The Bellator cage found itself in beautiful Honolulu, Hawaii, as the Blaisdell arena played host to both Bellator 278 and Bellator 279. The back-to-back events featured a total of three championship bouts, as well as a handful of contender matchups that had the fans on their feet.
The incredible events mixed with the beauty of Honolulu appeared to be a perfect fit. There were even sightings of MMA legends BJ Penn and Nate Diaz in the crowd as they supported their fellow athletes.
Having an event on both Friday and Saturday night leaves a lot to unpack. New champions were crowned, and an interim bantamweight king was named. Let’s have a look at some of the highlights and lowlights from both cards, as we digest what exactly we witnessed throughout the doubleheader in Hawaii.
Bellator 278: Velasquez vs Carmouche
Bellator kicked off the two-night MMA extravaganza with a card that featured champion Juliana Velasquez (12-1-0 7-1-0 Bellator) taking on Liz Carmouche (17-7-0 4-0 Bellator). The championship bout was contested in front of a crowd full of first responders, and military service workers. It was a majestic sight, and a grand gesture by Bellator to dedicate an entire event to the men and women that help keep a country safe.
Though the evening was something to behold, the way the event ended left some with a sour taste. Referee Mike Beltran stopped the fight at 4:47 of the fourth round when Carmouche had Velasquez down but never appeared to be out. The stoppage earned ‘Girl-Rilla’ the championship belt and snapped the twelve-fight win streak Velasquez had going. A good portion of the MMA community felt Beltran dropped the ball on this one, and the only proper thing to do is book an immediate rematch. Juliana was up on all three scorecards when the premature stoppage took place, and her team is expected to appeal the lone loss on her record.
Bellator 278 also had two wild card scraps, as four fighters battled for a spot in the talent-filled bantamweight world Grand Prix. Enrique Barzola (18-5-2, 2-0-0 Bellator) outworked Nikita Mikhailov (9-2-0, 2-1-0 Bellator) for the unanimous decision. With the win, Barzola advances to the quarter-finals, where he’s expected to face submission artist Magomed Magomedov (18-2, 2-1 Bellator). The bout is scheduled to take place in Connecticut on June 24, during Bellator 282.
Danny Sabatello (12-1, 2-0 Bellator) continued his winning ways, as he beat Jornel Lugo (8-1, 5-1 Bellator) via unanimous decision. The scrap was a bloody affair, that was only amplified by Danny’s bleach blonde hair. The victory over Lugo not only advances Sabatello into the quarter finals of the bantamweight GP, but also marks his sixth consecutive win. ‘The Italian Gangster’ is now booked to face submission master Leandro Higo (21-5, 4-3 Bellator) at Bellator 282, where he’ll look to advance to the semi-finals.
Bellator 279: Cyborg vs Blencowe II
Bellator 279 went down on Saturday, April 23. The Bellator cage had barely enough time to cool down before we were treated to another stellar card. Cris Cyborg (26-2-0 5-0-0 Bellator) defended her featherweight strap, as she beat Arlene Blencowe (15-9-0 8-5-0 Bellator) for the second time in her illustrious career. Cyborg dominated her opponent over the course of five rounds, as she remains Bellator champion, and continues to dispatch any opponent put in front of her. The hard-fought victory earns Cris her sixth straight win, as she remains undefeated inside the Bellator cage.
The red hot card had a co-main event for the ages, as Raufeon Stots (18-1-0 6-0-0 Bellator) was crowned the interim bantamweight king. Stots landed a nasty head kick that put Juan Archuleta (25-4-0 7-3-0 Bellator) on his back, and allowed Stots to reign down multiple unanswered shots. The second-round knockout marks Raufeon’s tenth win in a row as he steamrolls his way into the semi-finals of the intense bantamweight world Grand Prix.
The action at Bellator 279 was nonstop, as we also witnessed Patchy Mix (16-1-0 5-1-0 Bellator) punch his ticket into the semi-finals of the grand prix. Mix was dominant over most of the five-round affair, as he defeated MMA legend Kyoji Horiguchi (29-5-0 1-2-0 Bellator). The unanimous decision victory makes for three straight wins, as Patchy continues to be hot at the perfect time of his career. ‘No Love’ is expected to face the winner of Magomedov vs Barzola, but no official date has been announced.
Another highlight at Bellator 279 was the promotional debut of Hawaii’s own Yancy Medeiros (16-8, 1-0-0 Bellator). Yancy got back in the win column with a unanimous decision over Bellator staple Emmanuel Sanchez (20-8-0 12-7-0 Bellator). The bout was a perfect curtain-jerker, as it fired up the Honolulu crowd and set the pace for the entire main card.
Bellator in Hawaii just seems right. The action was intense, the broadcast looked marvelous, and the Hawaiian crowd was respectfully ruckus. The walkout of Ilima-Lei Macfarlane was one of the most magical entrances of all time, and it’s one of many, many reasons that Bellator should return to Hawaii as soon as possible. Giving a champion a homecoming is always sweet, it is doubly so because Hawaii has never been that receptive to MMA. While nothing’s ever perfect, two events in two nights are something to be proud of, and Bellator pulled it off amazingly.
Featured Image Credits to Lucas Noonan/BELLATOR MMA