Bellator 201: “Macfarlane vs. Lara” takes place tomorrow night (Fri., June 29, 2018) at Pechanga Resort and Casino in Temecula, California. The women’s Flyweight division is in the spotlight as the world champion will take on a fresh newcomer to the division coming off a big upset win, while the co-main event will feature a former No. 1-ranked Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) contender looking to get a step closer to a title shot.
Let’s break it down!
125 lbs.: Ilima-Lei Macfarlane (7-0) vs. Alejandra Lara (7-1)
There’s no question that Ilima-Lei Macfarlane is the submission master of Bellator’s female fighters, and perhaps one of the best in the promotion regardless of gender. Four of her six Bellator fights have ended with a submission, and only two of them have gone the distance. If you weren’t already familiar with 10th Planet Jiu-Jitsu before she started her run you may finally understand why Eddie Bravo is so highly regarded in the world of MMA. His style may not be for everyone but you can’t argue it doesn’t work for Macfarlane, and her submission of Rebecca Ruth is still one of the nastiest rear naked chokes I have ever seen in the sport.
It’s a tall order for Alejandra Lara to face a fighter this prominent and dominant, but she got off to a good start by scoring a big upset win over Lena Ovchynnikova in her debut Bellator fight. This immediately put the Colombian on the map. Her record highlights a problem for Macfarlane in that three of her seven wins are by knockout and three are by submission. Macfarlane’s stand-up game is ever improving but you can’t exactly call it something that she’s well known for. If Lara can stuff takedowns and keep this fight on the feet it could be a very long night for “The Ilimanator.”
Macfarlane is also giving up size in this fight as she stands 5’4” while her opponent is 5’7”. I’m not sure that actually plays to Lara’s strengths though as she might have to reach down to strike at range, at which point Macfarlane can step to the side for a leg trip or a throw. Shorter fighters often take down taller fighters with impunity — long legs give you more to grab onto. Lara will have to do something different than all of Macfarlane’s other opponents to date, because it’s not like she hasn’t faced many taller opponents already. Lara has a flashy style and a fun personality which made her an ideal pick for this title defense. Macfarlane can find a finish late though and I suspect she will again.
Final prediction: Ilima-Lei Macfarlane via fourth round rear naked choke
125 lbs.: Valerie Letourneau (9-6) vs. Kristina Williams (2-0)
The other half of our featured Flyweight fights this evening pits former UFC fighter Valerie Letourneau against Kristina Williams. While Letourneau may be best remembered for going five rounds with Joanna Champion, she never felt comfortable at 115 and proved that by putting on a striking clinic in her Bellator debut at 125. Williams established herself quickly in Bellator despite her relative depth of experience with wins over Heather Hardy and most recently Emily Ducote. At 5’8” she has both size and power against Letourneau, and she prefers to fight like a kickboxer with her hands and feet at range. Letourneau has fought higher level opponents though and each fight is a stepping stone back to another title shot.
Final prediction: Valerie Letourneau wins via split decision
160 lbs.: Saad Awad (22-9) vs. Ryan Couture (11-5)
Saad Awad could probably have a memorial plaque for his consistency in Bellator’s Lightweight division if he ever decides to retire — he’d at least be in the running along with Patricky Freire and David Rickels anyway. This is his 17th fight in the division and although he’s just above .500 at 10-6 he’s gotten some big wins along the way including “Ill” Will Brooks and Evangelista “Cyborg” Santos (at 170). Couture has had much more trouble getting that signature Bellator win and he’s a far less impressive 3-2 overall. His best win may have been a controversial split decision over K.J. Noons and that was five years ago. Couture needs this one badly to stay relevant while Awad needs this one to finally get over the hump as a contender with four straight wins. Awad is a power striker at 5’11”, 73.5” reach and nine knockouts. Couture only has one KO and stands 5’10” but has a longer 76” reach. Couture’s biggest strength is his takedowns but Awad is known to stuff wrestlers and make them pay standing with big shots.
Final prediction: Saad Awad wins via third round knockout
145 lbs.: Juan Archuleta (18-1) vs. Robbie Peralta (19-8, 1 NC)
A few years ago I spoke to Robbie Peralta as he prepared for a return to the bright lights after unceremoniously being cut from UFC following a loss to Clay Guida. Unfortunately he lost his next fight against Sheymon Moraes as well, and in fact he kept on losing until a battle with Shad Smith last September — giving him precisely one win in his last five bouts. “The Spaniard” Juan Archuleta on the other hand has won 13 straight, earning a finish in just about 50% of those fights — an average which has held up over his career (eight knockouts, one submission, nine decisions). It’s hard to say whether or not Peralta peaked in UFC and has been on the decline ever since, but this may be his last best chance to prove otherwise. Archuleta on the other hand only has one Bellator fight to his name but if he continues to extend his streak he’ll be knocking on Patricio Freire’s door soon enough.
Final prediction: Juan Archuleta by unanimous decision
That’s a wrap!
MMAmania.com will deliver coverage of Bellator 201 tomorrow with Paramount Network fights starting at 9 p.m. ET. To check out the latest Bellator MMA-related news and notes be sure to hit up our comprehensive news archive right here.