Bellator has crowned its first female featherweight champion Friday night in Thackerville, Okla.
Julia Budd took on longtime veteran Marloes Coenen in the main event of Bellator 174, and made clear early on that she had no intention staying on her feet with Coenen, taking the Dutch fighter down and working on top for the first three rounds.
Budd was only able to get the mount in the fourth round, and landed dozens of punches and elbows until referee John McCarthy decided to stop the fight. Budd, who holds a win over current UFC featherweight champion Germaine de Randamie, scored her eighth consecutive win since losing to Ronda Rousey in 2011.
"It's been a long road,” Budd said after the win. "I don't think anything has ever felt as good as this. I want to thank everyone that helped me get here."
"I really wanted to finish her,” she continued. "I said I was going to do it. I made a point to do it. Don't ever call me mentally weak. That just triggered something that turned me into an animal and I wanted to kill her."
In her post-fight interview, Coenen announced her retirement from the sport.
"I was expecting a war, but Julia gave me hell,” Coenen said. "I would like to announce this is my last fight. I retire. I would like to thank Scott Coker. He was the first promoter to recognize women are a force to be reckoned with."
In the co-main event, Fernando Gonzalez rebounded form his loss to Michael Page with a close win over Brandon Girtz. Girtz scored several takedowns in the 15-minute fight, and Gonzalez tried to fire back with guillotine attempts every time his opponent shot for double-legs. Gonzalez hurt Girtz late in the third round, but couldn't get the finish. In the end, all three judges gave Gonzalez the win.
Justin Wren scored his first submission since returning to MMA at Bellator 174. After back-to-back decision victories under the promotion’s banner since his five-year hiatus from the sport, Wren dominated Roman Pizzolato in Oklahoma.
Wren wasted no time in the striking area, taking Pizzolato to the ground and going for a rear-naked choke. Pizzolato defended it and tried to go back up, but Wren threw him back to the ground with a suplex and hurt him with punches and hammerfists before locking in the arm-triangle choke that forced Pizzolato to tap.
"I'm coming for that belt,” Wren said after the win.
One of the three non-Brazilians to win a jiu-jitsu world championship as a black belt, Rafael Lovato Jr. didn’t need to use his ground game in his first Bellator bout in the main card’s opening bout.
The 33-year-old fighter made quick work of Charles Hackman in a 195-pound catchweight fight, rocking his opponent with a head kick and following up with a pair of jumping knees. The referee stopped the action 13 seconds into the bout after Lovato landed a few more punches, but Hackman protested after the stoppage.
"I wanted to use my reach, kicks were definitely part of my gameplan,” Lovato said after improving to 5-0 with his fifth straight finish, his fastest victory so far in MMA. "I was ready to take him down, but didn't need it this time."
In the preliminary portion of the card, Emily Ducote scored another submission victory, tapping Katy Collins in the opening round with a rear-naked choke, and Cody Pfister announced his retirement from the sport after improving to 2-0 in Bellator with a first-round finish over Jonathan Gary.