Bellator 174 "Coenen vs. Budd" took place last night (Fri., Mar. 3, 2017) at WinStar World Casino and Resort in Thackerville, Okla. The main event saw a women's mixed martial arts (MMA) legend fight to become the inaugural 145-pound champion of Bellator MMA.
Marloes Coenen's career record coming in was 23-7 and stretched all the way back to the early 2000's, including a stop along the way in Strikeforce as their 135-pound champion. To win featherweight gold though she'd have to get past a streaking Julia Budd who had not lost a fight in Invicta or Bellator dating back to 2012.
The first round was virtually a stalemate. Even though Budd lifted Coenen high in the air for a takedown early in the round, she spent the entire rest of the round defending submission attempts from the experienced Coenen. Coenen had less attempts in the second round and Budd got through with a few more strikes.
Budd's advantage grew in the third round as the takedowns came easier and easier, and a stand-up at the halfway point did nothing to help Coenen, as Budd just leg tripped her right back down and even briefly had an arm and head choke she couldn't finish because the fence was in the way. After a quick takedown in Round 4, Budd got the full mount and just kept on pounding and pounding until referee John McCarthy had finally seen enough at the 2:42 mark.
After being presented with the inaugural featherweight title, a victorious Budd spoke to Jimmy Smith.
"Amazing. It's been a long road. I don't think anything's ever felt as good as this. I'm sorry I'm going to start crying. Everybody on the sunshine coast, I couldn't do it without you guys. I got the finish. I really wanted to finish her. I said I was going to do it, I made a point to do it. Don't ever call me mentally weak. That just turned me into an animal -- I wanted to kill her."
Marloes Coenen also spoke to Smith.
"I was expecting a war but Julia gave me hell. Deep respect to her, and I'd like to announce this was my last fight. I retire. I would like to thank Scott Coker. You were the first promoter to recognize women were a force to be reckoned with. Julia, congratulations."
The co-main event was the return of two fighters who came up short their last time out in San Jose, with Fernando Gonzalez looking to rebound after an awful fight with Michael "Venom" Page, while his opponent Brandon Girtz moved up from lightweight after taking a loss to Adam Piccolotti.
Girtz fought an effective strategy for almost seven and a half minutes, throwing shots and getting takedowns when Gonzalez would look to counter. Halfway through the second round he started getting tagged hard by the bigger Gonzalez, who came in at 173.9 pounds for what was supposed to be a welterweight affair.
In the third round Gonzalez's size and power paid much clearer dividends, as the takedowns for Girtz evaporated and Gonzalez consistently tagged him with hard power shots. The scoring of the second round would prove to be critical in deciding the winner. They ruled it 29-28, 29-27 and 30-26 for Gonzalez. No post-fight interview followed.
A late addition to the televised card put "The Big Pygmy" Justin Wren back in the spotlight at heavyweight, putting his 12-2 record on the line against journeyman fighter Roman Pizzolato at 9-6.
Wren seemed to dominate from the opening bell, clinching with Pizzolato and quickly throwing him to the ground. Pizzolato had no answer as he couldn't shake Wren off his back, and when he tried to stand up Wren executed a back suplex and pounded away on a stunned foe. When he stepped over for the arm triangle choke at 2:35, it was a wrap.
Wren spoke to Jimmy Smith after getting his hand raised.
"I've got a lot of room to improve, a lot of work to do, but yes it felt like the muscle memory was back. I'm in a camp that is so great for my style, with Rafael Lovato Jr. and the team, big Josh Copeland I'm just so blessed - encouraged - excited to be here. That little dance I was doing in here, hopefully it didn't look cocky or arrogant. That was my pygmy dance, what we do out in the forest, and I just love them and to be able to come out here and fight for them. Thank you guys so much for coming out here! I'm just so lucky, so fortunate, people have jumped behind this. I love to be here and compete but it's even better to fight for people. Now I'm going to to the Congo and knock out the world's water crisis for my favorite family. I'm coming for that belt. It's gonna come, it just might take a little bit of time to get there. I had five years two months where I did zero training, and so I'm excited to get back in there, keep working my way up, I've got to earn it. I have more of a reason, a purpose, a passion to be in here."
To fill time Bellator announced that former bantamweight champion Marcos Galvao would move up to featherweight to face "El Matador" Emmanuel Sanchez at Bellator 175 on Mar. 31 in Chicago, Illinois.
Bellator also threw in a fight between Katy Collins and Emily Ducote which the latter finished via rear-naked choke at 4:53 of the first round.
Another late addition to the card featured undefeated jiu-jitsu ace Rafael Lovato Jr. putting his 4-0 record on the line against an improving Charles Hackmann.
Lovato didn't take long to make quick work of his foe, stunning him with a head kick right after the opening bell, landing two hard knees as Hackmann reeled backward, then pouring it on until Jason Herzog stepped in to make the save.
It all took 13 seconds and goes down as the sixth fastest finish in Bellator history.
Lovato spoke to Jimmy Smith after a quick but exciting bout in front of his hometown fans.
"Man it's just a lifetime of work coming together to be here in this moment. I'm just soaking it all in, it's crazy to be here, I'm so happy - so thankful for all my students, all my teachers, my friends and family for being here tonight. It's just amazing. I wanted to use my reach and so the kicks were definitely part of the game plan when my opponent changed. I want to thank Charles for stepping up. Last minute I was scared I wasn't going to get to fight, but everything worked out. Being taller I thought about using some of my weapons with my legs. I was ready to take him down but I didn't have to this time. I'm just ready to keep working man, keep going, and I'm just gonna go one step at a time. Now that I'm here I want to go all the way so let's do it."
These bouts were paired with exciting "preliminary" action that aired exclusively online.
For complete Bellator 174 results and coverage click here.