Bellator 271 Report: Cris Cyborg knocks out Sinead Kavanagh in the first round
By: Eric Marcotte
Bellator 271 took place on Friday night, from the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino in Hollywood, Florida. The card was headlined by Cris Cyborg, who was attempting to defend her Bellator Featherweight Championship for the third time. Her opponent on this night was Sinead Kavanagh, who was naturally a massive underdog against the champion here. Additionally, this card featured a heavyweight bout between Linton Vassell and Tyrell Fortune. With Bellator’s heavyweight division in a bit of a logjam, this was a fight that both men needed to win in order to remain contenders in the division. Another notable fight on this card took place in the featherweight division, where Aaron Pico faced the undefeated Justin Gonzales. Commentary for this card was provided by the team of Mauro Ranallo and John McCarthy, and the analytical team consisted of Josh Thompson and Amanda Guerra.
*Ethan Hughes def. Mahmoud Sebie by TKO at 4:05 of Round 3
*Waldo Cortes-Acosta def. Muhammed DeReese by unanimous decision (30-27 all)
*Valerie Loureda def. Taylor Turner by split decision (29-28, 30-27, 28-29)
*Cody Law def. Colton Hamm by KO at 4:21 of Round 1
*Roman Faraldo def. Robert Turnquest by KO at 1:17 of Round 1
*Bruna Ellen def. Desiree Yanez by split decision (29-28, 29-28, 28-29)
*Steve Mowry def. Rakim Cleveland by kimura at 3:28 of Round 1
*Arlene Blencowe def. Pam Sorenson by unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 29-28)
*Aaron Pico def. Justin Gonzales by unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 30-26)
*Linton Vassell def. Tyrell Fortune by split decision (29-28, 29-28, 28-29)
*Cris Cyborg def. Sinead Kavanagh by KO at 1:32 of Round 1 to retain the Bellator Women’s Featherweight Championship
MAHMOUD SEBIE (3-0, 170.8) VS ETHAN HUGHES (2-0, 170.8) – WELTERWEIGHT
Sebie took Hughes down about a minute into the fight. Hughes was very active from his guard, and when he began to hunt for an armbar off of his back, he was able to transition into a more advantageous position as Sebie attempted to defend himself. Sebie scrambled back to his feet, where they spent the remainder of the round. This was a very close round, where you had to weigh the damage of Sebie’s ground and pound against the submission threats from Hughes.
Hughes tagged Sebie a few times on the feet throughout the first half of round two, landing consistently whenever Sebie attempted to close the distance. Sebie was missing badly with some big swings, and strangely, kept pulling up his shorts. His body language was seemed very off in this round and wasn’t able to land many damaging strikes throughout these five minutes.
Sebie was able to bring the fight back to the ground in round three, where he looked to take the back of Hughes. Hughes turned into him but was able to push Sebie over in the process, allowing Hughes to move into top position. Hughes transitioned into top mount with just under two minutes remaining in the fight, where he began to throw down non-stop hammerfists. Sebie was unable to improve his position, and the fight was ultimately stopped here.
WINNER: Ethan Hughes by TKO at 4:05 of Round 3
Sebie was able to get the fight to the ground when he needed to but just couldn’t control Hughes once he got him there. Hughes was the more active fighter, even while fighting off of his back, and he was clearly the more comfortable striker on the feet as well. I had Hughes up on the scorecards regardless of the finish, but picking up the stoppage in the final minutes of the fight kept his streak of finishes alive, while testing really his cardio for the first time, so I would say this was a valuable experience for the young fighter. This marked Hughes’s Bellator MMA debut.
MUHAMMED DEREESE (9-4, 255) VS WALDO CORTES-ACOSTA (3-0, 256.6) – HEAVYWEIGHT
DeReese backed Cortes-Acosta up with a flurry of strikes early, before he looked for a takedown that Cortes-Acosta defended. Cortes-Acosta landed a hook and threw a powerful windmill shot that just missed its target. Cortes-Acosta rocked DeReese badly with a right hand, and just swarmed him with shots against the cage. DeReese was barely defending himself at times, turning away from his opponent, but was able to wrap Cortes-Acosta up against the cage, and survived this onslaught. 10-9 Cortes-Acosta.
Both fighters attempted to bring this fight to the ground to no success in the second round. They spent a considerable amount of this round wrestling against the cage before they were eventually separated due to inactivity. Cortes-Acosta exploded with offense after they were separated, effectively just throwing DeReese to the ground after rocking him again. He probably could have finished the fight here but chose to re-engage DeReese in the clinch against the fence, and DeReese made it out of the round yet again. 20-18 Cortes-Acosta.
