It’s safe to say Bellator’s Hawaii debut went swimmingly.
On Saturday night, at the Neal S. Blaisdell Center in Honolulu, Hawaii, the second leg of Bellator’s doubleheader went down, with the budding star, Ilima-Lei Macfarlane, retaining her flyweight title with a third-round triangle choke submission of Valerie Letourneau in the main event of Bellator 213.
Things started off well as the hometown hero had an incredible walkout, highlighting her Hawaiian heritage and amping up the crowd. That excitement was short-lived, however, as the first round was largely a feeling out process for both women. Things started picking up in the second when Macfarlane secured a takedown and the two scrambled around for a bit with the champion getting the better of the grappling, but when the returned to their feet, Letourneau outworked her and built up an early lead. Macfarlane finally got things going in the third, taking Letourneau down and securing back control early in the round. She then transitioned from rear-naked choke attempt to armbar and finally to a triangle choke. Letourneau was game but after Macfarlane rolled her into a mounted triangle, the challenger was forced to tap out. It was an impressive victory and sets Macfarlane up to be one of the breakout stars of 2019.
In the co-main event of the evening, Lyoto Machida made his Bellator debut a good one, taking a split decision over the former middleweight champion Rafael Carvalho. The first two rounds were close, with Machida employing his trademark karate style while Carvalho pressured him but in the third, Machida used his underrated wrestling skills to take the former champion down and secure the victory. The win sets Machida up for a shot at the Bellator middleweight title sometime next year.
In the middle fight of the main card, two of Bellator’s best prospects, Neiman Gracie and Ed Ruth battled it out in a first-round bout for the Bellator welterweight grand prix. In the first three rounds, Ruth was able to stave off the many submissions of Gracie but at great cost as Ruth was clearly gassed heading into the championship rounds. In the fourth round, Gracie, secured a take down and then moved to back mount where he was able to secure the fight-ending submission. The win earned Gracie a title shot against the winner of the Rory MacDonald-Jon Fitch title fight next year.
Elsewhere on the card, Muhammed Lawal took on Liam McGeary in a pivotal light heavyweight bout for both men to try and regain relevance in the division. On the feet, Lawal leaned heavily on leg kicks but McGeary used his length and size to outland “King Mo” and, when Lawal tried to take the former Bellator champion down, he was punished with elbows. Then in the third, McGeary landed a huge right hand that dropped Lawal and the referee stopped the fight, getting McGeary back in the winning column.
In the opening bout of the evening, Kona Oliveira and Nainoa Dung had a very entertaining scrap with Dung getting his hand raised in the end. In the first round, Oliveira took Dung down and controlled the fight, landing some solid ground-and-pound along the way. He may have tired early though as in the second, Dung was able to reverse a takedown and land some good strikes of his own. Then in the third, Dung rode that wave of momentum, getting full mount and stopping Oliveira with strikes.