On December 1st 2017, Bellator MMA returned to Oklahoma at the WinStar World Casino in Thackerville. This card had some controversial decisions, exciting finishes, and was all around entertaining. Let's get into it.
Main Event – Bellator Women's Featherweight Championship Bout
Julia Budd (Win) vs Arlene Blencowe
In the main event of the evening, Bellator Women's Featherweight Champion Julia Budd put her title on the line in a rematch with 145er Arlene Blencowe.
The two originally met at Bellator 162 and Budd took that fight by Majority decision. In the first round, Budd came out surprisingly aggressively, landing hard strikes and backing up Blencowe early. She didn't give Blencowe any room in the first, and followed up her striking with clinches. She had Blencowe controlled against the cage for most of the round, and stymied any attempts at escaping. She landed good strikes and finished the round there.
In the second, Blencowe looked to come out and find her striking as she started landing heavy one-two combinations. Budd ate some hard punches but came back with strikes of her own as she stayed on the outside, landing some solid low kicks to the body and legs of Blencowe. They stand and trade some heavy strikes here in the second, and in the final moments, Budd finds a takedown and finishes the round controlling Blencowe. In the third is when the fight began slowing down considerably.
Both women fought extremely tentatively, and only a few strikes overall were thrown and landed. The crowd began getting restless as the fighters began staring each other down, it seemed, and were being very timid in their striking and overall attitude in the fight. Budd threw and landed a few body kicks, and Blencowe went back to the same right hand a few times, trying to find the home-run shot but only landing glancing shots. The round ends with boos from the crowd.
In the 4th and 5th rounds, it was a mirror of the 3rd, Budd stayed with the outside movement and occasional body kicks and Blencowe kept head hunting and over pursuing, not being able to find much at all. Even Bellator Commentator Mauro Ranallo suggested that this fight would've received a yellow card for timidity in PRIDE fighting rules. At the end of the fight, both fighters didn't do too much damage, but Budd was the one who did enough, and Blencowe did not do enough to outclass the champion.
Julia Budd def. Arlene Blencowe via Split Decision.
Rafael Lovato jr. (Win) vs Chris Honeycutt
In the Co-Main event, we had BJJ black belt and 7-0 fighter Rafael Lovato Jr. square off against Up and comer Chris Honeycutt, who's on a 4 fight win streak. In the first round of this Middleweight bout, Lovato came out as the aggressor early, and he threw a flurry of head kicks and flying knees, with no regard for Honeycutt's striking or wrestling ability. Lovato kept on with the striking though, landing hard punch combinations and avoiding some of Honeycutt's harder shots. Frustrated, Honeycutt shoots for a takedown and ends up driving Lovato against the cage. They jockey for position here momentarily, and then Lovato grabbed onto a Standing guillotine choke to defend the takedown. The round comes to a close before he can attempt to finish the choke.
In the second round, Lovato again comes out aggressively throwing leather and some more kicks, recklessly. Lovato shows his well developed striking off even more in round two, and although Honeycutt threatens with takedowns, Lovato is able to impose his will. Honeycutt however eventually finds the takedown. He tries to go to work in Lovato's guard, but this is not a good spot, and Lovato is eventually able to power back to his feet and separate. As the round begin to come to a close Lovato again came forward with well placed punch combinations and kicks, and as the round ends he lands a couple more punches to the face, showing his striking off further.
In the 3rd round, Lovato resumes his relentless assault with more strikes, going to high kicks repeatedly in the final round's first half. Honeycutt searches for a takedown but he can't find it, and as he goes back to the shot a couple of times he gets caught with some Lovato head kicks. As Lovato throws another kick, Honeycutt is able to catch his leg and land a takedown from there. However Lovato is ready, and he shows off his Jiu Jitsu prowess with his ability to get up strong each time he's taken down. Lovato goes to a couple strikes as they go back to stand up, but he then shoots and finds a successful takedown of his own, but this time it's Honeycutt getting to his feet quickly and finding better position in the scramble, as he lands on top. He finishes the final round here and this one will go to the judges.
