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.
I can arrange a welcoming party. 🤗 https://t.co/1iC5b1Y5O3
— Colleen Schneider (@ColleenFights) April 24, 2017
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.
Bellator 194, Nelson vs. Mitrione Pre-Fight Notes
Bellator takes over the Mohegan Sun Arena in Uncasville, Connecticut later tonight. The promotion hosts, Bellator 194: Nelson vs. Mitrione from the venue, beginning at 6:30 pm (ET). Bellator 194 marks the 17th trip to the Mohegan Sun Casino. Their last trip, took place a little more than a few months ago in October of 2017, Bellator 185. The first trip to the Connecticut casino, occurred all the way back in April of 2009, and the second ever event held by the promotion, Bellator 2.
Twenty four fighters will make the walk later tonight, giving fans 12 bouts to watch from prelims to main event. Of the 24 athletes set to compete, five make their professional debuts. Peter Nascimento, Mike Kimbel, Pat Casey, Ross Richardson, and Ronnie Leon all fight for the first time, professionally. As amateurs, the group holds a combined record of 18-12. Only Ross Richardson maintained an undefeated amateur record (3-0).
In recent cards past, only some full broadcasts brought forward newly professional fighters. Events such as Bellator 191, 190, and 187, only broadcast short main card. While events like 193, 192, 189, 188, and 186 broadcast full fight cards. Since November of 2017, 15 fighters made their pro debuts with the Bellator promotion. Including Khonry Gracie in his unanimous decision loss to Devon Brock (Bellator 192), and Ty-wan Claxton, in his amazing KO finish of Johnny Bonilla-Bowman in the first round of Bellator 186. Claxton makes his second pro appearance tonight at Bellator 194 against Jose Antonio Perez, whom also fights for the second time professionally.
Upon completion of Bellator 194’s broadcast, 50% of the promotions first round matches in their Heavyweight Grand Prix will be decided. It is nearly impossible to choose, one match-up more interesting than the others. Yet, the Mitrione vs. Nelson match up is not only puzzling to fans and media alike. One half of the main event, at least, was once annoyed by the prospect of fighting his former TUF cast mate. Mitrione spoke to MMAJunkie about his reaction to the match-up, “Well, I asked them, how does that make sense? Roy is arguably the #2 guy in the division… Explain that to me, is there any seeding?…” He continued, “But the more I thought about, the less I really cared. Either I beat Roy when I have the strap, or I beat Roy to get the strap. What the hell difference does it make?”
In one bit of event news, fan favorite flyweight, Heather Hardy missed weight, in what turned out to be an odd set of circumstances. According to Hardy, she believed she made weight, without stripping down and using the towel. It was her understanding that the Mohegan Tribe Department of Athletic Regulation gave her a weight allowance for the bikini top and bottom she wore while on the scale. Hardy weighed in at 126.25 lbs. with the aforementioned bikini top and bottom.
This understanding was not shared by president of Mohegan Tribe Department of Athletic Regulation, Mike Mazzulli. The president made the decision to record Hardy’s weight without allowing her to disrobe, or take use the extra two hours allotted to make weight. It was his understanding upon examining and attempting to communicate with Hardy whilst she stood on the scale that brought him to the decision. After renegotiation of the bout agreement, Hardy was fined 20% of her purse which goes to her opponent Ana Julaton.
Bellator 194 Weigh Ins Live Video
Bellator 194 takes place Friday, February 16th at the Mohegan Sun Arena in Uncasville, Connecticut. The stacked main card features the second bout in the Bellator Heavyweight Grand Prix matching Roy Nelson against Matt Mitrione. Both former members of the UFC roster, Mitrione and Nelson look to make a further impact in the Bellator Heavyweight division with a potential step towards the divisions championship crown. In the co-main event, MMA veteran Patricky Pitbull takes Derek Campos. The two will most likely battle for the next shot at the promotions Lightweight title, following the Brent Primus (c) vs. Michael Chandler rematch. Other notable bouts on the card include Liam McGeary vs. Vadim Nemkov, Heather Hardy vs. Ana Julaton, and Tywon Claxton against Jose Antonio Perez. Bellator 194 airs live on the Paramount network, main card beginning at 9 pm.
The official weigh-ins took place earlier today, the results are listed below.
Main Card (9 PM ET, Paramount Network)
Roy Nelson (23-14) vs. Matt Mitrione (12-5) Heavyweight bout.
RN: 265 lb.
MM: 255 lb.
Patricky Freire (18-8) vs. Derek Campos (19-6) Lightweight bout.
PF: 155 lb.
DC: 154 lb.
Heather Hardy (1-1) vs. Ana Julaton (2-3) Women’s Flyweight bout.
HH: 126.25 lb*
AJ: 125 lb.
