Bellator 262 Report: Juliana Velasquez defeats Denise Kielholtz by split decision to retain championship
By: Eric Marcotte
Bellator 262 took place on Friday night, from the Mohegan Sun Arena in Uncasville, Connecticut. The card was headlined by a bout for Bellator’s Women’s Flyweight Championship, as Juliana Velasquez attempted to make her first title defense against Denise Kielholtz. Kielholtz made the jump from the world of kickboxing to MMA in 2015, and after starting her career with a record of 2-2, Kielholtz finished her last four fights to earn this title shot. Velasquez came into this fight undefeated and was looking to extend that win streak with a successful title defense against Kielholtz. This card also featured a bout in the heavyweight division between Tyrell Fortune and Matt Mitrione.
Commentary for this card was provided by Sean Grande alongside John McCarthy. The analytical team consisted of Jenn Brown, Josh Thompson, and Ilima-Lei Macfarlane.
*Charlie Campbell def. Nick Giulietti by TKO 1:30 of Round 2
*Adil Benjilany def. Johnny Soto by unanimous decision (29-28 all)
*Diana Avsaragova def. Gabriella Gulfin by split decision (29-28, 29-28, 28-29)
*Cody Law def. Theodore Macuka by TKO at 1:54 of Round 1
*Said Sowma def. Ronny Markes by KO at 1:09 of Round 1
*Johnny Eblen def. Travis Banks by unanimous decision (30-27, 30-26, 30-26).
*Arlene Blencowe def. Dayana Silva by TKO at 1:00 of Round 3
*Matheus Mattos def. C.J. Hamilton by TKO at 1:33 of Round 2
*Tyrell Fortune def. Matt Mitrione by TKO at 1:45 of Round 1
*Juliana Velasquez def. Denise Kielholtz by split decision (48-47, 48-47, 47-48) to retain the Bellator Women’s Flyweight Championship
CHARLIE CAMPBELL (3-1, 155) VS NICK GIULIETTI (2-1, 156) – LIGHTWEIGHT
Campbell chose not to touch gloves to begin the fight. Giulietti was able to take him down a minute into the round, eventually taking Campbell’s back against the cage. Giulietti uses a lot of energy trying to finish the fight on the ground, and when Campbell was able to get back to his feet late in the round, Giulietti looked exhausted. Campbell just unloaded with strikes to the tired Campbell, putting Campbell in serious danger, especially with his body shots. Giulietti made it out of the round, but I thought Campbell managed to steal this one back. 10-9 Campbell.
The second round picked up where the first left off, and Giulietti was shooting desperately to get this fight to the ground. Campbell was able to stuff his takedowns, and a body shot to a beat-up Giulietti put a stop to the fight.
WINNER: Charlie Campbell by TKO 1:30 of Round 2
Campbell was fired up in his post-fight interview, calling out Jake Paul, asking for a Bellator contract. I don’t know what the odds are on Charlie Campbell being the next opponent for Jake Paul, but regardless, this was a fun fight while it lasted. Campbell looked like he was in trouble early, however, the momentum of the fight shifted entirely when he climbed back to his feet near the end of the first. Giulietti looked like he had nothing left in the tank, and Campbell picked up on that, going on the attack until he picked up the second-round finish. Campbell is now 2-0 in Bellator MMA.
JOHNNY SOTO (4-1, 146) VS ADIL BENJILANY (5-3, 1 NC, 145.75) – FEATHERWEIGHT
Soto carried Benjilany halfway across the cage and placed him down right in the center. Soto found himself in the guard of Benjilany, where he spent a large portion of the round before the fight returned to the feet. It was a pretty tight round, but I gave the edge to Soto for his control time, in a round that was close in all other areas. 10-9 Soto.
The fight resumed on the feet for the opening minute of the second round, but after a few heavy shots from Benjilany, Soto brought him back to the ground. Once again, Benjilany was able to escape to his feet, and he was really pulling ahead on the feet, doubling up Soto’s strike count. Still, Soto was able to get the fight back to the ground whenever he was in trouble, keeping Benjilany from getting too comfortable. 19-19.
Soto took Benjilany back down after eating a sharp combination to begin the final round. Benjilany didn’t stay down for long and continued his attack. Soto was looking rough on the feet, but much like the previous round, he was able to survive by wrapping Benjilany up whenever he really got going. I didn’t think Soto’s grappling was enough to outweigh the damage from Benjilany however, and I ultimately scored this fight 29-28 for Benjilany.
WINNER: Adil Benjilany by unanimous decision (29-28 all)
This was one of those examples of how the judges scoring criteria have evolved over time. Ten years ago, I definitely think there was a good chance that Soto would have had his hand raised here for his control time, but now judges weigh damage significantly above control, which resulted in the fight being (properly) scored for Benjilany. Benjilany is now 3-2 in Bellator MMA.
