Challenger Denise Kielholtz may have competed for pride and for glory, but Bellator MMA flyweight queen Juliana Velasquez fought for family; as we have been reminded lately, nothing is stronger than family.
Bellator took three weeks off to recharge its batteries and replenish its stock, before returning inside its favored venue of the Mohegan Sun Arena in Uncasville, Conn. With Bellator 262 came 10 fights from its lightest division of women’s flyweight all the way up to the largest at heavyweight. The headlining attraction saw a 125-pound championship tilt as Velasquez (12-0, 7-0 BMMA) topped impressive challenger Kielholtz (6-3, 6-2 BMMA) in a five-round striking match. When the dust settled, the Dutchwoman gave Velasquez everything she could handle; the champion still emerged victorious by split decision, with two 48-47 calls going in her direction and one 48-47 score for her opponent.
Bolstered by her walkout of “In the End” by Linkin Park, and sending her love to her deceased brother, Velasquez came out confident but struggled in the early going despite her natural advantages. The size difference between the two flyweights was clear from the outset, with several inches in height and reach in favor of the champion. The kickboxing convert did not pay this much mind, closing the distance and landing the harder shots in the first round. Kielholtz picked up where she left off in Round 2, stringing punch combinations together while Velasquez was largely one-and-done with single strikes. The champion found her range in the second round, piercing the Dutchwoman’s guard with several sharp jabs but coming up short when trying to take the fight down.
The third stanza saw the undefeated fighter work her stinging jab to great effect, breaking up strike salvos from Kielholtz. Velasquez alternated those snapping jabs with effective leg kicks to slow the movement from Kielholtz, who loaded up on her strikes more and more while her face began to swell from repeated jabs. With 15 seconds to spare, Velasquez aimed to secure the round with her first takedown of the evening. With the scores close leading into Round 4, Velasquez began to cruise as she used her longer wingspan to damage the challenger’s eye with jab after jab. Kielholtz began to throw caution to the wind and chasing Velasquez down, but the champ’s head movement kept her largely out of danger as she started winning more exchanges.
With the fight possibly tied up in the final frame, Kielholtz started off the round by rocking the champion with a huge right hand. Velasquez gathered her bearings and fought back, but “Miss Dynamite” repeatedly unloaded dynamite right hands on to the chin of the Brazilian. The two women went toe-to-toe for the remainder of the round, landing blows right up to the final bell to conclude a hard-fought 25-minute battle. Judges were understandably split in this close contest; the scores came in with Marcel Varela seeing the fight 48-47 for Velasquez, Bryan Miner’s scorecard reading 48-47 for Kielholtz, and the final judge Jacob Montalvo sealing the win with a 48-47 scorecard by split decision to the champion, Velasquez. The “and still” flyweight queen, even knowing she survived by a razor-close margin, already set her sights on upcoming challenges of Liz Carmouche and ex-champ Ilima-Lei Macfarlane.
The co-main event came between heavyweights, as Tyrell Fortune (11-1, 1 NC; 11-1, 1 NC BMMA) ran through Matt Mitrione (13-9, 1 NC; 4-4, 1 NC BMMA) and earned a tapout due to punches in less than two minutes. A quick tackle of a takedown for Fortune allowed him to take side control, but not before clashing heads on the way in when Mitrione ducked his head down. As Mitrione scrambled wildly, Fortune kept slamming his fists into the side of Mitrione’s head until Mitrione surrendered due to strikes just 105 seconds into the first round. When “Meathead” saw the head clash on the replay, he furiously screamed at referee Dan Miragliotta for missing it, but his cries fell on deaf ears. On the other hand, Fortune had only one name in mind for his post-fight callout, shouting for former opponent Timothy Johnson to face him – Johnson is the only man to ever defeat the wrestler out of Arizona Combat Sports.
