Esther Lin, MMA Fighting
Cris Cyborg is a champion once again.
Following an unceremonious end to her UFC career, Cyborg wanted to make a good impression in her debut with Bellator MMA, and she delivered with a fourth-round TKO to finish Julia Budd to win the 145-pound women’s title.
While she didn’t overwhelm Budd early, as she’s done to so many of her past opponents, Cyborg may have put on one of her most complete performances with the victory on Saturday night.
Best known as an offensive juggernaut, Cyborg was definitely looking to punish Budd in every exchange at distance, in the clinch or during the moments when the fight hit the floor. While Budd was struggling to put together any truly effective combinations, Cyborg was patient yet explosive by measuring her strikes and then opening up with a barrage.
Time after time, Cyborg chopped down Budd by attacking the legs, then going to the body before finishing with shots to the head. Even in the clinch, Cyborg’s powerful yet methodical attacks kept Budd guessing as she just constantly got stuck in bad positions all fight long.
By the close of the third round, Cyborg had Budd mounted and began raining down punches and elbows, but time ran out before she could get the finish. That was the beginning of the end, because Cyborg knew the momentum was on her side, and as the fourth round got underway, she went for the kill.
The Brazilian backed Budd up against the cage, as she had done several times in the fight. But this time, she started unloading with rapid-fire punches. Once again, Cyborg forced Budd to defend her head as well as her body, and that’s what ultimately brought an end to the fight.
Cyborg’s barrage opened up Budd’s midsection, and that’s when the former UFC champion connected with a shot flush to the body. Budd doubled over in pain and fell to the mat as referee Mike Beltran swooped into stop the fight at 1:14 into the fourth round.
.@CrisCyborg caps off her brilliant Bellator debut with a round 4 TKO! #Bellator238 pic.twitter.com/byDfekcas7
— DAZN USA (@DAZN_USA) January 26, 2020
“I respect Julia,” Cyborg said following her victory. “She was a long time undefeated. I’m really happy. This is a new era. I’m happy to be a Bellator champion.”
After leaving the UFC for Bellator, Cyborg looked refreshed and better than ever with her performance against Budd to claim the championship in her debut. Now that she’s back on top at 145 pounds, Cyborg has designs on Bellator president Scott Coker finding her some new competition.
“I would Scott would like to make a Grand Prix,” Cyborg said after Coker wrapped the belt around her waist.
The win also makes Cyborg a champion in four different promotions after claiming belts in the UFC, Strikeforce, Invicta FC and now Bellator MMA.
Darrion Caldwell stuns Adam Borics with first-round rear-naked choke
Darrion Caldwell punched his ticket to the semifinals of the Bellator Featherweight Grand Prix, while handing Adam Borics the first loss of his career.
The former bantamweight champion has been criticized for a wrestling heavy offense in recent fights, but he was definitely gunning for the finish at Bellator 238.
Right away, Caldwell started throwing hands with Borics, which could have been risky game plan considering the devastating knockouts the Hungarian-born featherweight has pulled off in the past.
Instead it was Caldwell who found a home for his strikes, and that led to a takedown with Borics defending on the mat against a dominant grappler. Caldwell was quick to trap Boric’s arm, which left him undefended for the rear-naked choke as the fighters battled for position against the cage.
With his forearm under the chin, Caldwell secured the choke, and the grimace on Borics’ face told the whole story as he desperately tried to resist before finally being forced to tap out.
The end came at 2:20 into the opening round.
With the win, Caldwell moves onto face another undefeated fighter in A.J. McKee, who has looked unstoppable through his first two fights in the tournament with an eight-second knockout followed by a third round armbar.
“This is my night,” Caldwell shouted as he came face to face with McKee for the first time. “This is my tournament. You want some, come get some.
Caldwell vs. McKee is the first semifinal matchup in the ongoing Grand Prix with two more quarterfinal fights — Emmanuel Sanchez vs. Daniel Weichel and Patricio Pitbull vs. Pedro Carvalho — still to come.
Juan Archuleta edges out Henry Corrales by unanimous decision
It wasn’t the most exciting fight, but Juan Archuleta got the job done with a unanimous decision victory over Henry Corrales.
Archuleta used a good defense to largely stifle Corrales’ offense over three rounds while connecting with enough punches to edge out two frames on the scorecards.
Corrales tried to mount a comeback in the final five-minute session as he went headhunting to try and score the knockout. But Archuleta stayed light on his feet and avoided any serious trouble.
When it was over, the judges all scored the fight 29-28 in favor of Archuleta, who is now 6-1 in Bellator with his only loss coming to reigning featherweight champion Patricio “Pitbull” Freire in his most recent outing.
Sergio Pettis mauls Alfred Khashakyan in Bellator debut
A new home looked good on Sergio Pettis as he made his first appearance in the Bellator cage Saturday night.
After spending most of his career in the UFC, the 26-year-old Roufusport fighter opted to ink a deal with the Viacom-owned company when his free agency started. It looks like he made a smart move after Pettis returned to the bantamweight division and made short work of Alfred Khashakyan in the first round.
It appeared that Pettis might get a knockout after he connected with a perfectly timed counter right hand that dropped Khashakyan to the ground during an early exchange. Pettis followed him to the mat and continued to pour on the punishment, but Khashakyan managed to survive the onslaught.
With Khashakyan still dazed, however, Pettis saw an opening to sink in a guillotine choke submission and as he fell to his back it appeared the end was near. When referee Frank Trigg saw Khashakyan stop moving, he knew the fight was finished as he pried Pettis’ arms loose as he began celebrating his first Bellator win.
The addition of Pettis to an already deep bantamweight division gives Bellator yet another contender to consider as the promotion seeks to crown a new champion in 2020.
Raymond Daniels grounds and pounds his way to TKO over Jason King
Raymond Daniels didn’t get another highlight reel knockout in his second appearance in Bellator. But he still managed a very impressive finish.
The kickboxer turned mixed martial artist put on a dazzling display on the feet, battering King to the head and body repeatedly throughout the first round.
With King on wobbly legs, Daniels kept trying to go for the kill, but his opponent fell to the mat several times as he attempted to avoid the knockout. Finally, King did manage to grab onto one of Daniels’ legs, which forced him to engage in a ground fight. That only precipitated the end a few seconds later.
Once he was out of harm’s way from any submission, Daniels started raining down blows, and an already staggered King had no chance to survive. As the unanswered blows continued, the referee had no choice but to rescue him from Daniels with the fight stopped at 3:07 in the first round.
At 2-0 in Bellator, Daniels has looked phenomenal in both of his performances while still learning the ropes as a mixed martial artist.
Emilee King chokes out former boxing champion Ava Knight
Emilee King needed less than three minutes to give former boxing champion Ava Knight a harsh lesson in grappling in just her second professional fight in mixed martial arts.
Knowing that Knight was likely looking for the knockout, King wasted no time engaging in a ground battle and then transitioning to a rapid fire series of submissions.
King nearly locked up an armbar and then moved to a brief triangle choke as Knight tried to find a way to escape and get back to her feet. Unfortunately, Knight staved off the early submissions, but she couldn’t get away from King’s grasp, which then put her in an even worse position after giving up her back.
Quickly seizing on the opening, King locked her arm under Knight’s chin and locked up the rear naked choke. Knight refused to tap, but that didn’t stop King from putting her to sleep just seconds later as the referee jumped into stop the fight at 2:18 into the opening round.
While the hype surrounded Knight heading into Saturday night, King wrapped up the win in her Bellator debut while notching her fourth win in a row overall.
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