DIANA AVSARAGOVA (3-0, 126) VS GABRIELLA GULFIN (2-2, 124.75) – FLYWEIGHT
The opening round took place entirely on the feet. It wasn’t the most action-packed round, but I thought Avsaragova did a good job of keeping the fight at a comfortable range, avoiding Gulfin’s offense while sliding in to deliver her own shots. Avsaragova defended both of Gulfin’s takedown attempts and took the round on my scorecard. 10-9 Avsaragova.
Avsaragova continued to control the action in the second round. She was clearly the more comfortable fighter on the feet, and Gulfin was having trouble getting off any significant offense. That’s not to say Avsaragova’s pace or offense was overwhelming in any way, but much like the first round, I thought she took this round rather easily. 20-18 Avsaragova.
The third round looked exactly like the prior two. The commentators were critical of Avsaragova’s performance, mainly her inability to get a finish, but despite her inactivity and lack of aggression, I still scored this final round for her. 30-27 Avsaragova.
WINNER: Diana Avsaragova by split decision (29-28, 29-28, 28-29)
The judges saw this as a closer fight than I did. That being said, the pace of this fight felt rather slow, there were very few significant moments of damage throughout the fight, and Gulfin landed more shots throughout the fight, so if you’re in Avsaragova’s camp, I don’t think you have much room to complain about the judges. Avsaragova improved to 2-0 in Bellator with this win.
CODY LAW (3-0, 145.75) VS THEODORE MACUKA (1-0, 146) – FEATHERWEIGHT
Law started the fight strongly, wasting little time before going on the attack. Macuka was quickly overwhelmed, and Law just poured it on as Macuka shelled up against the cage. Macuka wasn’t defending himself, and while he never went down, the referee was forced to stop the fight after Macuka went long enough without firing back.
WINNER: Cody Law by TKO at 1:54 of Round 1
This was a great performance from Law, who seemed intent on getting a quick finish tonight after his last bout went the distance. Macuka was unable to really get any offense off throughout this two-minute fight, and this was really a dominant win for Law, who moved to 4-0 professionally with this win.
RONNY MARKES (19-8, 252) VS SAID SOWMA (6-2, 245) – HEAVYWEIGHT
Just over a minute into the fight, Sowma landed a huge left hook that knocked Markes unconscious.
WINNER: Said Sowma by KO at 1:09 of Round 1
Sowma seemed to grab Markes’ wrist, and as Markes moved away, he got clipped by the finishing blow. This was a big knockout to cap off these prelims, and the biggest win of Said Sowma’s career thus far. After losing his Bellator debut to Tyrell Fortune, this was exactly the type of performance he needed to rebound strongly, especially against an opponent with about three times his experience.
JOHNNY EBLEN (8-0, 186) VS TRAVIS DAVIS (10-4, 186) – MIDDLEWEIGHT
Eblen landed a pair of heavy hooks in the early portion of the round. He pressed forward, backing Davis into the cage, before dragging him to the ground momentarily. Davis picked himself up against the cage, but Eblen just returned to swinging at him before taking him back down. This was a great opening round for Johnny Eblen.
Eblen was able to take Davis back down about a minute into the second round. Eblen was rag dolling Davis, and this was becoming a very one-sided fight. Whenever Davis was able to get back to his feet, he was just eating huge power hooks from Eblen, before being returned to the ground. Another dominant round for Eblen, who very well could have been up 20-16 going into the final round.
The momentum of the fight did not shift in the third round. Eblen controlled the entirety of the final round with his wrestling, securing this fight on the scorecards. 30-25 Eblen.
WINNER: Johnny Eblen by unanimous decision (30-27, 30-26, 30-26).
This was complete domination. Eblen controlled every second of this fight, throwing Davis around and landing huge shots when they were on their feet. Eblen is 9-0 professionally now, and honestly, it doesn’t feel like he’s that far off from a title shot. He’s currently ranked fifth in Bellator’s middleweight division, and I’d wager he’s only a win away from a fight against Gegard Mousasi (or John Salter). Eblen called out Charlie Ward in his post-fight interview.
ARLENE BLENCOWE (13-8, 146) VS DAYANA SILVA (9-6, 146) – FEATHERWEIGHT
Blencowe opened up with a pair of calf kicks. That was a weapon in which she utilized throughout the round, although Silva wore them well, and responded with a series of her own. Both fighters were looking to land powerful straight right hands, and it was tough to say who was getting the better of these exchanges. This was a very tough round to score, but I would give the edge to Blencowe.
The commentary team made note of the effect of Blencowe’s body shots on Silva. Silva was falling behind on the strike count and attempted to change levels to shift the momentum of the fight. Blencowe stuffed the attempt, before creating the separation she needed in order to resume the striking battle. Silva was able to secure a takedown with seconds left, but it was too late to sway the round her way.
A minute into the third round, Blencowe rocked Silva badly with a check hook, and she immediately swarmed Silva with strikes, dropping her in the process. Blencowe kept on the attack, and the fight was quickly stopped.
