Bellator MMA in a matter of days will crown its first women’s flyweight champion, as the undefeated Ilima-Lei Macfarlane takes on Emily Ducote in the Bellator 186 co-headliner on Friday at the Bryce Jordan Center in University Park, Pennsylvania. Their five-round battle helps anchor a five-fight main draw that airs live on Spike (9 p.m. ET/8 p.m. CT).
Macfarlane has raced out to a 6-0 start to her career. The 27-year-old Team Hurricane Awesome rep sports four finishes among those six victories, three of them by submission, and last fought at Bellator 178 in April, when she tapped Jessica Middleton with a first-round armbar. This will not be Macfarlane’s first encounter with Ducote: She was awarded a unanimous verdict against the Oklahoman at Bellator 167 on Dec. 3.
Though she enters the rematch as the underdog, Ducote will do so on a two-fight winning streak. She last competed at Bellator 181, where she took a unanimous decision from the aforementioned Middleton on July 14. Operating out of an American Top Team affiliate in Oklahoma City, Ducote has compiled a 4-1 record in Bellator, the loss to Macfarlane her only setback.
The Macfarlane-Ducote rematch ranks as one of the must-see fights on the Bellator 186 lineup. Here are four more:
Bader was given little time to bask in his championship glory. A little more than four months after he captured the Bellator light heavyweight crown in a split decision over Phil Davis, he will defend the 205-pound title against Linton Vassell in the main event. Bader, 34, has won eight of his past nine bouts, a January 2016 knockout loss to Anthony Johnson his lone misstep. Wins over Antonio Rogerio Nogueira (twice), Ilir Latifi, Rashad Evans, Ovince St. Preux and Quinton Jackson highlight “The Ultimate Fighter” Season 8 winner’s resume. Vassell, meanwhile, continues to fly under the radar. The 34-year-old Englishman has delivered 14 of his 18 professional victories by knockout, technical knockout or submission. Vassell last appeared at Bellator 179 in May, when he extended his current winning streak to three fights with a third-round arm-triangle choke submission on Liam McGeary.
A four-time NCAA All-American wrestler and 2008 national champion at Penn State University, Davis returns to his alma mater on the rebound and does so against the unbeaten Leite. “Mr. Wonderful” saw his run of four consecutive victories grind to a halt in a split decision loss to Bader at Bellator 180 on June 24, the defeat costing him the promotion’s light heavyweight championship. Davis nevertheless has established himself as one of the cornerstones for the Viacom-led Bellator organization, with wins over McGeary, Muhammed Lawal, Francis Carmont and Emanuel Newton already in his back pocket. A multiple-time Brazilian jiu-jitsu world champion, Leite has made a seamless transition to MMA. The 39-year-old has compiled a 10-0 record that includes six finishes.
Ed Ruth vs. Chris Dempsey
One of Bellator’s most prized prospects, Ruth was a three-time NCAA wrestling champion at Penn State University, where he won 136 of his 139 matches. He still ranks first on the school’s all-time list in winning percentage (.978), third in falls (46) and fifth in victories. Ruth, who once operated out of the Jackson-Wink MMA academy, has aligned himself with the Dethrone Base Camp outfit in Frenso, California. Just 27 years of age, he has stopped each of his first three opponents -- Dustin Collins-Miles, Emanuele Palombi and David Mundell -- inside two rounds. Ruth’s degree of difficulty figures to increase against Dempsey, a 16-fight veteran who went 1-3 during his brief stay in the Ultimate Fighting Championship between July 9, 2014 and Feb. 27, 2016.
Bellator might have something special in Storley. The 25-year-old welterweight prospect has finished all six of his opponents as a pro, five of them in the first round. He made his organizational debut at Bellator 181 on July 14, when he disposed of Kemmyelle Haley with first-round elbow strikes. Storley has dropped anchor at Henri Hooft’s Combat Club camp, where he trains alongside former UFC welterweight champion Robbie Lawler. He was a four-time NCAA All-American wrestler at the University of Minnesota. A graduate of Season 16 of “The Ultimate Fighter” reality series, Secor has secured eight of his nine career victories by submission. He last competed at Bellator 182 on Aug. 25, when he tapped T.J. Sumler with a first-round keylock.