At Bellator 178 in Uncasville, Conn. on Apr. 21, 2017, Ilima-Lei Macfarlane won via armbar in a dominating one-sided bout with Jessica Middleton. After her victory the now 6-0 fighter told Jimmy Smith the following about crowning a flyweight champion:
“I wanted to make a statement to Bellator and to the whole entire division that this is my division. If you guys are gonna put the belt out there then I want in on that. I just wanted to put on a performance that proves I need to fight for the belt next fight.”
Message received. Bellator MMA has a message for Macfarlane in return:
“Welcome to the newly expanded Flyweight division. Enjoy the competition! These ladies are going to bring it.”
Macfarlane’s division has six new faces now, the most notable of which is former UFC fighter Valerie Letourneau, who once unsuccessfully challenged Joanna Jędrzejczyk for the strawweight title at UFC 193.
The loss snapped a four-fight win streak for Letourneau, who then went on a bit of a backslide with a TKO loss to Joanne Calderwood, followed by a controversial loss to Viviane Pereira at UFC 206 where Letourneau failed to make weight.
The now 8-6 fighter arguably should have been a flyweight all along, but UFC doesn’t have a women’s 125-pound division. As a result, Bellator scores a fighter looking to turn around her fortunes in a new promotion, along with five other flyweight recruits each looking to cash in on their own ambitions for gold.
Alejandra Lara (6-1) is a Colombian born fighter who trains with Alexa Grasso and Irene Aldana at Team Lobo in Mexico. Kristi Lopez (2-0) is a promising young prospect out of Hollywood, California. Na Liang (6-0) is a Chinese fighter who finished her last opponent in just 38 seconds. Sabriye Sengul will make her MMA debut in Bellator but has a kickboxing record of 6-1. And Juliana Velasquez (5-0) is an undefeated prospect from the Nogueira brothers camp in Brazil.
If you were Macfarlane, which of these six fighters would you want to face for the inaugural flyweight belt?
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