All title reigns are tenuous in mixed martial arts -- a reality Bellator MMA women’s featherweight champion Julia Budd has undoubtedly begun to discover.
The Roberts Creek, British Columbia, native will defend her 145-pound crown for the first time when she rematches Arlene Blencowe in the Bellator 189 headliner this Friday at the Winstar World Casino in Thackerville, Oklahoma. Budd eked out a majority decision over Blencowe in their first meeting a little more than a year ago. This time, they have five rounds to decide it.
Budd will carry an eight-fight winning streak into the cage. She last competed at Bellator 174 on March 3, when she put away former Strikeforce champion Marloes Coenen with fourth-round punches to claim the promotion’s inaugural women’s featherweight title. A protégé of Lance Gibson, Budd has compiled a perfect 4-0 record under the Bellator banner. In fact, the 34-year-old has not lost since she submitted to a Ronda Rousey armbar at a Strikeforce Challengers event in November 2011.
Blencowe has gone 8-2 since losing four of her first six professional bouts and enters her second encounter with Budd on the strength of back-to-back victories. The Australian standout last appeared at Bellator 182, where she was awarded a split decision against SBG Ireland’s Sinead Kavanagh on Aug. 25. Blencowe, 34, has delivered six of her 10 career wins by knockout, technical knockout or submission.
The Budd-Blencowe rematch ranks as one of the must-see fights on the Bellator 189 lineup. Here are four more:
The next No. 1 contender for the Bellator middleweight championship could be decided when the undefeated Lovato meets the once-beaten Honeycutt in the three-round co-main event.
A multiple-time Brazilian jiu-jitsu world champion, Lovato has made a seamless transition to MMA. The former Legacy Fighting Championship titleholder has finished all six of his opponents, four of them inside one round. Lovato, 34, last fought at Bellator 181 on July 14, when he needed less than two minutes to submit Mike Rhodes with a rear-naked choke. He holds a Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt under Saulo Ribeiro.
Honeycutt wrestled collegiately at Edinboro University in Pennsylvania, where he was a two-time NCAA All-American. The 29-year-old Dethrone Base Camp representative has rattled off four straight victories since he suffered a surprise technical knockout loss to Paul Bradley in January 2016. Wins over Kevin Casey, Ben Reiter and Mikkel Parlo highlight Honeycutt’s resume.
Lulls in action should not be an issue when Kato faces Njokuani in a three-round middleweight showcase between two high-velocity strikers.
Best known for his Superman punch knockout on Joe Schilling, Kato has gone the distance only once in 10 professional appearances. He finds himself on a three-fight winning streak, having rattled off back-to-back-to-back victories over Yuta Watanabe, A.J. Matthews and Ralek Gracie. Kato, 35, has not competed since he took a unanimous decision from Gracie at Bellator 170 on Jan. 21 in Inglewood, California.
Njokuani has been at odds with the scale throughout much of his career and looks to be throwing out his anchor at a more manageable 185 pounds. The former Tachi Palace Fights titleholder saw his career-best seven-fight winning streak snapped on Aug. 25, when he succumbed to first-round punches and elbows from Andrey Koreshkov at Bellator 182. Njokuani boasts 11 finishes among his 17 career victories, 10 of them by knockout or technical knockout.
Two of Bellator’s premier lightweights are set to square off in a catchweight feature, as Piccolotti battles Rickels at 160 pounds.
Piccolotti finds himself on the rebound for the first time after he submitted to a rear-naked choke from Goiti Yamauchi at Bellator 183 on Sept. 24. The 29-year-old Californian has spent time training at the American Kickboxing Academy, where he has sharpened his skills alongside Daniel Cormier, Luke Rockhold and other top-flight fighters. Piccolotti has delivered six of his nine pro wins by KO, TKO or submission, with Ray Wood, Mario Soto and Salvador Becerra among the victims.
A replacement for the injured Derek Anderson, Rickels continues to hold down his spot as one of Bellator’s go-to lightweights. The mercurial “Caveman” has not fought since Jan. 27, when he disposed of Aaron Derrow with third-round punches at Bellator 171. Rickels owns a 12-4 mark in Bellator, having lost only to Michael Chandler (twice), Patricky Freire and Karl Amoussou.
Sicilia has put down roots in Bellator following a 12-fight run in the Ultimate Fighting Championship that was marked by uneven performance.
“The Ultimate Fighter 15” graduate will make his promotional debut opposite Galvao on the undercard. Sicilia has yet to compete since being released by the UFC on the heels of consecutive losses to Doo Ho Choi, Gabriel Benitez and Gavin Tucker. The 31-year-old operates out of the Sikjitsu camp in Spokane, Washington, where he teams with longtime friend Michael Chiesa. Wins over Cristiano Marcello, Godofredo Castro and Akira Corassani strengthen Sicilia’s profile.
A two-time Brazilian jiu-jitsu world champion who once held the Bellator bantamweight title, Galvao has lost twice in three appearances. The 35-year-old Andre Pederneiras disciple last fought at Bellator 175 on March 31, when he dropped a unanimous decision to Roufusport standout Emmanuel Sanchez. Galvao trains at Long Island MMA in New York -- the same outfit that Gregor Gillespie, Dennis Bermudez and Ryan LaFlare call home.