Bellator MMA returns to the cage on Thursday night with Bellator 254 and a title fight in the main event. Ilima-Lei Macfarlane puts her flyweight title on the line when she takes on undefeated challenger Juliana Velasquez atop a four-fight card from the Mohegan Sun Arena in Uncasville, Connecticut.
Macfarlane (11-0) has been off for nearly a full year after most recently defending her title against Kate Jackson in December 2019. Velasquez (10-0) also fought on that card and picked up a decision win to earn her shot at the title.
The co-main event bout features two top bantamweight challengers. Magomedov Magomedov and Matheus Mattos make their promotional debut. Both are former ACA competitors and are highly regarded. The main card kicks off with two heavyweight bouts. Former title challenger Linton Vassell takes on former UFC veteran Ronny Markes. Before they step into the cage though, Anthony Garrett and Davion Franklin kick off the main card.
No fight other than the main event is more intriguing than a bantamweight scrap between a pair of debuting fighters: Magomed Magomedov and Matheus Mattos. That’s a lot of M’s in one fight. But having both on the roster is a big W for Bellator. Each man has only one career loss, and it came against the same opponent: current UFC bantamweight champion Petr Yan.
Magomedov, nicknamed “Tiger,” is a Dagestan native with a knack for finishing. He actually owns a split-decision win over Yan in 2016. Mattos, a 28-year-old Brazilian, is an Ultimate Fighter Brazil veteran. Both men represent a new philosophy for Bellator, which has begun signing prospects who are close to being ready for prime time. There are no developmental projects here. Either Magomedov and Mattos will be a legit bantamweight contender with a win Thursday.
Unlike Magomedov and Mattos, Romero Cotton and Cody Law are a little further away from title contention. But it sure looks like both have bright futures.
Cotton is a former three-time Division II national champion out of the University of Nebraska-Kearney. That school has a bit of an MMA pedigree — it’s the alma mater of UFC welterweight champion Kamaru Usman. Cotton, a middleweight, is 30 years old but has only four pro fights. He has been a long-term investment for Bellator. Cotton faces Justin Sumter at Bellator 254.
Then there’s Law (1-0), who was a Division I national wrestling champion at the University of Pittsburgh at Johnstown. He is just 25 years old and trains out of American Top Team. There are high hopes for him. Kenny Champion, a 2-0 prospect, will be his opponent.
BELLATOR 254 RESULTS
Main Card :
Juliana Velasquez def. Ilima-Lei Mcfarlane by Unanimous Decision (49-46, 48-47 x2)
Magomed Magomedov def. Matheus Mattos by Unanimous Decision (30-26, 30-27 x2)
Linton Vassell def. Ronny Markes by TKO ( Ground & Pound) at 3:37 in Round 2
Romero Cotton def. Justin Sumter by Sub (Rear-Naked Choke) at 3:36 in Round 1
Anthony Garrett* vs. Davion Franklin (Cancelled- Garrett not medically cleared to compete)
Shamil Nikaev def. Kemran Lachinov by Unanimous Decision (29-28 x3)
Grant Neal def. Maurice Jackson by Sub (Rear-Naked Choke) at 3:59 in Round 2
Cody Law def. Kenny Champion by TKO (Ground & Pound) at 4:44 in Round 3
Billy Goff def. Robson Gracie Jr. by TKO (Standing Elbow Strikes) at 1:46 in Round 2
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