Rafael Lovato Jr. def. Chris Honeycutt via Unanimous Decision.
Hisaki Kato vs Chidi Njokuani (Win)
In the second fight of the main card, powerful Bellator up and comer Chidi Njokuani takes on Japanese Bellator contender Hisaki Kato. The first round saw Kato work his leg kicks over and over to try and establish distance on the longer Njokuani, but it wasn't enough to keep the Las Vegas Native Njokuani at bay as he started to time Kato and land good punches and kicks of his own later in the first. Kato continued to use his leg kicks heavily, but as the round ended Njokuani was the one using his punches to do more damage.
In the second round, Njokuani came out a bit more aggressively, taking the center of the cage and landing some hard punches early, forcing Kato to the outside and now keeping him at bay. They exchange, and as the round goes on Njokuani starts to take the outside and uses it well, landing hard, measured strikes that stung Kato and backed him up repeatedly. Kato uses his leg kicks still, but ends up getting countered by Njokuani a few times as he does, so it's beginning to work against him. The round ends with Njokuani landing shots dominantly.
In the third round, Kato goes all out and throws a few kicks to begin the round. However, Njokuani anticipated this and was ready to counter and landed more punches to the forward pressing Kato. Around midway through the second, Njokuani was building momentum and now he was pressing forward, and he even landed a hard right hand that dropped Kato with 2:30 left in the round. Kato recovered though, and he pressed forward throwing kicks and still looking to catch Njokuani, and late in the round, Kato goes for the single leg take down. Njokuani is wise to it, and defends, and they reset to the middle of the cage, where they exchange a final time and the buzzer sounds.
Chidi Njokuani def. Hisaki Kato via Unanimous Decision.
David Rickels (Win) vs Adam Piccolotti
In the first fight of the main card, we have a catchweight bout taking place at 160lbs, with Bellator veteran David Rickels taking up and coming Bellator fighter Adam Piccolotti.
In the first round Rickels came out as the aggressor, throwing heavy punches and landing a couple, sending Piccolotti moving backwards. Piccolotti came back with a couple of strikes of his own, and he clinched with Rickels briefly at points, but each time, Rickels was able to escape and work his stand up. He landed many punches as the round went on, and as the round came to a close, he even landed a last flurry before the buzzer.
In the second, Rickels came out measured but was able to land his heavy right hand over and over whenever Piccolotti found himself getting into boxing range. Piccolotti was more tentative now, and he then found a takedown, but again Rickels fights strong back to his feet and Piccolotti can't do much damage before he does so. Piccolotti stayed with his wrestling and it payed off for him, as he was able to record one last takedown and got some top control as the round ends.
In the third round, Piccolotti came out with major damage under his left eye, and after the doctor cleared him, the fight went on. This round was more of the same as the rest of the fight, as Rickels was able to find his overhand over and over on Piccolotti once more. Piccolotti timed Rickels though, and landed an overhand of his own that he follows with a well timed takedown. Rickels stays active from the bottom however, and the remainder of the fight saw Piccolotti on top trying to defend Omoplata and Triangle attempts from Rickels.
David Rickels def. Adam Piccolotti via Unanimous Decision.
In the preliminary action of the card:
Featherweight Sam Sicilia was able to find his first win in 3 fights as he took a Unanimous decision victory over Marcos Galvao.
Young Featherweight prospect Cris Williams got his second ever finish with a Triangle Choke Submission in the first round over Thomas Lopez.
Explosive Brazilian Bantamweight Juliana Velasquez won her US debut with an Arm bar finish over Chinese fighter Na Liang in round 2.
Oklahoma native Featherweight Brandon Philips got it done moving to 7-3, besting Jordan Howard in a Unanimous Decision win.
Exciting Canadian fighter Mandel Nallo got it done in the Lightweight division, with an explosive Head kick KO of Texan Alec Williams.
And to begin the night, young SF Bay Area Featherweight Gaston Bolanos finished Rick Gutierrez with an awesome Spinning back elbow KO.