Liz Carmouche has finally won a championship belt, but it was not without some controversy.
At Bellator 278 on Friday night, Carmouche claimed the Bellator flyweight title, earning a fourth-round TKO stoppage over Juliana Velasquez that left Velasquez visibly upset with referee Mike Beltran’s decision to halt the contest.
After a competitive first two rounds which saw Carmouche have success with low kicks while Velasquez continually scored with left hands, Velasquez took control of the bout in the third round, putting Carmouche on the back foot, controlling the clinches, and cracking Carmouche with her left hand. In the fourth, Velasquez dropped Carmouche early and seemed to have the bout well in hand, until the former Marine shot for a takedown late in the round and quickly advanced to the top-crucifix position. From there, Carmouche started dropping elbows — and though none of them appeared to be particularly powerful, referee Mike Beltran saw enough to stop the fight at 4:47 of the fourth round.
Velasquez immediately argued against the stoppage, but it was too late.
Controversial or not, though, Carmouche has now finally won a world title belt, having fallen short in her three previous title shots in Strikeforce and the UFC.
The win moves her to 4-0 inside the Bellator cage, and at 38 years old, figures to be the crowning achievement in what has been an impressive career already.
Barzola outclasses Mikhailov
In the second of two Bellator bantamweight grand prix qualifier bouts of the evening, Enrique Barzola outclassed Nikita Mikhailov en route to a unanimous decision win, locking up his spot in the grand prix.
Barzola put a relentless pace on Mikhailov, taking him down every round and going to work with ground-and-pound and submission attempts. Mikhailov proved his durability, surviving several close rear-naked choke attempts and making it to the final bell for a moral victory for the 23-year-old.
The win is Barzola’s second since joining Bellator, and he will now face Magomed Magomedov in the first round of the Bellator bantamweight grand prix.
Sabatello dominates Lugo
In the first Bellator bantamweight grand prix qualifier bout of the evening, Danny Sabatello thrashed Jornel Lugo for 15 minutes, winning a dominant unanimous decision and punching his ticket into the grand prix.
Lugo simply had no answer for the wrestling ability of Sabatello, who repeatedly took him down and worked the formerly undefeated prospect over with increasingly violent ground-and-pound. After his win, Sabatello then cut a profanity-laden promo on the man he will face in the opening round of the Grand Prix, Leandro Higo.
Also on the main card, Grant Neal was able to successfully rebound from his first career loss, winning a unanimous decision over Christian Edwards, and Manny Muro avenged an early career loss to Nate Andrews, winning a split decision on the main card opener.
Full Bellator 278 Results
Liz Carmouche def. Juliana Velasquez via TKO (strikes) at 4:47 of Round 4
Enrique Barzola def. Nikita Mikhailov via unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 30-27)
Danny Sabatello def. Jornel Lugo via unanimous decision (30-26, 30-26, 30-26)
Grant Neal def. Christian Edwards via unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 30-27)
Manny Muro def. Nate Andrews via split decision (29-28, 28-29, 29-28)
Weber Almeida def. Fabricio Franco via TKO (kick) 3:01 of Round 1
Dante Schiro def. Scotty Hao via TKO (strikes) at 1:03 of Round 3
Blake Perry def. Makoa Cooper via submission (anaconda choke) at 4:14 of Round 2