A weekend of championships in MMA is upon us. Between Friday and Saturday nights, a total of three championships will be handed out across the sport’s top two promotions. It all begins on Friday as Uncasville, CT’s Mohegan Sun Arena plays host to Bellator MMA’s last show of the year, Bellator 289 and the Bellator 289 co-main event.
Live coverage of Friday’s card begins with the undercard on the Bellator MMA YouTube channel at 5:25 pm ET/ 2:25 pm PT. Main card action follows at 9 pm ET/ 6 pm PT on the Showtime premium cable network. In total, Bellator 289 features 12 fights, highlighted by the first two championship fights of the weekend to close the night’s itinerary.
Championship Doubleheader Begins With Bellator 289 Co-Main Event
Before the UFC hands out its vacant light heavyweight title on Saturday, Bellator hands out its women’s flyweight championship on Friday in the Bellator 289 co-main event. Incumbent champion Liz Carmouche (17-7 MMA, 4-0 Bellator) puts her 125-lb. strap on the line when she meets challenger and No. 1 contender Juliana Velasquez (12-1 MMA, 7-1 Bellator) for the second time.
Like all championship bouts in MMA, Friday night’s co-main event will be a maximum of five rounds at five minutes per round. Will a score be settled in Connecticut, however?
Carmouche vs. Velasquez: The First Meeting and the Appeal of the Result
As previously mentioned, this is the second head-to-head confrontation between Liz Carmouche and Juliana Velasquez since the former joined the Bellator MMA active roster almost three years ago. Prior to this weekend, the two fighters were booked to meet seven and a half months ago during Bellator 278‘s headlining bout.
On the night of April 22, Carmouche stopped Velasquez in the fourth round with elbow shots to take the championship from the latter, who subsequently appealed the decision.
In July, the Hawaii State Boxing Commission upheld the official decision of a Carmouche knockout. On Friday, Velasquez will be out for revenge.
Bellator 289 Co-Main Event Fighter Comparison and Betting Odds
Heading into the Bellator 289 co-main event on Friday night, both Liz Carmouche and Juliana Velasquez stand level in height at 5-foot-6. Velasquez owns a 1 1/2-inch reach advantage (67 1/2 inches to 66 inches even) over Carmouche.
As it stands currently, the oddsmakers have the challenger as a -185 favorite for this title fight, with the champion installed as a +155 underdog. If you choose to bet on this or any other fight happening this weekend, please wager responsibly.
Liz Carmouche Aiming to Go 5-0 in Bellator
Liz Carmouche enters the Bellator 289 co-main event Friday having gone 4-1 in her last five MMA fights and is currently on a four-fight winning streak since joining Bellator in 2020. Prior to defeating Juliana Velasquez last spring, she scored a standing TKO against Kana Watanabe (11-1-1 MMA, 3-0 Bellator) during the first round of their fight on June 25, 2021.
During a recent interview, Carmouche mentioned to Jason Cruz about her treatment within Scott Coker’s promotion over the past few years.
“I’m excited that the opportunity finally came and that it came with Bellator,” Carmouche began. “They’ve been a great organization that’s taken care of me, and I’m fortunate that I’m finally able to hold the belt and have it be with the organization that’s side-by-side and just as happy as I am.”
Carmouche also weighed in on Velasquez’ unsuccessful appeal of their April fight.
“I definitely feel like her uproar did kind of tarnish the luster that it had and that I was anticipating and hopeful of,” she said, “At the same time, that just puts that more motivation to shine that much brighter with her blood in the next fight.”
Carmouche has given Velasquez bulletin board material for sure heading into the Bellator 289 co-main event. Will the rematch be devoid of controversy?
Vengeance is Velasquez’ Goal on Friday
In the other corner, Juliana Velasquez has gone 4-1 in her last five appearances. Prior to the fight against Liz Carmouche in April, she defeated Denise Kielholtz (6-4 MMA, 6-3 Bellator) by split decision in July of 2021.
Velasquez also spoke to Jason Cruz recently. Through her translator, she mentioned that she’s been able to put the controversy of last spring behind,
“What happened has happened,” she said. “I don’t keep reminding myself about it. It’s gone. It’s over. I’m focusing on this next fight. Everything is going to be pretty different.”
While Juliana Velasquez has been able to let her loss from the spring go, she’s on a mission to take back the championship in the Bellator 289 co-main event. Tune in and find out what happens.
Analysis, Film Study, and Prediction
Stylistically, the Bellator 289 co-main event appears to favor Liz Carmouche, who owns a black belt in 10th Planet Jiu-Jitsu and a yellow belt in American Kenpo fighting, with Juliana Velasquez countering as a black belt in judo.
Liz Carmouche Can Sink in a Submission
One aspect of Liz Carmouche’s fight game that’s shown itself on videotape is her ability to win by submission, as she did against Deanna Bennett in September of 2020. During the third and final round, Carmouche and Bennett found themselves in the clinch for much of the period, with Bennett utilizing a kimura grip against Carmouche to establish wrist control.
From there, Carmouche switched grips to improve her position, eventually taking Bennett’s back and taking her down. As soon as she was able to take Bennett down, Carmouche was able to place her arm under Bennett’s exposed neck, forcing her opponent to tap out.
If Liz Carmouche finds herself in the clinch, look for her to shoot for a takedown. The Bellator 289 co-main event could be a done deal soon after.
Velasquez’s Kicking Game is Lethal
In the other corner, Juliana Velasquez can end the fight with as little as one kick square and true. During Bellator 197 in 2018, Rebecca Ruth found this out the hard way.
Right as the third round began, Ruth landed a few leg kicks, but this was all the offense that she could muster. Velasquez finished her off just 19 seconds into the period with a kick to the stomach.
Even though the referee called for time and there was some question as to whether or not the blow was within the rules of the fight on the broadcast. replays of the exchange show that it was a legal kick to the body to send Ruth down and out. If Velasquez can land a single clean kick, she’ll reclaim the championship.
Controversy and an unsuccessful appeal has given way to an anticipated rematch for flyweight gold in the Bellator 289 co-main event on Friday night. This is a fight that can’t be missed.
Prediction: Liz Carmouche by Unanimous Decision.