Cortes-Acosta brought the fight right back to the cage to begin round three. He was able to keep DeReese here for the entirety of the round, which admittedly did not make for the most interesting five-minute stretch of combat. They were on the verge of being separated a handful of times, but Cortes-Acosta kept active enough to avoid that and cruised to the comfortable decision win. 30-27 Cortes-Acosta.
WINNER: Waldo Cortes-Acosta by unanimous decision (30-27 all)
There were a handful of times in which Cortes-Acosta probably could have finished this fight, but in the end, the result was the same. DeReese didn’t have much to offer Cortes-Acosta outside of the opening exchange but was durable enough to go the full fifteen minutes, despite taking a beating at times. This was only Cortes-Acosta’s fourth professional fight, so there will definitely be a great deal for him to learn from this performance, but regardless, this was a dominant win against an opponent with considerably more MMA experience, so a strong performance from Cortes-Acosta in my book.
VALERIE LOUREDA (3-1, 127.6) VS TAYLOR TURNER (5-7, 127.2) – CATCHWEIGHT
There was a bit of a feeling-out process on the feet to begin this fight. Loureda was having a bit more success in finding a home for her offense, and was doing a good job of constantly moving, circling away from Turner’s attacks. Turner was knocked off balance by a left hand from Loureda, but recovered quickly. Loureda ended the round with a nice spinning back kick to the body. 10-9 Loureda.
Loureda continued to be a step ahead on the feet in round two. Turner was throwing out leg kicks and straight punches down the middle, but they were not terribly damaging, and she seemed to be out of her element here. Turner never went for a takedown, so the entirety of the round took place on the feet yet again, and Loureda was comfortably up two rounds heading into the third. 20-18 Loureda.
Turner was able to find a bit more success in round three, catching Loureda with a head kick, and backing her into the cage with combinations a few times. Loureda was still circling constantly, but her output had really waned by this point. Turner attempted a takedown in the second half of the round, to no success. The fight went the distance. 29-29 Loureda.
WINNER: Valerie Loureda by split decision (29-28, 30-27, 28-29)
They really brawled in the final seconds of this fight, which prompted Mauro Ranallo to question where this energy was throughout the first fourteen minutes of this bout. It wasn’t a high output fight, but in my eyes, Loureda did enough to earn the first two rounds, so I’m not sure how one judge saw one of those for Turner. That being said, this really wasn’t one of those fights where I’m going to give it too much thought either. Coming off of her first professional loss, Loureda was looking to get back in the win column here, and she did just that. Loureda is now 4-1 in Bellator MMA.
CODY LAW (4-0, 145.4) VS COLTON HAMM (4-3, 145.8) – FEATHERWEIGHT
Both fighters were swinging with some wild looping hooks throughout the opening minute of this one. Law decided to take the fight to the ground, where he easily moved into side control. Law landed a few hard elbows before Hamm was able to scramble and kick Law off of him. The fight resumed on the feet, where they exchanged kicks to the legs and body. Law swarmed forward with a combination of punches, and Hamm just sort of crumpled against the cage after an uppercut, which allowed Law to start throwing down some brutal ground and pound from Hamm’s guard. Law switched from punches to elbows, and a big left eventually knocked Hamm unconscious.
WINNER: Cody Law by KO at 4:21 of Round 1
This was a fun, fast-paced fight while it lasted, which was exactly what this card needed at this point in the night. Law looked fantastic here, mixing in his striking and wrestling perfectly. The finishing sequence to this one was brutal, with each vicious elbow just landing at full power. Law is one of the top prospects in Bellator right now, so keep your eyes on this one as he works his way up the featherweight ladder. Law is now 5-0 in Bellator.
ROBERT TURNQUEST (9-7, 177.8) VS ROMAN FARALDO (5-0, 171) – WELTERWEIGHT
Turnquest missed weight dramatically here, weighing in at nearly seven pounds above the welterweight limit.
Early in the fight, Faraldo rocked Turnquest badly with a left hook, and Faraldo just calmly followed Turnquest as he backed into the cage, jumped into the air, and knocked Turnquest unconscious with a perfect flying knee.
WINNER: Roman Faraldo by KO at 1:17 of Round 1
Wow. This was one of the best knockouts of the entire year, regardless of promotion. After rocking Turnquest with the left hook, Faraldo practically told him that he was about to knock him out, and then he proceeded to do just that. The flying knee that Faraldo ended the fight with was beautiful, and he completed things with a walk-off after it landed. Faraldo is now 3-0 in Bellator, and he has won all six of his professional bouts by knockout.
