Fight Facts: Bellator 259

By: Jay Pettry
May 24, 2021

Fight Facts is a breakdown of all of the interesting information and cage curiosities on every card, with some puns, references and portmanteaus to keep things fun. These deep stat dives delve into the numbers, providing historical context and telling the stories behind those numbers.

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Bellator MMA staged what will likely be its last fanless event with a show that brought energetic prelims and a slower paced main card. The main event, for the women’s featherweight strap, did deliver an unusual finish worthy of note. Bellator 259 featured a litany of accolades for the victorious headliner, an infrequent triangle choke among women and a fascinating father-son distinction.

Nine Seconds to Freedom: Cristiane Justino’s knockout of Leslie Smith came at 4:51 of the fifth round, setting the record for the latest stoppage in Bellator history. The previous record was held by Pat Curran over Daniel Straus at the 4:46 mark of Round 5 at Bellator 112 in 2014.

Watch Out, Cat: With three wins inside the distance in her three appearances, Justino has tied the record for the third-most finishes in Bellator women’s divisional history alongside eight other women including Leah McCourt. Denise Kielholtz has earned five stoppages, while Ilima-Lei Macfarlane holds the record with seven.

Already Rarified Air: The successful title defense was the second for “Cyborg,” who is only the third woman in company history to achieve that feat. She is one championship win away from tying former foe Julia Budd’s divisional record.

Late Warriors: Justino is now the second female fighter in company history to earn a stoppage in Round 5. The first was Macfarlane, who tapped Emily Ducote with a triangle armbar for the inaugural flyweight belt in 2017.

Fight-Ending Power in Every Round: Her finish in the fifth round made Justino the first fighter, male or female, to ever stop opponents in Rounds 4 and 5 in the Bellator cage. Her debut came against Budd, whom she knocked out in the fourth frame.

Five for Fighting: The Round 5 stoppage for Justino is the first to take place in the final championship round since Douglas Lima put Andrey Koreshkov to sleep at Bellator 206 in 2018. It is only the fifth to ever take place under the Bellator banner.

20-to-1 May Have Been Fair: Closing as a massive -2000 favorite against the +1200 Smith, Justino is the first woman to compete inside the Bellator cage to be a betting favorite of this magnitude. She is now tied with Michael Page and Fabian Edwards for the sixth-highest closing odds for any Bellator fight.

The Face on the Billboard: Serving as the headliner of Bellator 259, Justino has competed in the main event of three Bellator cards to date, winning all three. The only woman with more wins in the marquee spot is Budd (four).

When the Light Shines the Brightest: As each of her three main attraction performances have resulted in finishes, Justino is already tied with several fighters for the seventh-most stoppages as the top-billed fighter. Patricio Freire is the king of this category, with seven headlining wins inside the distance.

Cyborg Being Cyborg: By knocking Smith out in the waning seconds of the fight, Justino earned her 20th career stoppage in her 24th victory. “Cyborg” advanced her finish rate to 83 percent, with 19 of those coming due to strikes.

A Gentlemanly Performance: “The Gentleman” Austin Vanderford is now a perfect 11-0 with his decision win over Fabian Edwards. The middleweight was not signed on the second season of Dana White's Contender Series, and landed in Bellator after a knockout on the regional circuit. Vanderford has won all five times since joining the Bellator roster.

Realest Judges: Needing all three rounds to beat Maycon Mendonca, Jaleel Willis captured a unanimous verdict. The finish rate of “The Realest” dropped to 33 percent, with unanimous decision wins coming in each of his last six outings.

Not Saad Tidings: Smashing Nate Andrews in the first round, Saad Awad snapped a five-fight winless streak while earning his seventh knockout as a Bellator fighter. Only Patricio Freire (eight), Patricky Freire and Douglas Lima (nine each), and Michael Page (10) have scored more knockouts than Awad in Bellator history.

Fortune Fading: Grant Neal remained unbeaten as a professional by submitting Tyree Fortune in the first round. The light heavyweight known as “The Truth” has recorded four of his six wins by stoppage in a career that began in February 2019.

Hawaiian Punches in Bunches: At 3:35 of the third period, Sumiko Inaba pounded out Kristina Katsikis with strikes. The Hawaiian’s stoppage win is the seventh latest in Bellator women’s featherweight history, with the latest Macfarlane’s aforementioned submission of Ducote in 2017.

Multiple-Trick Pony: Still spotless at 6-0 in his young career by submitting Sean Felton, all six wins for Aviv Gozali have come by first-round submission in the Bellator cage.

Aviv Gracie: At just 20 years of age with only six wins under his belt, Gozali is already tied with several other fighters for the third-most submission victories in Bellator history. Neiman Gracie (seven) and Goiti Yamauchi (eight) are the only competitors with more.

Turning Heel: By landing a heel hook on Felton, Gozali became the second fighter in organizational history to record more than one heel hook with Bellator -- Gozali previously tapped Eduard Muravitskiy with one in 2019. The first man to do so: his father, Haim Gozali.

McCourting Disaster: In a comeback after the midpoint of the second stanza, Leah McCourt landed a triangle choke on Janay Harding to extend her win streak to five. Like “Cyborg,” McCourt earned her third stoppage win as a Bellator fighter, putting her in third place for the most of any woman to grace the Bellator cage.

Cursed Triangle: “The Curse” became the second fighter in Bellator women’s divisional history to hit a triangle choke. The first was Macfarlane over Valerie Letourneau at Bellator 213 in 2018.

Competition Tightening Around Peresvet: On the card opener, Alexandr Shabliy won a decision over Alfie Davis to notch his 20th victory. “Peresvet” started his career with all 17 of his victories coming by stoppage, and since then, his last three wins have been on the scorecards.

Never Say Never Again: Coming into Bellator 259, Edwards had never competed outside of Europe (10 fights), Fortune had never been defeated (five fights) and Felton had never been finished (eight fights).

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