Ilima-Lei Macfarlane’s place on the throne remains secure.
The unbeaten Hawaiian empress pitched a shutout to retain the undisputed Bellator MMA women’s flyweight championship with a unanimous decision over Kate Jackson in the Bellator 236 headliner on Saturday at the Neil S. Blaisdell Arena in Honolulu. All three cageside judges gave the nod to Macfarlane (11-0, 10-0 Bellator): 50-45, 50-44 and 50-44.
Jackson (11-4-1, 3-2 Bellator) was effective in spots but lacked the resources required to bring down someone of the champion’s stature. Macfarlane landed takedowns in all five rounds, controlled “The Ultimate Fighter” Season 23 graduate on the ground and appeared to have a finish within reach on two occasions. She hunted an armbar late in the fourth round and battered Jackson with ferocious ground-and-pound from full mount in the waning seconds of the fifth. Only the challenger’s grit and internal fortitude allowed her to see the final bell.
McKee Armbar Submits Campos
Team Bodyshop’s A.J. McKee submitted former King of the Cage champion Derek Campos with an armbar in the third round of their Bellator featherweight grand prix quarterfinal. Campos (20-10, 9-8 Bellator) conceded defeat 68 seconds into Round 3.
McKee (16-0, 16-0 Bellator) stormed out of the gate and nearly finished it inside the first five minutes. He struck for a takedown, transitioned to the back and mixed short punching bursts with repeated rear-naked choke attempts. McKee had his arms locked around the Mohler MMA rep’s neck when the horn sounded, an audible groan rippling through the crowd. “The Mercenary” extended his lead in the second round, as he knocked down Campos, swarmed with follow-up punches and later threatened with a brabo choke. The underdog survived and mounted a brief rally before pushing the tournament quarterfinal to a middle stanza. There, McKee executed another takedown, caught a triangle in a subsequent scramble and shifted his attention to the armbar for the tapout.
The unbeaten McKee will face the Adam Borics-Darrion Caldwell winner in the grand prix semifinals sometime in 2020.
Replacement Jackson Dominates Kunimoto
Former Legacy Fighting Alliance and Jason Jackson won for the fourth time in five outings, as he cruised to a unanimous decision over Kiichi Kunimoto in a three-round welterweight showcase. A short-notice substitution for the injured Neiman Gracie, Jackson (11-4, 2-1 Bellator) carried all three scorecards by 30-27 margins.
The 38-year-old Kunimoto (20-9-2, 0-2 Bellator) had his moments — he moved to his counterpart’s back and fished for kimura in the first round — but found himself woefully outgunned on the feet. Jackson leveled him with a clean two-punch combination inside the first five minutes, operated behind a jackhammer jab and pieced together multi-punch volleys in standup exchanges. He punctuated his latest victory in the waning seconds of Round 3, where he drove a knee strike into Kunimoto and scored with a sensational lateral drop.
Kunimoto has suffered back-to-back defeats for just the second time in his 31-fight career.
Undefeated Velasquez Tortures Ellen
Team Nogueira export Juliana Velasquez likely cemented herself as the No. 1 contender at 125 pounds, as she banked a unanimous decision against Bruna Ellen in a three-round women’s flyweight feature. Scores were 30-27, 30-27 and 30-26, all for the undefeated Velasquez (10-0, 5-0 Bellator).
Ellen (5-3, 3-3 Bellator) spent almost the entire fight in a state of retreat. Velasquez dropped her with an overhand left in the first round and tightened her stranglehold on the match with each passing second. She exploited her height and reach advantages with a punishing jab and crushing straight lefts, mixing in the occasional inside leg kick when the mood arose. Velasquez poured on the punishment in the third round, where she put significant damage on her counterpart’s left eye and increased the frequency and intensity of her combinations.
The 23-year-old Ellen has lost two of her last three fights.
Debuting Stots Sinks Leialoha
Roufusport standout Raufeon Stots made a successful organizational debut, as he laid claim to a unanimous verdict over Dana White’s Contender Series alum Cheyden Leialoha in a three-round bantamweight showcase. Stots (13-1, 1-0 Bellator) swept the scorecards with 29-28, 30-27 and 29-28 marks from the judges.
Leialoha (7-2, 0-1 Bellator) too often played into the former Victory Fighting Championship titleholder’s hands. Stots settled in top position in all three rounds, alternating between side control and half guard while keeping the Hawaiian bottled up on the canvas. Leialoha enjoyed some success on the feet, where he zeroed in on the body with kicks and incorporated slashing standing elbows at close range, but the Gracie Technics rep failed to build enough momentum to alter the direction of the fight.
Stots, 31, has posted five straight wins.
Zane Outpoints Unbeaten Dung
Takedowns, positional control and ground-and-pound carried Zach Zane to a unanimous decision over Hard Knocks 365 prospect Nainoa Dung in a three-round lightweight feature. All three cageside judges scored it 29-28 for Zane (14-9, 1-0 Bellator), who has rattled off 10 wins in his last 12 appearances.
Zane spent a majority of the first 10 minutes grounding and controlling the 20-year-old Hawaiian. He was particularly effective in Round 1, where he executed a takedown and assaulted Dung with elbow-laced ground-and-pound. Perhaps sensing the result was slipping away from him, Dung (3-1, 2-1 Bellator) rallied in the third round, as he blasted the Black House representative with two savage body kicks, threatened him with guillotine chokes and advanced to his back during a scramble on the canvas. However, his bid for a comeback fell short when he surrendered position in his haste to finish.
In other action, Keoni Diggs (8-0, 1-0 Bellator) submitted Scotty Hao (4-3, 0-1 Bellator) with a rear-naked choke 2:23 into the second round of their lightweight pairing; Kai Kamaka III (6-2, 2-0 Bellator) took a unanimous decision from Spencer Higa (7-11, 0-2 Bellator) in a three-round featherweight encounter, drawing 30-27 marks from all three judges; Dustin Barca (4-0, 2-0 Bellator) submitted Brandon Pieper (11-14, 0-2 Bellator) with a rear-naked choke 58 seconds into the first round of their lightweight clash; Benjamin Wilhelm (2-0, 1-0 Bellator) dispatched Kealii Kanekoa (3-3, 0-1 Bellator) with a rear-naked choke 2:24 into the first round of their welterweight tilt; Chas Dunhour (1-1, 1-0 Bellator) wiped out Nate Yoshimura (0-1, 0-1 Bellator) with a standing elbow strike 2:46 into the second round of their flyweight confrontation; and Swayne Makana Lunasco (1-0, 1-0 Bellator) put away Kaylan Gorospe (0-1, 0-1 Bellator) with punches 3:29 into the third round of their bantamweight affair.