Bellator 189 is in the books as the main event witnessed how Julia Budd successfully defended her featherweight crown for the first time, realizing a split decision victory over Arlene Blencowe in a rather lackluster rematch. The 7-0 Rafael Lovato Jr. continued his unbeaten streak in the main event, as he scored the unanimous decision victory over the NCAA fight product Chris Honeycutt. Chidi Njokuani made a successful debut in the middleweight division by taking a unanimous decision over the dangerous forward Hisaki Kato, winning 30-27 in the three scorecards. David Rickels is on top, since "The Caveman" won a dominant decision victory over Adam Piccolotti, who also won nothing more than 30-27.
Julia Budd def. Arlene Blencowe for Split Decision (49-46, 47-48, 49-46): (W) Featherweight title
Budd came out much more assertive than her the first time she fought Blencowe, starting the clinch immediately and controlling for most of the first round. The second stanza saw Blencowe take the center of the cage, firing with 1-2 combos and connecting often. Budd played outside, kicking the body and legs, but did not attempt a knockdown until the end of the round. The pace slowed a bit in the 3rd round, as there was a small staring contest. Budd threw some kicks to the body here and there, while Blencowe landed a right hand sometimes. In the fourth and fifth round many more visits were made, since even the commentator Mauro Ranallo asked for a yellow guard as they did in PRIDE's glory days. Blencowe vs. Budd 2 was a failure, but Budd kept his belt.
Rafael Lovato Jr def. Chris Honeycutt by unanimous decision (30-27 x2, 29-28): Average weight
Lovato Jr came out aggressive on the feet, throwing a series of kicks in the head and jumping the knees , as if he was not afraid of the demolition. Honeycutt seemed to have difficulty dealing with his opponent's volume on his feet, so he fired and pushed Lovato Jr against the cage. Lovato Jr worked for a Guillotine standing up to fight the knockdown when the opening round came to an end.
Lovato Jr came out again looking to launch his attacks without caring much about the demolition. Honeycutt was able to close the distance and finally score a knockdown, but Lovato Jr remained active and quickly stood up. Lovato Jr would throw several crafty blows in the face before the round ended.
The butts were enough to open the final frame, which caused Honeycutt to catch some kicks in search of the knockdown. Honeycutt finally found the highest position of a trapped kick, but Lovato Jr again rushes to his feet. Lovato Jr got a knockdown of his own, only for Honeycutt to get up and return the favor to finish the round at the top. Lovato Jr. went on to win unanimous recognition to remain undefeated in his professional career.
Chidi Njokuani def. Hisaki Kato by unanimous decision (30-27 x3): middleweight
Kato came out kicking in the leg during the first half of the first round. It was not long before Njokuani found his rhythm and began to take control of the fight. Kato continued to attack the legs, but it was Njokuani who landed with much more significant punches.
The second stanza saw Njokuani change to 2nd gear, while Kato seemed to still be in the 1st. Njokuani went to the center of Bellator's cage, forcing Kato to play outside, fighting to close the gap with the scorer. Njokuani had great success shooting from the outside, choosing his shots and making the most of it. Kato continued his kicking attack, but found himself routinely with contrary blows that seemed to interrupt his rhythm.
Kato came out more aggressive in the final round, throwing his kicks with a sense of urgency, but Njokuani was there, ready and waiting to counter with the sniper technique he deemed convenient. Njokuani even sent Kato flying from a long right hand, as seen below. Kato would finally make his way inside, looking for only one leg, but Njokuani was not having anything and returned to the open space. Jato could not do anything in the final moments of the fight, and Njokuani left with a unanimous decision.
See how Kato chose to start the opening round:
David Rickels def. Adam Piccolotti by unanimous decision (30-27 x3): Capture weight of 160 pounds
Rickels went directly to his opponent, pushing Piccolotti back while making his punches. Piccolotti had moments to press Rickels against the cage, but he was not able to control it for a substantial amount of time. Rickels finished the first round strong and in pursuit, throwing a burst just when time ran out.
The second stanza saw Rickels find a home for his right hand quite often every time Piccolotti was trapped standing in his pocket. Piccolotti was able to put Rickels on his back, but again he was unable to control him long before he got to his feet. Piccolotti scored another takedown to finish the round at the top, but could not rack up any damage.
Piccolotti appeared in the third round with a large bruise under his left eye, prompting the doctor to take a look. Once the action resumed, it was Rickels pushing the pace, seeking to land more right hands while Piccolotti was at the bottom step. Piccolotti landed a beautiful direct hit to the takedown, but spent his time at the top defending Rickels' attempts at Omoplata and Triangle. The three judges saw the fight 30-27 for "The Caveman."
See Rickels break right hand:
Preliminary card: 7:00 PM ET in Live Stream
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