Juliana Velasquez remains the Bellator flyweight champion, though she overcame her first title defense against Denise Kielholtz at Bellator 262 by the skin of her teeth.
Velasquez (12-0) eked out a razor-thin split decision over Kielholtz (6-3) in a striking-heavy affair Friday night in the main event of Bellator 262, which took place at the Mohegan Sun Arena in Uncasville, Conn. After vowing all week to defeat Kielholtz — a world-class kickboxer and the current Bellator Kickboxing women’s flyweight champion — on the feet, Velasquez stayed true to her word and utilized a long jab and slick knees to bloody Kielholtz’s left eye and do just enough damage to leave the cage with her title intact.
Judges Marcel Varela and Jacob Montalvo scored the 48-47 bout for Velasquez, while judge Bryan Miner scored the bout 48-47 for Kielholtz. Round 1 (10-9 Kielholtz) and Round 3 (10-9 Velasquez) were the only rounds the judges agreed on unanimously.
“I believe I had a lot of success with my jab,” a relieved Velasquez said post-fight. “I was having a hard time with my straight right, so things didn’t go exactly how I wanted them to, but I’m pretty happy with how I performed and the result.”
The champ @JuVelasquezMMA striking from range.— BellatorMMA (@BellatorMMA) July 17, 2021
Round 3 is live now on @SHOSports https://t.co/TbKTQ7lKsu pic.twitter.com/9OuZUZiFaV
The bout ultimately came down to a question of damage vs. volume, as Kielholtz out-landed the champion in total strikes by a wide margin, 101-46, and only succumbed to one takedown in the closing seconds of Round 3.
A veteran striker with 47 professional kickboxing wins, Kielholtz found early success lunging into the pocket and swarming the taller Velasquez with an array of blitzing combinations. She bloodied the nose of Velasquez by the end of Round 1, however the champion began to find her range in Round 2 and consistently interrupted Kielholtz’s rhythm throughout the remainder of the bout with her sharp jab and standing knees up the middle.
Kielholtz continued to wade forward with combinations and was the aggressor for the majority of the fight, but Velasquez edged out enough of the exchanges to sway two of the judges. With the win, Velasquez pushed her Bellator record to a perfect 7-0.
“I was actually thinking about working my takedowns but I wasn’t finding the timing to do it,” Velasquez said. “Most of my fights I’m the one pressuring, but I showed here that I can fight on the outside as well and withstand the pressure, and I think that’s also what makes a champion.”
This is a striking clinic!#Bellator262 live on @SHOSports https://t.co/TbKTQ7lKsu pic.twitter.com/7y2rrd2bta— BellatorMMA (@BellatorMMA) July 17, 2021
In the night’s co-main event, heavyweight prospect Tyrell Fortune (11-1, NC) scored the biggest win of his career with a controversial one-round shellacking of UFC veteran Matt Mitrione (13-9, 1 NC).
A NCAA Division II national champion wrestler, Fortune blew through Mitrione with a blast double-leg takedown in the bout’s opening seconds, during which there was an incidental clash of heads. As Mitrione vociferously complained to the referee, Fortune rained down a stream of punches that eventually led to a tapout from Mitrione at 1:45 of Round 1.
The takedown from @FortuneOverFam which led to the W!— BellatorMMA (@BellatorMMA) July 17, 2021
Tune in LIVE with @SHOSports https://t.co/TbKTQ7lKsu pic.twitter.com/TIf7AVJBrR
An incensed Mitrione then stormed out of the cage in disgust, however replays showed that the head butt was the result of Mitrione lowering his own head into Fortune’s.
Afterward, Fortune called out the lone man to defeat him in his MMA career: Recent Bellator interim title challenger Tim Johnson, who stole away Fortune’s unbeaten record in February 2020 with a brutal first-round knockout.
“Tim Johnson — come here, boy!” Fortune shouted.
With the loss, Mitrione’s late-career slump continued. The 42-year-old heavyweight is now winless over his last five fights and has been finished with strikes in the last three of them.
Elsewhere on the card, Matheus Mattos (13-2-1) used a hellacious second-round combination to notch the first victory of his Bellator career — and cement himself as a dark horse in the promotion’s bantamweight division. After briefly knocking down Cee Jay Hamilton (15-9) with a left hook in the opening round, the 29-year-old Brazilian crumpled Hamilton to the floor in the opening minutes of the second frame with a hard right hand to the body followed by a right uppercut and a left hand over the top.
Sensing the end, Mattos pounced with follow-up punches to secure his first win in the Bellator cage just 93 seconds into the second round.
Of Mattos’ two MMA losses, one came to top Bellator contender Magomed Magomedov and the other came in a 2017 setback to future UFC champion Petr Yan. Outside of that, Mattos has been a destructive force in his career, ending 11 of his 13 victories via stoppage, including Friday night’s.
@MattosMMA strikes hard and first!— BellatorMMA (@BellatorMMA) July 17, 2021
We are LIVE on @SHOSports with #Bellator262 https://t.co/TbKTQ7lKsu pic.twitter.com/Rx6XLFfNWC
In the other featured female fight of the night, Bellator featherweight contender Arlene Blencowe (14-8) rebounded in style from her failed title challenge last October against Cris Cyborg, knocking out Dayana Silva (9-7) with a highlight-reel third-round salvo.
Following a back-and-forth opening 11 minutes, the 38-year-old Australian cracked Silva with a nasty check left hook then swarmed with punches, ultimately sending her opponent home with a two-fight losing streak courtesy of a flurry of fight-ending hammerfists. The official time of the stoppage came at 1:00 of Round 3, pushing Blencowe’s Bellator record to 7-4 with four wins of those wins coming in her last five appearances.
Wow @arleneangerfist showing those hands that made her a 2X world boxing champion tonight @BellatorMMA @SHOsports— CrisCyborg.Com (@criscyborg) July 17, 2021
In the opening bout of the main card, Johnny Eblen (9-0) routed middleweight veteran Travis Davis (10-5) with a bullying performance to move to 5-0 in the Bellator cage and inch closer to title contention.
Elben outstruck Davis by a 97-18 margin and dominated him in the takedown battle 11-0, the latter of which quickly became the story of the fight.
More pressure from @JohnnyEblen to @travdavis05 in Round 3️⃣.— BellatorMMA (@BellatorMMA) July 17, 2021
We are LIVE on @SHOSports with #Bellator262 https://t.co/TbKTQ7lKsu pic.twitter.com/80Gd1JdNaT
Complete Bellator 262 results can be found below.
- Juliana Velasquez def. Denise Kielholtz via split decision (48-47, 47-48, 48-47)
- Tyrell Fortune def. Matt Mitrione via submission (strikes) at 1:45 of Round 1
- Matheus Mattos def. Cee Jay Hamilton via TKO (punches) at 1:33 of Round 2
- Arlene Blencowe def. Dayana Silva via TKO (punches) at 1:00 of Round 3
- Johnny Eblen def. Travis Davis via unanimous decision (30-27, 30-26, 30-26)
- Charlie Campbell def. Nick Giulietti via TKO (strikes) at 1:30 of Round 2
- Said Sowma def. Ronny Markes via KO (punch) at 1:09 of Round 1 | Watch finish
- Cody Law def. Theodore Macuka via TKO (strikes) at 1:54 of Round 1
- Diana Avsaragova def. Gabriella Gulfin via split decision (29-28, 28-29, 29-28)
- Adil Benjilany def. Johnny Soto via unanimous decision (29-28, 29-28, 29-28)