Liam McGeary (12-2) vs. Vadim Nemkov (8-2) Light Heavyweight bout.
LM: 203.75 lb.
VN: 205 lb.
Tywan Claxton (1-0) vs. Jose Antonio Perez (0-1) Featherweight bout.
TW: 145 lb.
JS: 142.25 lb.
Preliminary Card (7 PM ET)
Ross Richardson (3-0, Amateur) vs. Ronie Arana Leon (2-5, Amateur) Lightweight bout.
RS: 155.5 lb.
RL: 156 lb.
Mike Kimbel (4-4, Amateur) vs. Geoffrey Then (0-1) Bantamweight bout.
MK: 135.75 lb.
GT: 135 lb.
Regivaldo Carlvalho (4-2) vs. Thomas English (6-8) Featherweight bout.
RC: 145 lb.
TE: 146 lb.
Jarod Trice (2-0) vs. Walter Howard (3-4) Light Heavyweight bout.
JT: 205.5 lb.
WH: 203 lb.
Marcus Surin (4-1) vs. Dean Hancock (3-1) Lightweight bout.
MS: 156 lb.
DH: 155.25 lb.
Peter Nascimento (2-1, Amateur) vs. Kastriot Xhema (1-1) Catchweight (165 lb.) bout.
PN: 163.5 lb.
KX 164.5 lb.
Tyler Hamilton (1-0) vs. Pat Casey (7-2, Amateur) Lightweight bout.
TH: 154 lb.
PC: 155.5 lb.
*Heather Hardy missed weight by ¼ of a pound and subsequently fined 20% of her purse. The fine will go to her opponent Ana Julaton.
Exclusive: Saad Awad looking for the quick knockout at Bellator 193
Saad Awad makes his return to the Bellator cage Friday as he takes on JJ Ambrose.
The veteran Awad has been with Bellator since 2013, amassing a 9-5 record in the process, with five of those wins coming via knockout. Impressive wins against Will Brooks and Evangelista Santos feature on his 21-9 record.
The heavy-handed striker gets to fight in his backyard of California for the first time in over a year. A native of San Bernardino, Awad is fighting only forty-five minutes from his home, in the co-main event no less.
“It’s great,” Awad told MMA Latest about co-main eventing in California. “I’m about forty-five minutes from my house, the arena sold out the week they released the tickets. So I know a lot of people are going to be here and the energy’s going to be really good, it’s going to be great, and it’s going to help me mentally.”
Meeting Awad in the co-main is a fellow California native himself, JJ Ambrose. Ambrose has been fighting since 2005 and has amassed 26 wins in his 13-year career.
“He’s a veteran, he kind of flew under the radar,” Awad said. “He’s fought all over the place. I think he brings a lot of experience, a good solid stand-up, and ground game, and wrestling.”
Although Awad highlighted Ambrose’s quality, make no mistake, the “Assassin” believes he holds all the advantages.
“I match-up with him great, to be honest, I think my striking is a little bit better, I think I hit a lot harder and my jiu-jitsu’s going to be a bit better, and I’m going to be able to outwrestle him,” Awad explained. “So I think stylistically it’s a bad matchup for him.”
Awad is coming off of a quick KO, one minute, seven seconds, over Zach Freeman. The quick win didn’t come as a surprise to Awad as he always expects to finish his opponents quickly.
“I mean, not be cocky, but I expect to get a quick KO against everybody,” Awad said. “When I don’t get a quick KO then I’m like ‘okay something’s wrong’ so then I have to change my gameplan up. So nothing against Zach Freeman, I mean, every fight I go in there looking for the quick knockout.”
Currently, on a solid two-fight winning streak, Awad highlights what exactly the key’s been for him to get this far.
“Honestly, I’ve just been training a lot,” Awad said. “I’ve just been training and focusing a lot on little details that I knew were my flaws, and every fight I’ll keep something new. If I see something go wrong in one of my fights, I’ll tweak that out and train it and get a little bit better and then just try and keep improving.”
With a win taking Awad to three victories in a row, it would make sense to offer the veteran a big fight. But Awad doesn’t have a name in mind next, although he doesn’t believe it would matter anyway.
“Whoever they give me,” Awad said. “I can ask for fights but they won’t give them to me. “My only thing is trying to get a title fight, I’m not even going to ask for that anymore. I’m going to ask them to keep me busy. I just want to stay busy. I get paid the same no matter who I fight so as long as they keep me busy, that’s what I’m happy for.”
As for 2018, Awad’s goals remain simple.
“Keep winning,” Awad said. “Stay busy and keep winning.”
If things go the way Awad expects, fans are in for a treat. As for Ambrose? Not so much.
“I’m going to go in there and leave with a knockout, a violent knockout,” Awad said. “Get my hand raised, talk some shit, and leave.”
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