Bellator MMA continues its weekend in Hawaii with Bellator 213 at the Neal S. Blaisdell Center in Honolulu on Dec. 15, just one day after Bellator 212 graced the same venue.
In the main event of the evening, Hawaiian Ilima-Lei Macfarlane defends her women’s flyweight title against UFC veteran Valérie Létourneau. Macfarlane made her first successful title defense in June against Alejandra Lara, who succumbed to a submission in the third round.
Létourneau will undoubtedly be Macfarlane’s toughest opponent to date. The UFC veteran brings a wealth of experience to the table as one of the better fighters in the UFC’s women’s divisions. Létourneau has shot out to a 2-0 start in her Bellator tenure. Her most recent victory came in June against Kristina Williams.
The co-headliner features another UFC veteran at center stage. Former UFC light heavyweight champion Lyoto Machida takes on fellow middleweight Rafael Carvalho. Machida makes his Bellator debut after departing the UFC following a front-kick knockout of Vitor Belfort at UFC 224 in May. Carvalho, the former Bellator middleweight champion, looks to get back into the title mix following his loss to UFC veteran Gegard Mousasi. Carvalho suffered a first-round knockout to Mousasi, who claimed the title with the win.
The Bellator Welterweight Grand Prix continues in Hawaii when Ed Ruth and Neiman Gracie fight to book their spot in the tournament’s semifinal round. At light heavyweight, former champions Muhammed “King Mo” Lawal and Liam McGeary battle to get back into title contention. Lightweights Nainoa Dung and Kona Oliveira complete the main-card offering.
The Bellator 213 preliminary card airs live on Bellator.com at 8 p.m. ET. The main card airs live exclusively on DAZN at 10 p.m. ET.
Will UFC castoff Valérie Létourneau unseat reigning Bellator women’s flyweight champion Ilima-Lei Macfarlane in the evening’s main event?
The short answer is no. Macfarlane has been exceptional in her tenure with Bellator, and a victory over a UFC veteran will serve as a huge addition to her win column.
Macfarlane has jumped out to an 8-0 start to her career. The fact that she accepted this test while other prospects with the same record fight to keep padding their record is wildly impressive. Macfarlane became the champion after just seven fights. The flyweight division may not be the deepest, but such an early jump into the throne is a huge feat. The 28-year-old’s last three fights have all been submission victories, and all three were armbars. Her last two fights have been title bouts.
It’s no secret Macfarlane’s ground game has been her biggest strength. It’s what she has used to win five fights for the promotion. However, her striking has steadily improved over her tenure and helped shape her into a more complete fighter. She hasn’t been tested like this, though.
Létourneau, who has won her first two fights with Bellator, will most certainly be able to take the shots, but Macfarlane has shown just as much grit so far to remain unbeaten. Létourneau’s recent victories were rather one-sided decisions, but we’re three years removed from the Létourneau who challenged Joanna Jędrzejczyk through a five-round brawl.
Macfarlane needs to press the pace and stay in Létourneau’s face as much as possible. If she can press the pace and keep Létourneau on her back foot and in a defensive posture, then Macfarlane will take this via the judges’ nod.
UFC veteran and huge free-agent acquisition Lyoto Machida makes his Bellator debut in the co-headliner against former Bellator middleweight champion Rafael Carvalho. Will Machida find success in his first foray into the Bellator cage? Is this little more than a setup for a middleweight title showdown between Machida and fellow UFC defector Gegard Mousasi?
Bellator is definitely trying to set up Machida and Mousasi for a showdown. It makes logistical sense to have a former UFC light heavyweight champion and middleweight contender face off. Bellator didn’t throw money at Machida to use him as a gatekeeper. The promotion signed him to bring the middleweight division some much-needed talent.
Machida may not be the same fighter who won the UFC light heavyweight title, but he is one of the best fighters in the middleweight division outside of the UFC’s roster. Machida, like Mousasi, left the UFC on a winning streak. He was successful in his last two Octagon fights against Vitor Belfort and Eryk Anders. His split-decision victory over Anders left a lot to be desired, but he did land a front-kick knockout on Belfort that helped recapture the imagination of MMA fans. Maybe Machida isn’t done yet. Maybe he still has some of that karate magic left in him.
Carvalho should be a more-than-game opponent to contest Machida. Carvalho has shown flashes of some strong knockout power from every angle. Kicks, elbows, shots to the body — you name it, Carvalho has seemingly used it to knock out his opponent.
Machida is an elusive fighter and relies a lot on his defensive abilities. Those abilities seem to be fading as he ages. With Machida now checking in at 40 years old, it’s hard to see him being the same defensive fighter for much longer. This is probably the last run for “The Dragon.” Machida’s experience alone gives him a big edge over Carvalho, who is coming off a knockout loss to Mousasi. Machida should be able to outstrike yet another opponent by staying at distance and keeping Carvalho’s creativity to a minimum.
Neiman Gracie and Ed Ruth continue the company’s welterweight tournament with a quarterfinal bout at Bellator 213. Who wins this fight, and should they be considered the underdog among the remaining tourney fighters?
This is going to be a back-and-forth battle on the ground between Gracie, a Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu black belt, and Ed Ruth, a three-time NCAA Division I wrestling champion. Both fighters enter this contest undefeated, and they were completely dominant in each of their fights. Gracie is much more one-dimensional than Ruth, though.
These fighters are big prospects for Bellator, so it’s interesting to see this sort of battle in the opening round of a welterweight tournament. Ruth was one of Bellator’s big blue-chip signings when the promotion was scooping up former NCAA Division I champions and All-Americans. This is probably the fight to look forward to the most on this card.
This fight will inevitably hit the ground. One of these grappling experts will fall back on their bread and butter. Ruth has the more well-rounded game and an extraordinary amount of power. That alone gives him a stark advantage. If the fight spends even a little time on the feet — which, of course, it will — then Ruth even has the chance to end the fight without ever using his wrestling skills.
If Ruth doesn’t manage to keep the fight standing, then we will see two contradicting styles of grappling. Wrestling should reign supreme for Ruth, who should have some ability to escape the submission and smother Gracie.
The fighter who comes out with the win is definitely the underdog in this tournament. This is a battle between two guys Bellator has tried to groom to be world-beaters in the welterweight division, but this bracket contains the likes of welterweight champion Rory MacDonald and former champs Douglas Lima and Andrey Koreshkov. These are the names you’ll hear a lot, and they stack up as the big favorites to win Grand Prix glory.
Main Card (DAZN, 10 p.m. ET)
Women’s FlyW Championship: Ilima-Lei Macfarlane vs. Valérie Létourneau
MW: Lyoto Machida vs. Rafael Carvalho
WW World Grand Prix Quarterfinal: Neiman Gracie vs. Ed Ruth
LHW: Muhammed “King Mo” Lawal vs. Liam McGeary
LW: Kona Oliveira vs. Nainoa Dung
Preliminary Card (Bellator.com, 8 p.m. ET)
Catchweight: Maki Pitolo vs. Chris Cisneros
FW: Timothy Teves vs. Canaan Kawaihae
BW: Kai Kamaka III vs. Shojin Miki
LW: Ryan Dela Cruz vs. Spencer Higa
LW: Dustin Barca vs. Isaac Hopps
LHW: Kala Hose vs. Marcus Gamble
FlyW: Russell Mizuguchi vs. Michael Nakagawa
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