Cris Cyborg will attempt to extend her successful reign as Bellator Featherweight Champion when fighting Leslie Smith in the main event of Friday night’s Bellator card. The fight is set to headline a 13-fight card from the Mohegan Sun Arena in Uncasville, Connecticut, USA.
Follow along throughout the evening for live results and updates.
Preliminary Card (5:30PM EDT) (Youtube)
Main Card (9:00PM EDT) (Showtime)
Bout 13: Cris Cyborg (23-2) vs. Leslie Smith (12-8-1) (Bellator Featherweight Championship)
Cyborg Puts Away Tough Smith In Closing Seconds of Championship Fight
Cris Cyborg finished a hard to put away Leslie Smith in the fifth round, putting an end to their Bellator Featherweight Championship fight in the 25th minute of action.
The beginning of the end was in the final minute, where Cyborg dropped Smith with a right cross. Cyborg continued with strikes on the ground until the referee stopped the fight.
The stoppage came after a strong near five-round fight that saw Cyborg score with a high volume of strikes. Smith showcased her toughness in the fight, consuming strikes and being able to answer back with her own shots.
“I knew she’s tough … I really respect her,” said Cyborg in her post-fight interview.
The fight was a rematch, as Cyborg and Smith first met in 2016. Cyborg scored a quick win in that appearance, stopping Smith in the second minute with strikes.
Cyborg has now defended her belt two times. She last competed in October, where she stopped Arlene Blencowe in the second round with a rear naked choke.
After her win, Cyborg mentioned she wants a fight with Cat Zingano next. Zingano won her second Bellator fight last month, stopping Olivia Parker within a round with an armbar.
Smith was given a title shot on Friday after defeating Amanda Bell last year.
Bout 12: Darrion Caldwell (14-4) vs. Leandro Higo (20-5) (Bantamweight)
Higo Takes Split Decision, Caldwell Loses In Return To Bantamweight
Leandro Higo earned his third consecutive Bellator win in the co-main event, defeating Darrion Caldwell via split decision in a close fight (29-28 Caldwell, 29-28 Higo & 29-28 Higo).
The fight saw Caldwell start strong, with Higo taking over in the latter half.
The first round was the best for Caldwell, as he took Higo down and did damage with elbows while in full guard. He put Higo on his back for the second round, although he wasn’t as active with strikes in top position, and Higo was active while punches while on his back.
Higo was able to take control on the ground in the final round of the fight, putting Caldwell on his back in more than one instance.
Caldwell, a former Bellator Bantamweight Champion, was making his return to the division in the fight. He had previously competed as part of Bellator’s Featherweight Grand Prix, advancing through the first two rounds before being eliminated by AJ McKee last year.
Higo’s previous fight saw him submit Ricky Bandejas with a rear naked choke in October.
Bout 11: Fabian Edwards (9-1) vs. Austin Vanderford (10-0) (Middleweight)
Vanderford Takes Decision Win Against Edwards, Remains Undefeated
Austin Vanderford extended his undefeated record on Friday, defeating Fabian Edwards on scorecards (30-27, 30-27 & 30-27). Despite scorecards indicating that the fight might have been a one-sided contest, it was actually a close battle.
Vanderford was able to put down numerous minutes of control time in the fight, taking Edwards down with his wrestling skills.
Edwards still showed his skills off his back, doing damage from the position.
Vanderford was cut open late in the fight, as an elbow from Edwards caused him to bleed heavily while in half guard. When on the feet, Edwards was able to put together good strikes.
Vanderford’s undefeated record now includes four wins in Bellator. His previous fight was in November, where he earned a decision win over Vinicius de Jesus.
Edwards was looking to bounce back from his first pro loss, which he took in a split decision against Costello van Steenis last year.
Bout 10: Jaleel Willis (14-2) vs. Maycon Mendonca (11-4) (Welterweight)
Willis Defeats Fellow Former LFA Champ Mendonca
Jaleel Willis scored his second Bellator win with a victory over promotional debutant Maycon Mendonca via decision (29-28, 29-28 & 30-27).
A large portion of the fight was in stand-up exchanges, where Willis and Mendonca held their own. What gave Willis the edge in the fight was his ability to score takedowns, which he did many times throughout.
The fight was a battle between two former LFA champions.
Mendonca was making his Bellator debut months after defeating Batsumberel Dagvadorj to win LFA’s 170-pound title.
Willis won his Bellator debut in his previous fight, defeating Mark Lemminger on scorecards in November. Before then, he won an LFA title fight over Vinicius de Jesus.
Bout 9: Valerie Loureda (3-0) vs. Hannah Guy (2-1) (Flyweight)
Guy Hands Loureda First Loss In Bellator Debut
Bellator newcomer Hannah Guy handed Valerie Loureda her first pro loss on Friday, defeating her via unanimous decision after a gritty three-round performance (30-27, 29-28 & 29-28).
While Loureda was successful on the feet, Guy had her moments when taking the fight to the ground.
Loureda scored a knockdown early in the fight, knocking Guy down with a left hook as part of a combination of punches. Guy was able to retake some momentum later in the round, searching for an armbar moments after.
Guy had Loureda in trouble for most of the second round, landing a high volume of punches on the ground and attempting submissions from dominant positions.
Guy was able to spend a fair amount of the final round on the ground, pursuing numerous takedowns and finishing a few.
“Grappling is where I wanna be … It’s always been my strong suit,” said Guy afterward, talking about her victory.
Valerie had three wins in Bellator prior to Friday. Her previous appearance was in August of 2020, where she stopped Tara Graff in the second round with strikes.
Guy was making her Bellator debut after earning two wins and one loss on the regional scene.
