While the UFC takes a hiatus to unwind and prepare for its International Fight Week extravaganza, Bellator returns for the first time since Memorial Day Weekend with a card headlined by a women’s flyweight championship tilt.
Ilima-Lei Macfarlane, the promotion’s inaugural 125-pound queen, will make her first official title defense against Colombian Alejandra Lara at Bellator 201 at Pechanga Resort and Casino in Temecula, Calif., on Friday night. The evening’s main card will be televised on Paramount Network at 9 p.m. ET/8 p.m. CT, while the prelims stream immediately prior on Bellator.com and the Bellator Mobile App at 7:30 p.m. ET/4:30 p.m. PT.
Macfarlane (7-0), a native Hawaiian who trains at San Diego’s Team Hurricane Awesome, has earned all but one of her professional victories under the Bellator banner. She claimed the inaugural flyweight crown with a triangle armbar submission of Emily Ducote in the fifth round of their November bout – her fourth career triumph via tapout. The 28-year-old is a budding star and has a legitimate claim to being one of the top 10 female flyweight talents in the world, regardless of organization. She should be a solid favorite on Friday night.
Lara, a 23-year-old native of Medellin, Colombia, turned heads when she tapped out Ukrainian talent Lena Ovchynnikova in the third round at Bellator 190 this past December. That triumphant promotional debut was enough to earn “Azul” a title shot. Lara owns a 7-1 career mark and has finished all but one of her victories inside the distance.
There are a number of other interesting bouts throughout the card. In the co-main event, long-tenured Bellator veteran Saad Awad looks to add to his three-fight winning streak against Ryan Couture, a former UFC and Strikeforce talent best known for being the son of UFC Hall of Famer Randy Couture. Awad has a couple highlight-reel knockouts to his credit, while Couture has been on the receiving end of a couple, so keep your eyes peeled.
Elsewhere on the main card, Juan Archuleta, who has compiled a 19-1 career record primarily on the regional circuit, will put his glossy record on the line against the battle-tested Robbie Peralta at featherweight. Meanwhile, the next female flyweight title challenger could be looming when Valerie Letourneau takes on Kristina Williams. Letourneau once challenged for the strawweight crown against Joanna Jedrzejczyk in the UFC, while Williams opened some eyes by battering boxing champion Heather Hardy in her pro debut.
On the preliminary bill, blue-chip wrestling prospect Ed Ruth (5-0) will attempt to remain undefeated in his first welterweight bout when he faces Andy Murad (15-2). Ruth is just one of Bellator’s prized wrestling prospects on the bill, as heavyweight Tyrell Fortune (4-0) meets Giovanni Sarran (5-2), and Joey Davis (3-0) locks horns with Craig Plaskett (2-2). Also, keep an eye out for Jordan Williams (8-0), a 23-year-old poised for a breakout after earning a trio of Bellator victories last year and Keri Anne Taylor-Melendez, the wife of UFC star Gilbert Melendez who will be making her second-ever MMA appearance.