing.

There’s no future plans yet, I’d like to have an MMA fight again before the end of this year, as I haven’t fought this whole year, but another opportunity for boxing may come up and I might get a chance to jump on that, so it depends.

Q: Were you frustrated that Bellator booked Paul Daley vs. Lorenz Larkin, and if you could send a message to Daley right now what would it be?

I have no interest in him anymore. It feels so pathetic and unnecessary now. I don’t think he deserved that fight with Larkin right after the shocking display he put on in Wembley against Rory MacDonald. But good on him he beat Larkin, however he calls me out immediately after then goes on to say he’s past that fight, it just doesn’t make sense.

Credit – michaelpagemvp – Instagram

Q: A statement we hear a lot is “MVP is the only guy outside the UFC that I want in the UFC” People criticise the talent in Bellator and say you’re fighting nobodies, what do you say back to them?

The amount of times you hear “you shouldn’t fight this person, you should have fought that person.” Everyone’s got an idea of what the correct steps someone should make are, but at the end of the day it’s their career. People are so fickle and easy to forget. If you are a fan of somebody, just be a fan of them regardless of win or loss.

Q: I’ve got to ask about how things are with Bellator, because from the outside looking in it’s quite unclear. How is it relationship at the moment?

Yeah I get on with most of the guys, it’s like a small family. I’ve still got a couple of fights left with them, they’re growing very well, the only problem is I feel like they’re focusing a bit too much on ex UFC fighters. For me it says you’re classing yourself as second best. Bellator generate some amazing superstars and young talent, they should continue to promote them.

You can watch ‘MVP’ make his boxing debut this Friday night, as the Hayemaker Ringstar Fight Night will air at 21:00PM on Dave.

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Exclusive: Andrey Koreshkov eyeing fight with Rory MacDonald

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Former Bellator welterweight champion Andrey Koreshkov is coming off of an interesting past two years. In 2015 he beat current welterweight champion Douglas Lima, via a dominant unanimous decision, in order to win the welterweight title. He returned in 2016 and beat former UFC lightweight champion Benson Henderson via another dominant beatdown. It seemed like Koreshkov was going to be the champion for a very long time, making elite fighters look like they had no business being in the cage with him.

Koreshkov’s world came crashing down one night in Isreal. The Russian was beating Douglas Lima in a rematch, he was up 20-18 on the score-cards, and it seemed like he was going to walk away with another successful title defense. Koreshkov forced Lima’s back against the fence and started winging punches at him, Lima started to do the same as he looked to get off the fence, and then it happened, a huge left hook caught Koreshkov on the chin and it was lights-out. Lima was once again champion, and Koreshkov’s reign was cut short.

What was next for Koreshkov after losing the title? Perhaps a move to middleweight? Bellator’s middleweight division has fewer contenders than the welterweight division and could promise a quicker path to the title for the Russian. Koreshkov is a big welterweight, standing at 6’1, he certainly wouldn’t be small in the higher weight class. Speaking to MMA Latest, Koreshkov was quick to shut down the idea of moving up. “No, no, I work hard at welterweight and I’d like to stay there.”

Sticking with welterweight, Koreshkov knew it was going to be tough to get another title shot after his fight with Chidi Njokuani, but he seems to know the key to fighting for the title “It’s not about how many wins, but rather, the quality of my wins”, with that in mind, he promised the gameplan against Njokuani was to “stand and bang”. Koreshkov fulfilled his promise, against Njokuani he came out guns-blazing, giving Njokuani all he could handle on the feet before eventually taking him down and finishing him with some nasty ground and pound.

Koreshkov also got the chance to explain who he’d like to fight next, should he not get a title shot. “I don’t have any favorites, I know that there are a lot of tough fights at my weight class, but if I had to choose, I would say Rory MacDonald.” Unfortunately for Koreshkov, MacDonald is booked against his former opponent Douglas Lima, as the two are set to fight for the Bellator welterweight title in January.

A fight against MacDonald would promise fireworks as the two are known for their ruthless style. There’s a strong chance Koreshkov may get his chance against MacDonald next, as the former champion is certainly either next in line for the shot, or set to fight the loser.

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James Gallagher out of Bellator 187 in Dublin due to injury

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Irish fans will have to wait a little longer to see James Gallagher fighting on home soil after Gallagher suffered a knee injury in preparation for his main event fight with Jeremiah Labiano in Dublin next month. This bad news was first reported by MMAFighting.com.

The 20-year-old from Strabane co. Tyrone who trains in the famous SBG gym with Conor McGregor and Gunnar Nelson among others has set the featherweight division alight since joining Bellator in 2016.  James “The Strabanimal” Gallagher has gone 3-0 with all three of his wins coming by rear naked choke.

After submitting Chinzo Machida, the brother of former UFC light heavyweight champion, Lyoto Machida in Madison Square Garden Gallagher has become a budding star for Bellator.

Due to the youngster’s attitude and potential, many comparisons between Gallagher and UFC lightweight champion Conor McGregor have been made by the fans and media which has made Gallagher one of Bellator’s most recognizable names. This notoriety has ultimately led to the young Irishman getting a chance to headline in Dublin this November but this injury has delayed his rise for the time being.

Gallagher on social media Thursday stated that he has suffered an injury to his PCL and LCL in his knee and would be out for the remainder of the year. He has assured fans we would return next year and carry on where he started with “The Jimmy show.”

His longtime rival AJ McKee, who has engaged in a Twitter war with Gallagher after his last fight, will now headline Bellator 187 in the 3 Arena in Dublin on November 10th against Gallagher’s SBG teammate Brian Moore. Moore will be making his third appearance for Bellator in this featherweight clash.

 

 

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