A fired-up Matheus Mattos (13-2-1, 1-1 BMMA) made the most of his second impression by dispatching C.J. Hamilton in the second round of their bantamweight tilt. In the early going, Mattos set a frenzied pace and blasted Hamilton with a left hand, and then latched on to a guillotine choke to threaten the American. Mattos proceeded to do damage with his hands, rarely letting Hamilton take a moment to breathe as he pushed the pace from the starting bell. In the second round, a right hand to Hamilton’s body and a subsequent uppercut forced Hamilton to stand straight up, but a left hand over the top short-circuited the man known as “The Autobot.” When Hamilton dropped to the ground and turtled up on his knees, the Brazilian continued hammering him with punches until referee Kerry Hatley had seen enough at 1:33 of Round 2. With his win, Mattos announced himself as a possible entrant for the rumored Bellator bantamweight grand prix.
Two-time Bellator title challenger Arlene Blencowe (14-8, 7-4 BMMA) rebounded from her first stoppage loss in over five years – a second-round submission to Cristiane Justino in 2020 – by pounding out Dayana Silva (9-7, 0-1 BMMA) early in the third round. The first two rounds played out largely the same between the featherweights, with Blencowe picking up steam after a close first round from the harder shots and effective leg kicks. After forcing Silva to take a bad step by checking a kick in the third round, a booming left hook and a fierce overhand right from Blencowe put the Brazilian on rubber legs. A swarming combination from the Aussie sent Silva crashing to the mat, and a barrage of angry hammerfists from “Angerfist” sealed the deal and forced referee Dan Miragliotta to step in. The stoppage came at exactly one minute into the third round, with Blencowe becoming the first fighter to put Silva away since Silva’s MMA debut in 2009.
The main card kicked off with a fairly one-sided middleweight clash that allowed Johnny Eblen (9-0, 5-0 BMMA) to advance his spotless record to nine up and none down thanks to a unanimous verdict over Travis Davis (10-5, 0-1 BMMA). Eblen came out guns blazing in the opening round, mixing in powerful punches with relentless takedowns to keep Davis guessing and lump him up for much of the round. Davis’ offense was largely limited to kicks from afar before “Diamond Hands” closed the distance and put Davis on his back repeatedly. The second stanza slowed as Eblen’s wrestling-heavy game wore on Davis, and Davis survived a serious assault in part thanks to several blatant fence grabs. Although Davis jawed at the wrestler for much of the last round, he did little else as Eblen imposed his will and even hit a suplex much to the chagrin of the Bellator newcomer. After the final bell, the judges handed in tallies of 30-27 and a pair of 30-26 scores to award the Floridian the victory; Eblen called out an international foe in the form of Charlie Ward when the promotion heads overseas.
The prelims concluded with a heavyweight rumble, where Said Sowma (7-2, 1-1 BMMA) knocked Ronny Markes (19-9, 0-2 BMMA) out cold just 69 seconds into the first frame. The two big men totaling 497 pounds embraced instead of touching gloves to begin the match, and both traded leg kicks in the early going. As Markes circled away on the outside, Sowma gripped his foe’s outstretched arm and unleashed a devastating left hand that put Markes down hard. The Suriname native only needed a trio of jackhammering follow-up punches to completely shut Markes’ lights out, capping off a preliminary card that contained a few solid knockouts.
Earlier on in the card, overwhelming favorite Cody Law (4-0, 4-0 BMMA) clobbered Theodore Macuka (1-1, 0-1 BMMA) in their 145-pound encounter with knees and punches at 1:54 of the opening frame; Diana Avsaragova (4-0, 2-0 BMMA) snagged a plodding split decision over Gabriella Gulfin (2-3, 0-1 BMMA) in the flyweight division; at featherweight, Adil Benjilany (6-3, 1 NC; 3-2 BMMA) outworked Johnny Soto (4-2, 1-1 BMMA) en route to a unanimous verdict; the night began with a lightweight tilt as Charlie Campbell (4-1, 2-0 BMMA) battered an exhausted Nick Giulietti (2-2, 0-1 BMMA) with leg kicks and punches to the body at 1:30 of the second round.