For now, it appears that there is no clear-cut No. 1 contender for Ilima-Lei Macfarlane’s flyweight crown in Bellator MMA.
Macfarlane authored a dominant performance in a unanimous decision victory over Kate Jackson at Bellator 236, earning scorecards of 50-45, 50-44 and 50-44 to improve to 10-0 within the California-based promotion. Earlier on the card, flyweight Juliana Velasquez was equally dominant in dispatching Bruna Ellen in another lopsided unanimous decision.
While Macfarlane herself seemed convinced that Velasquez would be next, Bellator president Scott Coker isn’t ready to commit to anything just yet.
“Honestly, Juliana Velasquez is definitely somebody that has some potential,” Coker told media after Bellator 236 (video courtesy of MMAjunkie.com ). “To me, if she would’ve come in there and had a knockout or a stoppage or went in there and dominated – she had a dominant performance – but when you’re in fights like that, you should finish, too. It’s kind of like: We’ll see.”
Coker seemed to be more impressed with Alejandra Lara, who missed weight but outpointed former title challenger Veta Arteaga at Bellator 235 one night prior. Lara fell to Macfarlane via third-round submission at Bellator 201 in June 2018, while Velasquez has yet to challenge for 125-pound gold.
“Velasquez is a killer,” Coker said. “She’s a great fighter and she’s going to earn her shot here eventually, or maybe next. We’ll see. But, the thing that I liked about Lara was, it was something that Veta said to me, she said, ‘This girl got better. She surprised me. I knew she was going to try to take me down and grapple with me and she didn’t and started trading with me and surprised me and caught me off guard.’ That’s a fighter that is getting better and better. That’s another amazing 125-pound fighter we could put in this event if we do it.”
Another option, which Coker references in the above quote, is a women’s flyweight grand prix. If Bellator moves forward with such an event, both Lara and Velasquez will likely be part of the bracket. At the moment, nothing is set in stone.
“We’ll go back to the drawing board and we’re not committing to the tournament yet,” Coker said. “It’s looking a little more attractive to me every time I speak to my team and think about it myself because we have so many potential stars in this weight class. I think it would be a very interesting tournament and that could change the entire landscape of who fights who. It’s nice to see a division that has so much depth like our 125 female division.”