BRUNA ELLEN (5-3, 125.6) VS DESIREE YANEZ (5-3, 125.4) – FLYWEIGHT
Ellen defended a series of takedown attempts throughout in the first round. Ellen found a home for some knees to the body and connected with a couple of these overhead lefts that were landing with power. I thought that Ellen was getting the better of their exchanges on the feet, connecting with the stronger shots, while landing with the higher frequency. Yanez found success near the end of the round by pressing Ellen against the cage, but it was too little, too late, to steal the round back. 10-9 Ellen.
Ellen continued to defend Yanez’s attempts to take the fight to the ground while landing in combination. Yanez began to find her range on the feet as the round wore on, and she was catching Ellen with some heavy shots when they met in the pocket. These exchanges seemed to be eating away at the gas tank of Yanez however, as she was showing some visible signs of exhaustion late in the round. Ellen ended a fairly close round with a takedown. 20-18 Ellen.
Yanez worked her jab throughout the opening minutes of round three, stopping Ellen as she advanced multiple times. Yanez continued to search for that elusive takedown, but Ellen’s takedown defense continued to hold up, and all those failed takedown attempts were not doing much to help Yanez’s cardio. I did think Yanez took this final round, but I scored it 29-28 for Ellen.
WINNER: Bruna Ellen by split decision (29-28, 29-28, 28-29)
Unlike the previous split on this card, I was not surprised to see a divide on the scorecards here. This was a very close fight, that really could have gone either way. I gave Ellen the nod, but Yanez was finding a lot of success throughout the final two rounds, and I’d say if she wasn’t so committed to taking Ellen down, Yanez probably could have controlled the fight on the feet with her jab, which felt as though it just couldn’t miss. This marked Ellen’s fight bout since December of 2019, where she lost to the current champion of the division, Juliana Velasquez.
STEVE MOWRY (9-0, 249.6) VS RAKIM CLEVELAND (22-13-1, 1 NC, 249.6) – HEAVYWEIGHT
Mowry was landing some strong kicks early in this fight, and he went high with a head kick, before changing levels to bring Cleveland down against the cage. Mowry moved into side control, where he began to search for a kimura, and he eventually found it, forcing Cleveland to submit.
WINNER: Steve Mowry by kimura at 3:28 of Round 1
Mowry had no difficulties getting this fight to the ground, where he had a clear advantage. Mowry has finished two of his previous Bellator bouts by kimura, so that seems to be a signature move for him at this point. With this win, Mowry is now 10-0 professionally, and he has finished all ten of those wins. He is going to present some serious stylistic challenges for the top heavyweights in Bellator, and he really isn’t far off from those fights at this point. Mowry called out Marcelo Golm in his post-fight interview.
ARLENE BLENCOWE (14-8, 145.8) VS PAM SORENSON (9-3, 146) – FEATHERWEIGHT
Blencowe overwhelmed Sorenson with a series of right hands in the opening seconds, backing her into the cage. Sorenson was in trouble here and did a good job of wrapping Blencowe up against the fence to relieve the pressure. They were eventually broken apart after a long period of inactivity, and Blencowe immediately tagged her with another hard right hand. 10-9 Blencowe.
After the opening round, Bellator cut to a quick video package, celebrating Kevin Garnett’s basketball career. The second round began, and Blencowe defended a takedown attempt before flurrying forward with right hands yet again. Once more, Blencowe was able to hurt Sorenson, but Sorenson’s desperation takedown attempts were enough to keep her in the fight, despite not succeeding on her attempts. 20-18 Blencowe.
Sorenson continued to search for a takedown in round three. Unfortunately for her, that strategy was doing little for her offensively, as Blencowe’s takedown defense continued to hold up. This final round was pretty slow, but once again, I scored it for Blencowe, who landed the more damaging strikes. 30-27 Blencowe.
WINNER: Arlene Blencowe by unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 29-28)
From the opening seconds, this fight was all Blencowe, and while she slowed down by the third round, there was never a moment in which the result of this one was in question. Sorenson was on the verge of being finished a couple of times throughout this fight but did a good job of wrapping Blencowe up whenever she needed to buy some time to recover. Still, aside from durability, there isn’t much to take away from Sorenson’s performance here. This fight was all Blencowe, who defended her spot as the top-ranked contender in the division.
AARON PICO (8-3, 145.4) VS JUSTIN GONZALES (12-0, 145.6) – FEATHERWEIGHT
Gonzales began the fight with an overhand right hand and a pair of calf kicks. Pico proceeded to take Gonzales down but was unable to keep him there for long. Pico connected with a pair of kicks to the head and dug into the body with a left hook. These two were fighting at a very fast pace here, with both men coming close to landing what could be fighting ending bombs. Pico hurt Gonzales with a hook to the body, before dragging him back to the ground, where he kept him for the remainder of the round. 10-9 Pico.
