Bellator 254: Battle of unbeatens is Ilima-Lei Macfarlane’s hardest take a look at as champ

Ilima-Lei Macfarlane left San Diego for Connecticut on Saturday. She arrived on the Mohegan Solar in Uncasville, the place she was examined for COVID-19 and despatched to her lodge room to quarantine. Bellator struggle week had formally begun.

But Macfarlane, the ladies’s flyweight champion, nonetheless had doubts whether or not her bout would happen. She is scheduled to defend her title in opposition to Juliana Velasquez in the principle occasion of Bellator 254 on Thursday evening. With a worldwide coronavirus pandemic, although, and fights in all organizations falling off often, Macfarlane wasn’t assured.

“I really feel prefer it’s not actual,” the undefeated champ advised ESPN on Friday. “I really feel just like the struggle isn’t going to be actual till the cage door is closed and we punch one another within the face.”

By all accounts, the bout will certainly go on. And Macfarlane will must be at her greatest regardless of circumstances that haven’t been superb. Velasquez, who’s undefeated, is Macfarlane’s hardest take a look at to this point. In reality, some sportsbooks have Velasquez as a slight favourite. Macfarlane acknowledges that that is the struggle with the “highest risk of me truly shedding the belt.”

“I believe she is bodily very robust and intimidating and he or she simply smells blood,” Macfarlane stated. “She’s a killer. I believe she hits actually arduous, from what I’ve watched on tape.”

Macfarlane (11-0) has been with Bellator for 5 years and he or she’s the one ladies’s 125-pound champion the promotion has ever recognized, capturing the belt in November 2017. The Hawai’i native has seven finishes in 10 Bellator wins. ESPN has Macfarlane ranked No. 2 in the world amongst feminine flyweights.

This, although, has been a tough camp. Macfarlane trains out of San Diego Fight Academy, and California has had among the strictest COVID-19 laws within the nation. Fortunately for Macfarlane, her new house — which she has dubbed the Pineapple Plantation — has a exercise space with mats, cardio tools and weights. The one fear was her health club — whose workforce dubs itself Crew Hurricane Superior — getting shut down by native authorities.

“My health club doesn’t give a f—,” Macfarlane stated. “We stayed open, particularly for the fighters. We had some fighters that have been booked for fights, so we needed to practice. We did not have a selection.”

A win over Velasquez may result in a giant struggle for Macfarlane in 2021 — in opposition to her teammate Liz Carmouche, a former UFC ladies’s flyweight and bantamweight title challenger. The 2 are shut mates — Carmouche is watching Macfarlane’s canine whereas she’s in Connecticut — however wish to struggle one another, a rarity for teammates in MMA.

“The Liz struggle can be the most important struggle for me, I believe, by way of promotion,” Macfarlane stated. “Simply the entire story.”

To get there, although, Macfarlane has to get by the stiff competitors of Velasquez on Thursday.

This is a take a look at three issues to look at for at Bellator 254:

Is Velasquez pretty much as good because the betting strains would recommend?

Macfarlane has not been an underdog in a struggle as champion till now. Velasquez, a Brazilian with a background in judo and jiu-jitsu, is very regarded. She is 10-0 total and 5-0 in Bellator with three finishes.

A win right here for the upstart out of Crew Nogueira would flip the Bellator ladies’s flyweight division on its head. There was discuss that Bellator’s 2021 grand prix match may characteristic this division. If that’s the case, this could possibly be the final title struggle till that kicks off.

It is a huge one. Not only for Bellator, both. If Velasquez dethrones Macfarlane, she has an opportunity to ascend up the rankings that additionally characteristic the very best ladies’s flyweight fighters within the UFC.

Which extremely touted new signee will present out?

No struggle aside from the principle occasion is extra intriguing than a bantamweight scrap between a pair of debuting fighters: Magomed Magomedov and Matheus Mattos. That is a number of M’s in a single struggle. However having each on the roster is a giant W for Bellator. Every man has just one profession loss, and it got here in opposition to the identical opponent: present UFC bantamweight champion Petr Yan.

Magomedov, nicknamed “Tiger,” is a Dagestan native with a knack for ending. He truly owns a split-decision win over Yan in 2016. Mattos, a 28-year-old Brazilian, is an Final Fighter Brazil veteran. Each males characterize a brand new philosophy for Bellator, which has begun signing prospects who’re near being prepared for prime time. There aren’t any developmental tasks right here. Both Magomedov and Mattos might be a legit bantamweight contender with a win Thursday.

Will an All-American wrestling star have a breakout efficiency?

In contrast to Magomedov and Mattos, Romero Cotton and Cody Legislation are slightly additional away from title rivalry. But it surely positive appears like each have vivid futures.

Cotton is former three-time Division II nationwide champion out of the College of Nebraska-Kearney. That college has a little bit of an MMA pedigree — it is the alma mater of UFC welterweight champion Kamaru Usman. Cotton, a middleweight, is 30 years outdated however has solely 4 professional fights. He has been a long-term funding for Bellator. Cotton faces Justin Sumter at Bellator 254.

Then there’s Legislation (1-0), who was a Division I nationwide wrestling champion on the College of Pittsburgh at Johnstown. He’s simply 25 years outdated and trains out of American Prime Crew. There are excessive hopes for him. Kenny Champion, a 2-0 prospect, might be his opponent.

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