“I’ve always been a defensive fighter,” Yamauchi said after his stunning knockout on Friday at Sanford Pentagon. “This time, [I brought] Triple GGG [boxer Gennady Golovkin] ‘Big Drama style. ... I like to put on a show.”
The show was a headlong charge toward Gracie late in the second after another stalemate on the canvas, where Yamauchi twice put his opponent after sharp work on the feet. Walking slowly forward, Yamauchi lowered his hands and dug his face and forehead into the jabs of his opponent. Suddenly, he uncorked an uppercut that folded Gracie in place, handing the jiu-jitsu his third straight loss and fourth in his past six outings.
A jab from Yamauchi in the first round forced Gracie take a knee. The Brazilian was unable to get the action to the ground on his own terms, foreshadowing the explosive finish.
“This is very meaningful, not just because of my first main event, but fighting against a Gracie,” Yamauchi said. “He’s a hell of a fighter, one of the grapplers in history. I have no words to describe this moment.”
Gracie is currently ranked at No. 5 in the Bellator welterweight rankings, leaving Yamauchi an opening to jump into title contention in what was his third straight win and second 170-pound fight under the promotion.
A fighter who’s long struggled to break through the pack at featherweight and lightweight, Yamauchi may be on the cusp of his best work as a welterweight.
“Everybody above me in the rankings, I’m sure these guys are watching today,” he said. “I want to fight all those guys. ... This is my destiny.”
Accidental eye poke takes out Mowry
Steve Mowry had barely gotten started trying to take out former interim heavyweight champ Valentin Moldavsky when an accidental eye poke caught his right eye. Replays showed a good portion of Moldavsky’s finger making illegal contact as he attempted to parry a punch. Referee Kevin MacDonald gave Mowry as many chances as possible to see if he could continue, letting three minutes elapse.
Mowry, however, was clearly diminished and said several times that he couldn’t see, forcing MacDonald’s hand as he called in the ringside doc. Mowry winced at a pen light shined into his injured eye and repeated the fight-ending words that he couldn’t see. In just 54 seconds, it was all over in the co-main event as the accidental foul triggered a no-contest.
Macfarlane survives late squeeze, outpoints Ellen
Ilima-Lei Macfarlane stepped into the cage deducted an emotional point for her first weight miss. The ex-flyweight champ wasn’t sure she still wanted to fight. After three tough rounds with Bruna Ellen, she re-discovered her passion for the sport – and snapped a two-fight skid.
Macfarlane unexpectedly battled the striking specialist Ellen on the feet, using none of her kicks in a tussle for supremacy down the middle. She took several shots in the process, but gave back as many and more before pushing the fight to the fence, where she scooped Ellen to the mat and ended the round with a flurry.
The game plan was less disguised from then on as Macfarlane battled through punches for the takedown. It nearly backfired in the second when a foot sweep takedown put her on the bottom, and a guillotine choke had her struggling to breathe. But she survived both and ended the exchange with a flurry of offense, letting her elbows end 15 minutes.
For her gutsy effort, all three judges gave Macfarlane the fight via scores of 29-28 twice and 30-27.
Ilima-Lei Macfarlane out-muscles Bruna Ellen, taking her to the ground as round 1️⃣ comes to a close— SHOWTIME SPORTS (@SHOsports) August 13, 2022
Catch the final two rounds LIVE on @Showtime #Bellator284 | @BellatorMMA pic.twitter.com/FYx6jhBnHX
Saricam edges Sowma in sparring-esque bout
In a fight that never quite got out of second gear, Gokhan Saricam’s striking attack got the job done over Said Sowma. A left hand knocked Sowma off-balance in the opening frame and provided the motivation to wrestle, which he did often when he figured out he had the slight advantage there. In the second, Sowma spent most of the frame trying to smother his opponent. But in the end, he settled for a sparring-paced fight against Saricam, who did just enough to edge out his opponent save for a last-second flurry of shots that scored against Sowma. Two out of three judges gave Saricam the nod by 29-28 scores, while one dissented for American Top Team’s Sowma, who suffered his second straight setback.
Jeffrey downs Vanderford
The man known as Mr. Van Zant continued to stumble after working his way to the top of the Bellator middleweight division. Short-notice replacement Aaron Jeffrey had Austin Vanderford’s number from the get-go, landing an overhand right that dropped Vanderford twice before the third sealed the deal.
Vanderford had no time to get going the wrestling that worked so well for him in earlier – and more favorably matched – fights. At the 1:25 mark of the opening frame, it was all over, with Mr. VanZant’s arms against the cage, wondering went wrong as the mulleted Jeffrey celebrated his third straight Bellator win. With Vanderford still No. 2 in the promotion’s rankings after a quick TKO loss to now-former champ Gegard Mousasi, Jeffrey has made a big splash.
Full Bellator 284 results:
Goiti Yamauchi def. Neiman Gracie via KO (uppercut) - Round 2, 3:58
Valentin Moldavsky vs. Steve Mowry declared a no-contest (accidental eye poke) - Round 1, 0:54
Ilima-Lei Macfarlane def. Bruna Ellen via unanimous decision (29-28, 29-28, 30-27)
Gokhan Saricam def. Said Sowma via split decision (29-28, 28-29, 29-28)
Aaron Jeffery def. Austin Vanderford via TKO (punches) - Round 1, 1:25
DeAnna Bennett def. Justine Kish via unanimous decision (29-28, 29-28, 29-28)