Tonight Bellator MMA returned and featured a big time women’s flyweight title fight in their main event. Champion, Ilima-Lei Macfarlane (11-0) took on Juliana Velasquez (10-0).
Tonight was one of those rare occasions where the defending champion entered as the underdog. Macfarlane has looked sensational so far in her reign as Bellator flyweight champion. However, Velasquez was looked at as her most dangerous challenger.
The Judoka was poised to present some very interesting grappling challenges for Macfarlane. Normally, Macfarlane has had a big grappling advantage in her fights. However, on paper, it was hard to give her the advantage over the challenger at Bellator 254.
Bellator 254 Main Event Recap
As the Bellator 254 main event got underway, Macfarlane looked to close the distance with strikes. However, nothing was landing early. Velasquez seemed to be stalking Macfarlane in the opening minutes just trying to gauge the distance.
Macfarlane found herself getting touched with shots as she continued to struggle to get inside. Velasquez looked poised and very comfortable from the outside. Halfway through first round of the Bellator main event and the action was lacking.
Both of these fighters were just feeling the other out. Velasquez started to back Macfarlane up, but she wasn’t throwing a ton of strikes. Macfarlane shot in for a sloppy takedown and couldn’t land it. Slow first round, but I’ll give this one to the challenger.
As the second round of the Bellator 254 main event got underway, the champion attempted to dart in with strikes. However, Velasquez did a good job of defending and landing counters. After the opening seconds, the two settled in at range where Velasquez again looked comfortable.
Velasquez continued stalking Macfarlane along the fence line a minute into the round. Macfarlane blitzed in and landed a decent overhand right, but she still appeared to be struggling with the range. Macfarlane used another blitz to get the fight to a clinch.
However, Velasquez reversed the position and pushed the champion against the fence. Both fighters started exchanging knees in the clinch. Macfarlane was able to reverse the position and push the challenger against the fence with 90 seconds left in the round.
Macfarlane attempted a trip, however, Velasquez was able to land on top. The champion attempted to throw up some submissions from guard, but nothing really got close in the final minute. Two rounds to nothing for the challenger on my scorecard.
As the third round of the Bellator 254 main event got underway, the champion again looked to attack with blitzes. Macfarlane landed a couple of clean shots which forced Velasquez to start pressing forward with her own attack.
After some initial success, Macfarlane found herself getting stalked again. The champion was able catch a leg kick and she used that to try to land a takedown. While balancing on one foot, Velasquez was able to land some clean shots which cut the champion.
Velasquez was able to defend the takedown and get the fight back to standing. Macfarlane was having more success with her striking in the third landing a clean right hand that she followed with a nice leg kick.
However, Velasquez continued to pressure the champion and land from distance. The champion had more success in round three, but this was another round for the challenger who landed a flush knee to close the round.
As the fourth round of the Bellator 254 main event got underway, Velasquez looked to be in complete control. The champion continued to try to land with her blitzes, but Velasquez was doing a very nice job of sliding out of the way.
In the fourth, Velasquez was doing a good job of landing a really good uppercut as Macfarlane rushed in. Halfway through the round and the champion was looking busted up. Velasquez really started to push forward with big straight shots.
Macfarlane looked to just be defending at this point. However, with two minutes left in the round, Macfarlane got in deep on a takedown and got Velasquez down. Velasquez was able to work her way to the fence, but Macfarlane kept her down.
The champion did a good job of staying active with landing shots while she had top position. The round closes with the champion on top. Good start to the round for Velasquez, but this round goes to the champion with her top control for the final two minutes.
As the final round got underway, the Bellator flyweight champion needed a finish according to my scorecard. Velasquez opened up the round with a couple of clean shots. However, Macfarlane immediately was able to push Velasquez up against the fence.
Once they were there, the champion worked very hard for the takedown. However, Velasquez defended very well. Macfarlane landed a couple of nice knees to the thighs while she was still attempting to get the takedown.
Halfway through the round and Macfarlane went for a throw, but landed on her back. When Velasquez was on top she started attacking with elbows. Velasquez did a really good job of using pressure while on top.
With 90 seconds left in the round, Velasquez backed away and let the fight up. Once there, the champion immediately shot in for another takedown. The final minute just featured Macfarlane pushing Velasquez against the fence.
Good moments for the champion, but I lean towards the challenger. In the end, I scored the fight 49-46 for Juliana Velasquez.
Juliana Velasquez def. Ilima-Lei Macfarlane by Unanimous Decision (48-47, 49-46, 48-47)