Pico took the fight right back to the ground to begin round two. Pico transitioned to the back of Gonzales; however, he was unable to keep the position, and Gonzales popped back to his feet with just over two minutes remaining. Pico immediately took Gonzales back down, where he moved into side control and dropped some heavy elbows. Another round for Pico. 20-18 Pico.
Pico connected with a strong left hand, before wrapping Gonzales up against the cage. Pico landed hard elbow, and he proceeded to take Gonzales down yet again shortly afterward. Pico was active from top position, but was unable to find the finish before time expired. Nonetheless, Pico controlled the vast majority of this third round, clearly taking this fight on the scorecards. 30-27 Pico.
WINNER: Aaron Pico by unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 30-26)
Gonzales was a game opponent, but the pace and pressure of Aaron Pico eventually overwhelmed him here. We’ve heard a lot about Aaron Pico’s unbelievable cardio over the years, but so many of his fights have ended so quickly, that we’ve never seen the full extent of it (in MMA at least). Here, we got to see Aaron Pico go the distance for the first time in his career, and he delivered on the hype. The pace that he was fighting at was ridiculous, and whenever he decided to take this fight to the ground, he was successful. While he didn’t get the finish, I think this was perhaps Pico’s best performance, and he’s now riding a five-fight win streak.
TYRELL FORTUNE (11-1, 1 NC, 145.8) VS LINTON VASSELL (20-8, 1 NC, 239.2) – HEAVYWEIGHT
Fortune cracked Vassell with a right hand, which prompted Vassell to shoot for a takedown. Fortune defended the initial attempt, but Vassell stuck with it, and eventually dragged Fortune down. Vassell worked his way to Fortune’s back, where he began to look for a rear-naked choke. He didn’t find it, but he spent the remainder of the round on Fortune’s back, securing the round. 10-9 Vassell.
Fortune just exploded with a flurry of punches to begin round two, overwhelming Vassell with strikes against the cage. Fortune proceeded to take Vassell down, but Vassel was quickly able to transition into top position before they scrambled back to the feet. Vassel caught Fortune with a knee that landed low, which caused a momentary delay to the action while he was given time to recover. Fortune secured another takedown after the fight resumed, and he connected with a short left that cut Vassell open near his eye. Once again, the takedown proved to be a mistake for Fortune, as Vassell worked his way back into top position, where he landed a number of hard shots before the round’s conclusion. 19-19 on my scorecard, but this round easily could have been scored for Vassell as well.
Vassell was backed into the cage after eating a series of knees in the opening minute of round three. Fortune returned the favor for the earlier low blow, and once again, the fight was paused while the fouled fighter recovered. The lengthy delay gave these fighters some energy, and they began to trade heavy shots as the fight resumed. Fortune took Vassel down one more time, and one more time, Vassell scrambled on top and proceeded to take Fortune’s back. Fortune defended Vassell’s submission attempts, but the fight ended with Vassell on his back. 29-28 Vassell.
WINNER: Linton Vassell by split decision (29-28, 29-28, 28-29)
Fortune’s corner was just screaming at him to stop grappling with Vassell, but he continued to hunt for takedowns, and whenever he succeeded, Vassell was able to quickly work his way on top, and nearly finished the fight every time. Fortune was hurting Vassell badly on the feet, so his decision to take the fight to the ground was definitely confusing, and understandably frustrating for his team. Vassell is now 3-1 since returning to heavyweight.
CRIS CYBORG (24-2, 1 NC. 145) VS SINEAD KAVANAGH (7-4, 145) – BELLATOR WOMEN’S FEATHERWEIGHT CHAMPIONSHIP
They traded heavy shots to begin the fight, and Kavanaugh was able to defend an early takedown attempt from Cyborg. They continued to trade wildly, but Cyborg just had more power, and she landed a pair of right hands that dropped Kavanaugh hard, before following the knockdown up with a hammerfist that put Kavanaugh out.
WINNER: Cris Cyborg by KO at 1:32 of Round 1 to retain the Bellator Women’s Featherweight Championship
Cyborg was an astronomical favorite going into this fight, and she made good on those odds here. This fight was pretty much a brawl for ninety seconds, which was Kavanagh’s best chance to win this one, but Cyborg is about as dangerous of a woman to brawl with as you’ll find, and this was a pretty brutal knockout. Cyborg is now 4-0 in Bellator, and while some of those fights have made it to the championship’s rounds, none of them have been particularly competitive, and she has ultimately finished all four of her opponents. When asked about who she would like to face next, Cyborg named Cat Zingano as a potential opponent, which the Bellator broadcast practically ignored, and they immediately brought up the prospect of a fight against Kayla Harrison, who was in attendance tonight. That would be about as big of a fight as Bellator could put together, but they’ll need to actually sign Harrison before that one actually happens.