Whenever Bellator MMA’s cage lands in Ireland, and particularly in Dublin – it draws an atmosphere simply like no other. The 3Arena played host to the latest trip to the capital last weekend, with the Docklands venue drawing high-praise from former Strikeforce lightweight best, and colour commentator, Josh Thomson.
Sure, the event lost it’s originally scheduled headliner and co-curtain closer in the weeks prior, but those who slotted in respectively capped off a memorable evening. Eight of the Irish contingency got their hand raised, some making huge statements in the process. The spotlight was beaming on Belfast native, Leah McCourt from the beginning of fight-week, as she became the first female mixed-martial-artist to headline a Bellator European Series event, alongside Germany’s Judith Ruis.
In front of a sold-out venue, McCourt lodged a unanimous decision triumph to remain undefeated in the promotion and move to 4-1 overall. Despite an early armbar attempt from Ruis, which McCourt was forced to grit out and subsequently ice later that evening – ‘The Curse’ cruised her way over three rounds to take home another triumph.
Mountmellick native, Charlie Ward also make a huge statement on Saturday evening, battering Kyle Kurtz for almost fifteen minutes before referee Leon Roberts eventually called a halt to proceedings. A combination of pressure, takedowns, and mounting strikes, ultimately proved enough to see the UFC alumni secure his fifth win since his move to Bellator.
Flanked by Sweet Caroline and Maniac 2000, former reality tv star, Aaron ‘The Joker’ Chalmers dropped just his second professional defeat of his still-young career, as Missouri native, Austin Clem managed to dominate any and all grappling scenarios for a unanimous decision win against Chalmers, and a less than impressed audience.
Former lightweight champion, Brent Primus made a notable call for a championship tilt after his one-sided victory over short-notice replacement, Chris Bungard, as he wrapped up an opening-round neck crank submission. Receiving a massive ovation before the opening bell, the admirable Scotland native, Bungard, made the walk sporting a Celtic jersey and was flanked by Christy Moore’s rendition of Viva la Quinte Brigada.
Prior to that, we witnessed an exciting back-and-forth at a contracted 160-pound weight as SBG prospect, Kiefer Crosbie managed a split-decision triumph over a game, Iamik Furtado, to improve to 8-1 as a professional. The father of two could very easily headline the promotion’s next visit to the capital in September.
Picking up her first win under the promotion’s banner, former UFC feature, ‘Rowdy’ Bec Rawlings managed a comfortable unanimous decision win over Greece’s, Elina Kallionidou. The flyweight contender recently spent some time under the Bare Knuckle Fighting Championship banner, where she managed an undefeated three-fight streak.
In one of the most intriguing bouts of the evening, bantamweight contenders clashed as Ricky Bandejas survived an early scare to ward off the advances of a cool, Frans Mlambo. Straight Blast Gym mainstay, Mlambo, lodged an early knockdown via a counter right hand, and almost secured an opening frame submission. American Top Team trainee, Bandejas survived and via a series of right hooks, finished Mlambo against the conceivable odds in the second. That’s victories over James Gallagher, and now Mlambo lodged for the 28-year-old – who called for another SBG fighter next. A certain Brian ‘Pikeman’ Moore has extended his invitation already.
With a highlight-reel finish, Sweden’s Oliver Enkamp stopped Wales native, Lewis Long, via a spinning back-fist as he improved to 2-0 under the Bellator ranks since his debut with the promotion last year.
Former kickboxing star, Richard Kiely dropped his second straight defeat since September, as he fell to a second-round mounted-guillotine against promotional debutante, George Hardwick earlier in the evening. Unable to mount any sort of offence due to the Middlesborough native’s pressure and clinch work, Tallaght’s Kiely dropped to 3-3.
A bout which should definitely have received higher billing was a clash between lightweight grapplers, Georgi Karakhanyan, and Paul Redmond. Nevertheless, in an exciting two-round affair, Karakhanyan forced the tap via a timely guillotine choke. The California native later revealed his wife had given birth to his son, Georgi Jr. during his fight.
IMMAF silver medalist, Danni Neilan picked up her second professional victory on the preliminary card, as she secured a unanimous decision triumph over Italy’s Chiara Penco following some pressing wrestling and offensive top control.
Promotional debutante, Alberth Dias made good on his short-notice pairing with submission-specialist, Richie Smullen, taking home a close but unanimous decision win in an exciting grappling matchup.
Cahir native, Will Fleury returned to winning ways following his defeat to Norbert Novenyi Jr. last September, as he dominated Justin Moore before latching up an opening-round arm-triangle finish, moving to 3-2 under the promotion’s banner in the process.
In a dominant display, Scotland’s Chris Duncan remained undefeated and moved to 6-0 following a second-round knockout of short-notice replacement, Mateusz Piskorz.
Grappling aces Callum Murrie and Dylan Logan exchanged submission attempts in a hugely entertaining opening frame, with Murrie eventually forcing a tap in the final minute of the opening round with a taught rear-naked choke.
Straight Blast Gym prospect, Blaine O’Driscoll also managed a return to the win column, as he finished Ezzoubair Bouarsa with an opening-round head and body barrage.
In a gruelling performance, Drogheda native, Ciaran Clarke managed his second professional win, as he sliced Jamie Faulding over three rounds to take a unanimous decision judging.
Opening up the night’s action, we witnessed professional debutante’s Constantin Blanita and Asrael Adjoudj battle for three rounds with Blanita eventually emerging with the victory, courtesy of a split decision.
In the swing bout of the evening, Ilias Bulaid picked up a unanimous decision win as he battled with Portugal’s Diego Freitas to move to 2-0 as a professional.