Ilima-Lei Macfarlane rose to the occasion yet again.
The undefeated Hawaiian submitted Alejandra Lara with a third-round armbar to retain the Bellator MMA women’s flyweight championship in the Bellator 201 headliner on Friday at the Pechanga Resort and Casino in Temecula, California. Lara (7-2, 1-1 Bellator) conceded defeat 3:55 into Round 3, her three-fight winning streak at an end.
Macfarlane (8-0, 7-0 Bellator) navigated some considerable difficulty in the first round, where the challenger scrambled into top position, withstood an attempted triangle and wheeled behind her before transitioning from side control to the north-south position. Lara’s momentum was short-lived. Macfarlane turned a corner in Round 2 and hit the accelerator in the third. There, she dodged a spinning elbow, dragged Lara to the canvas, transitioned to the back and achieved full mount. Elbows fell next, as Macfarlane isolated the Colombian’s limb and sat back on the armbar. After an extended struggle, Lara elected to tap.
In the co-main event, former Gladiator Challenge champion Saad Awad cut down Ryan Couture with punches in the first round of their catchweight clash at 160 pounds. Couture (11-6, 3-3 Bellator) succumbed to blows 4:29 into Round 1, as he lost for the third time in four outings.
Awad (23-9, 11-6 Bellator) stayed busy with combination punching, held his own in the clinch and probed for openings. The 35-year-old staggered Couture with a right hand, backed him to the fence and uncorked a burst of punches with both hands, a final uppercut prompting referee Jason Herzog to act.
Still going strong at age 35, Awad has won four fights in a row.
Meanwhile, crisp counters, well-timed takedowns and clock-chewing top control carried American Top Team’s Valerie Letourneau to a unanimous decision over the previously unbeaten Kristina Williams in a three-round battle at 125 pounds. Letourneau (10-6, 2-0 Bellator) swept the scorecards with 29-28 marks from all three judges.
Williams (2-1, 2-1 Bellator) initiated a number of wild standup exchanges but never connected with a fight-altering shot. Letourneau floored her with a counter right hook in the first round and erased the Oklahoman’s gains with a pair of pivotal takedowns in the third. She spent more than three minutes dropping short punches and elbows from inside the Williams guard, exploiting her advantages in the waning moments.
Letourneau, 35, has recorded back-to-back wins since parting ways with the Ultimate Fighting Championship in 2016.
Elsewhere, former King of the Cage champion Juan Archuleta knocked out Robbie Peralta with an overhand right and subsequent hammerfists in the third round of their featherweight showcase. Peralta (19-9, 0-1 Bellator) bowed out 14 seconds into Round 3, losing for the fifth time in six appearances.
Archuleta (19-1, 2-0 Bellator) kept the well-traveled Californian off-balance throughout their encounter, integrating a variety of strikes -- jumping knees and a cartwheel kick included -- with a suffocating clinch and strategic takedowns. Early in the third round, he blasted Peralta with an overhand right, followed him to the canvas and sealed the deal with a volley of hammerfists.
The 30-year-old Archuleta has rattled off 14 consecutive victories.
In other action, three-time NCAA wrestling champion Ed Ruth (6-0) disposed of Andy Murad (15-3) with punches 4:59 into the second round of their welterweight affair; Arizona Combat Sports prospect Tyrell Fortune (5-0) put away Giovanni Sarran (5-3) with punches 4:35 into the second round of their heavyweight scrap; Team Bodyshop export Joey Davis (4-0) remained undefeated with a unanimous decision over Craig Plaskett (2-3) in a three-round welterweight encounter, drawing 30-26 marks across the board; American Top Team rep Jordan Young (9-0) submitted Jamal Pogues (4-2) with a triangle choke 3:50 into the third round of their light heavyweight tussle; Keri Anne Taylor-Melendez (2-0) tapped Tiani Valle (1-1) with a rear-naked choke 2:46 into the first round of their women’s strawweight pairing; and Jay-Jay Wilson (1-0) submitted David Conte (0-1) with a rear-naked choke 59 seconds into the first round of their featherweight tilt.