WINNER: Arlene Blencowe by TKO at 1:00 of Round 3
Blencowe was a step ahead all fight, and she began to pull away more and more as the fight progressed. The finishing sequence was impressive, and this was a great bounce-back performance following her loss to Cris Cyborg. She has solid power in her hands and did a very good job of keeping the fight on the feet here. She is now 5-2 in Bellator.
MATHEUS MATTOS (12-2-1, 135.75) VS C.J. HAMILTON (15-8, 135.5) – LIGHTWEIGHT
Mattos sat Hamilton down in the opening minutes of the fight with a left hook, but Hamilton was able to recover quickly. Hamilton was throwing some creative strikes, although he wasn’t connecting with quite enough of them. Mattos marched forward in response, confident in his power following the early knockdown. Mattos was able to land some hard shots, and he likely took this round on the scorecards.
Hamilton started off the second round aggressively, but Mattos dropped him with another left hook, this one having considerably more power behind it. Hamilton went down hard this time and shelled up as Mattos threw follow-up strikes until the fight was stopped.
WINNER: Matheus Mattos by TKO at 1:33 of Round 2
I was very impressed by Matheus Mattos here. Hamilton offered some creative offense, but Mattos fought a very composed fight, and whenever he landed, he landed hard. His only professional losses are to Petr Yan and Magomed Magomedov, so I would say that he is a name to keep your eyes on at 135lbs, especially if he keeps performing like this. It’s worth noting that the commentary team was continuously discussing a future Bellator bantamweight tournament, so I wouldn’t be surprised if that gets announced with their current featherweight grand prix coming to a conclusion next week.
TYRELL FORTUNE (10-1, 1 NC, 233.5) VS MATT MITRIONE (13-8, 1 NC, 261) – HEAVYWEIGHT
Fortune quickly secured a takedown, moved into half guard, and started to rain down hammerfists. Mitrione eventually shelled up, and Fortune threw right hands until Mitrione tapped out from the strikes.
WINNER: Tyrell Fortune by TKO at 1:45 of Round 1
Mitrione was extremely upset, as a headbutt occurred during the takedown. Mitrione appeared to duck his head into it, so no blame can be thrown at Fortune, but Mitrione seemed distracted for the entire finishing sequence, and exploded after seeing the replay. Regardless, Fortune achieved the desired outcome here, and he is currently riding a three-fight win streak. Fortune called out Tim Johnson in his post-fight interview, who knocked Fortune out last year.
JULIANA VELASQUEZ (11-0, 125) VS DENISE KIELHOLTZ (6-2, 124) – BELLATOR WOMEN’S FLYWEIGHT CHAMPIONSHIP
They touched gloves to begin the fight. Velasquez was able to counter Kielholtz as she rushed in early in the first. Kielholtz was the busier fighter, and it seemed as though Velasquez was having trouble gauging her timing. It was mostly a slow opening round, but Kielholtz really pulled ahead in the final minute as her confidence grew offensively. 10-9 Kielholtz.
Velasquez was more active in the opening minute of the second round than she was throughout the entirety of the previous five minutes. She remained hesitant to really exchange with Kielholtz but seemed to have a better read on her timing and distance. Velasquez continued to push forward and landed some looping left hooks. Velasquez shot for a takedown, in which Kielholtz stuffed with ease. Kielholtz landed a hard right hand towards the end of a much closer round. 20-18 on my scorecard.
Velasquez’s offense was really starting to come together by the third round, working her jab and landing numerous leg kicks. Still, Kielholtz remained the aggressor and seemed to be landing two shots for every punch Velasquez connected with. Velasquez’s hesitance to trade in the pocket was gone by this round, and I actually thought she was getting the better of their wilder exchanges. Another close round. 29-28 Kielholtz.
Kielholtz got caught by some solid counters in the opening minutes of the fourth round. While I felt as though Velasquez was starting to pull ahead in the fight, it was humorous to listen to the commentary team acting as though Kielholtz was just getting pieced up while their broadcast team displayed the striking numbers that showed Kielholtz was significantly ahead in that department. Kielholtz landed a hard right hand after defending a takedown attempt. 38-38.
Kielholtz landed a strong shot to begin the final round that knocked Velasquez slightly off balance. Kielholtz was rebounding big throughout this round, landing strongly and at a higher than Velasquez. That powerful left hand of hers was landing hard and Velasquez’s output had really dropped this round. The fight went the distance, and I ultimately scored it 48-47 Kielholtz.
WINNER: Juliana Velasquez by split decision (48-47, 48-47, 47-48) to retain the Bellator Women’s Flyweight Championship
This fight was razor close. It’s not often that you’re positive a fight is going to result in a split decision, but by the time the fifth round reached its conclusion, that result seemed inevitable. This was a high-level striking match, and I’d definitely be interested in another fight between these two down the line. Velasquez improved to 12-0 professionally with this win, and this also notably marked her first successful title defense. Velasquez called out Liz Carmouche as well as Ilima-Lei Macfarlane in her post-fight interview.