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Bellator 224 results: Julia Budd defends featherweight title with crushing first-round finish

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Julia Budd (right) drives a knee into the mid-section of Olga Rubin (left) at Bellator 224 on Friday
Bellator MMA

Make it three straight successful title defenses for featherweight queen Julia Budd.

And it doesn’t look like she’s slowing down anytime soon.

The reigning champion needed just 2:14 to land a crippling body kick on challenger Olga Rubin (6-1) and then finish with more brutal body work to emerge victorious in the Bellator 224 main event on Saturday at WinStar World Casino in Thackerville, Oklahoma.

It was the previously unbeaten Rubin who walked forward and got in Budd’s face right away, but Budd kept her composure and used solid kickboxing to keep Rubin off-balance. She consistently landed leg and body kicks, which directly led to the finishing sequence. A front kick to the mid-section had Rubin covering up and Budd smelled blood. She pushed Rubin to the fence and flurried, connecting with a knee to the body and follow-up punches that put Rubin down for the count.

Post-fight, Budd (13-2) said that she would be open to next defending her title against UFC transplant Leslie Smith, who defeated Sinead Kavanagh by majority decision earlier in the evening in her Bellator debut, or a possible fight with Rizin star Gabi Garcia.

It wasn’t the most exciting performance, but Rafael Carvalho (16-3) snapped the first losing streak of his career with a unanimous decision win over Chidi Njokuani (18-7, 1 NC) in Friday’s co-main event.

With neither man managing to muster any prolonged stretches of offense, it was the takedowns of Carvalho that made the difference. The former middleweight champion cut off the cage early, leading to back-and-forth clinch exchanges and Carvalho securing a takedown to close the round. In round two, they continued to trade elbows and knees in the clinch until Carvalho scored a takedown with two minutes to go.

Carvalho landed another big takedown to start round three and methodically worked from there, though he wasn’t able to make much happen in Njokuani’s guard. The final frame ended with Njokuani getting back to his feet and landing a few punches on a crouching Carvalho, an effort that was too little too late.

This is Carvalho’s first win since defeating Alessio Sakara back in December 2017. The following year saw him lose two straight contests to Gegard Mousasi and Lyoto Machida.

In flyweight action, Juliana Velasquez (9-0) may have punched her ticket to a world title shot. The Brazilian overwhelmed Kristina Williams (3-2) with potent punching combinations and crisp body work en route to a TKO finish at the 4:03 mark of round two.

From the start, Velasquez and Williams confidently engaged on the feet, with Velasquez favoring a straight left hand and Williams hunting for head kicks. Velasquez scored first blood, rocking Williams with a pair of lefts and pressing her against the cage. She continued to connect with her straight left while blocking or dodging most of Williams’s high kick attempts.

Williams showed urgency in round two, but Velasquez patiently defended and made her own punches count. With two minutes remaining in the round, she clobbered Williams with a 1-2 combination followed by a flurry of punches. Hard shots rained all over Williams until she took a hard shot to the body that dropped her, prompting the referee to step in for the stoppage.

Coming off of his first loss in MMA, Ed Ruth (7-1) rebounded in emphatic fashion with a second-round TKO victory over Kiichi Kunimoto (20-8-2, 1 NC). Ruth traded leg kicks with the Japanese veteran to start, and it was actually Kunimoto who initiated the grappling, which proved to be a mistake as he was controlled by the three-time NCAA wrestling champion.

A pair of takedowns had Ruth ahead going into the second round and he pressed his advantage by continuing to out-wrestle Kunimoto. With no fear of being taken down, Ruth was free to throw kicks to Kunimoto’s body. A scrambling Kunimoto absorbed a knee to the body as he went for a takedown and he fell to the mat, stunned. From there, Ruth proceeded to pound Kunimoto out with punches on the ground.

Full Bellator results can be found here.