Bout 8: Saad Awad (23-13) vs. Nate Andrews (16-3) (Lightweight)
Awad Scores Three Knockdowns To Earn First Victory In Years
A trio of knockdowns within a round broke the losing streak of Saad Awad, stopping former PFL fighter Nate Andrews via TKO.
Awad’s heavy fists dropped Andrews three times in the round. While Awad motioned at the referee to stop the fight after the third knockdown, it took the referee a moment before agreeing and ending the bout. Seemingly persistent to get a walk-off win, Awad never went to the ground after landing a knockdown.
Awad was winless in his prior five appearances, with his last win dating back to 2018. The Bellator veteran had never been on that long of a losing streak in his entire career.
Andrews was making his Bellator debut after competing in the 2019 PFL season. He was a regional champ before then, holding CES’ lightweight belt for three fights.
Bout 7: Grant Neal (5-0) vs. Tyree Fortune (5-0) (Light Heavyweight)
Neal Hands Fortune First Loss, Continues Undefeated Record
Grant Neal handed Tyree Fortune his first pro loss on the prelims, submitting him in the first round with a rear naked choke. Neal was aggressive to get a takedown early in the fight, eventually taking the back and slipping in a choke to stop Fortune.
Neal also finished his previous fight, a win late last year against Maurice Jackson, with a rear naked choke. He now has five wins in Bellator in total.
Fortune was competing for the first time in over a year on Friday night. He had previously picked up two wins in Bellator, defeating Chuck Campbell and Michael Quintero in recent years.
Bout 6: Sumiko Inaba (1-0) vs. Kristina Katsikis (1-1) (Flyweight)
Inaba Takes Katsikis Out Late With Strikes For Second Pro Win
Sumiko Inaba used a constant pressure of strikes to stop Kristina Katsikis in the final round of a back-and-forth fight. Inaba dominated the fight in the final frame, coming forward with punches and kicks that went unanswered. The fight was eventually stopped after Katsikis consumed a high volume of strikes.
Katsikis had more success in the earlier rounds, being able to compete in grappling exchanges and hold her own on the feet. She was able to threaten Inaba with submissions on the ground, attempting a heel hook at one point.
“I’m glad my striking came through,” said Inaba in her post-fight interview.
Inaba is now undefeated through two fights as a pro. She won her pro debut on a Bellator card last year, stopping Jessica Ruiz within a round with strikes.
Katsikis was getting the call-up to Bellator after scoring her first pro win in 2019.
Bout 5: Aviv Gozali (5-0) vs. Sean Felton (5-2-1) (Lightweight)
Gozali Continues Streak of Quick Submission Wins
Aviv Gozali continued his career-long streak of first-round submission wins on the prelims, submitting Sean Felton early with a heel hook.
The fight went to the ground in the first round after Gozali pulled guard. He was eventually able to secure a heel hook from his back, causing Felton to tap out.
Gozali picked up a kimura win in his previous appearance, stopping Logan Neal in October. He now has six victories in the Bellator cage.
Felton was making his Bellator debut after earning a win and a draw in his last two appearances in regional promotion King of the Cage.
Bout 4: Davion Franklin (2-0) vs. Tyler King (12-9) (Heavyweight)
Franklin Stops King Quickly, Hands Him Sixth Consecutive Loss
Davion Franklin scored his third win as a pro on Friday, stopping Tyler King within a round with punches. The quick striking performance saw Franklin drop a slow-moving King in the third minute.
The loss extended a painful six-fight streak of being finished within a round for King. The last time he won was in 2016 on a Bellator card.
Franklin had a strong rookie year as a pro last year, defeating JW Kiser and Ras Hylton in Bellator.
Bout 3: Leah McCourt (4-1) vs. Janay Harding (6-4) (Featherweight)
McCourt Scores Triangle Choke To Extend Win Streak
Leah McCourt pulled off a sudden victory in the second round to submit Janay Harding with a triangle choke on Friday night.
McCourt’s triangle choke win came shortly after she hurt Harding with an upkick to the head. Capitalizing on hurting her with the kick, she put in the choke and eventually got a tap from Harding.
Harding succeeded on the feet, putting together punches that had McCourt in trouble earlier in the fight.
The win extended the undefeated record that McCourt has attained in Bellator. The fight was her first appearance in over a year.
Harding was returning to the cage after scoring a decision win against Jessy Miele late last year.
Bout 2: Brett Johns (17-2) vs. Danny Sabatello (10-1) (Bantamweight)
Former Titan FC Champ Sabatello Pulls Up Upset Against Johns
Danny Sabatello’s dominant wrestling handed him a huge win on the prelims, defeating former UFC fighter Brett Johns via scorecards (30-27, 30-27 & 30-27). The win was an upset per odds, as Sabatello took the fight on just over a week’s notice.
Sabatello spent most of the three-round fight on the back of Johns, staying against the cage or taking him to the ground.
The fight was Johns’ first appearance after a seven-fight run in the UFC. He finished his stint in the promotion on a high note, picking up two wins last year.
Sabatello took the fight on short notice, stepping in for Matheus Mattos. The fight was his Bellator debut after a title-winning run in Titan FC and a win on “Dana White’s Contender Series.”
Bout 1: Alexander Shabliy (19-3) vs. Alfie Davis (14-3) (Lightweight)
Shabliy Sweeps Scorecards Against Davis In Bellator Debut
Alexander Shabliy’s Bellator debut saw him control Alfie Davis for a shut-out unanimous decision win (30-27, 30-27 & 30-27).
Shabliy showed his aggressiveness in the battle, consistently coming forward with strikes and takedowns against Davis.
Shabliy was getting his Bellator debut after a four-fight win streak as a pro from 2017 to 2019. The appearance on Friday was his first in over a year.
The fight snapped a streak of four wins that Davis developed in Bellator.