Bellator 236 “Macfarlane vs. Jackson” took place Saturday, Dec. 21, 2019 at Neal S. Blaisdell Arena in Honolulu, Hawaii. Undefeated Flyweight champion Ilima-Lei Macfarlane (10-0) looked to stay perfect in her home state against Kate Jackson (11-3-1).
While submissions are Macfarlane’s bread and butter, it was her knees to the head while she had Jackson trapped in a potential anaconda choke that provided the best work of round one, bloodying her nose and putting Jackson at a disadvantage going into Round 2.
It took Macfarlane longer to get the takedown in the second frame but when she did she blasted Jackson with left elbows to the head and transitioned looking for a straight arm bar late as the time ticked away — unable to secure it before the Bell saved Jackson.
Striking was once again the story for Macfarlane in round three as she landed nasty combinations and powerful left hooks that stung Jackson several times. Nothing dropped Jackson but nothing Jackson threw was able to do anywhere near as much damage.
The fourth round went back to Macfarlane’s submission game as she was able to transition to North-South and take Jackson’s back high with 90 seconds left to go, looking to secure an arm bar and forcing Jackson to defend with all her might until the bell saved her limb.
“She won every round” was Big John McCarthy’s immediate reaction after the bell ended round five. It’s hard to disagree, particularly given that Macfarlane once again dominated the stand up, got a takedown late, and landed such heavy ground and pound to end the round I would have scored it a 10-8. The judges in Honolulu decide though and their verdict was 50-45 and 50-44 X2 in Macfarlane’s favor. She spoke to McCarthy next.
“I worked all camp on my striking and I felt it tonight. I know that Kate Jackson is super hard to finish, she’s never been finished before, I didn’t want to burn my arms out. Props to Kate Jackson, that was so much fun. I actually had fun getting punched in the face. You guys are seeing the evolution of Ilima-Lei Macfarlane and it’s thanks to these guys in my corner. Did you see that walkout? That was incredible. How could I not come in here and represent for everybody? I hope I made you all proud.”
In addition the second round of the Featherweight Grand Prix got underway as the unblemished A.J. McKee (15-0) faced the hard hitting Derek Campos (20-9).
McKee tried to finish it early with a flying knee, Campos ended up on top when McKee slipped, but McKee bucked him off and got his own takedown. From there he fished for rear naked chokes for the remainder of the frame and took an opening 10-9 round.
Campos got hurt 25 seconds into round two and McKee started pouring it on with left hands. He slowed his pace to not burn himself out, went for a D’Arce choke and couldn’t get it, failed in a takedown attempt and flopped to his back. Campos may have stolen the round back by slowly and methodically doing damage on top as McKee was only defending.
McKee got a takedown in the first minute of the third fame and secured a lightning quick submission when Campos tried to scramble and McKee was able to trap his head with his legs and crank the armbar for a submission at 1:08. John McCarthy talked to him next.
“He’s a tough opponent. First of all I want to thank the man upstairs, this wouldn’t be possible without him. Thank you Hawaii!! This is just the beginning. I’m barely showing off my skills. Welcome to A.J. jiu-jitsu 101. I took a little bit of damage and I’m still here ready to go. I don’t give a fuuuuuuck (who’s next).”
“The Ass-Kicking Machine” Jason Jackson (10-4) looked to rebound from a loss to Ed Ruth against the experienced Kiichi Kunimoto (20-8-2, 1 NC). Jackson dropped Kunimoto with a right hand in round one, but nearly got caught in a kimura when he decided to battle “Strasser” on the ground. He finished the round with an emphatic Onyx-esque slam.
In the second round he wisely avoided that mistake and blocked all the takedowns, forcing stand-ups whenever Kunimoto would flop to his back.Kunimoto tried all the tricks he had left in his bag, pulling guard when and where he could, but Jackson was able to stand up and avoid any attempts to trap his head, and Kunimoto would slowly and reluctantly get up when he did. Jackson landed right hands at will and Kunimoto landed sparingly at best.
The end result of that striking mismatch was Jackson taking a unanimous 30-27 X3 decision, and no post-fight interview between “Big” John McCarthy and “The Ass-Kicking Machine” Jason Jackson followed — surely a lost opportunity to compare nicknames.
Juliana Velasquez (9-0) and Bruna Ellen (5-2) also faced off in a key Featherweight division fight in Hawaii. Ellen got cracked with a left hand that dropped her in the first round, but Velasquez was unable to finish her with shots afterward and let her back up. Ellen spent most of the round backpedaling and it’s hard to win that way, so Velasquez took it 10-9.
Velasquez continued to pummel Ellen with left hooks in round two while Ellen spent 90% of her time showcasing her ability to travel in reverse. That made it an easy 10-9 for Velasquez. The third round was even more of a beating as Ellen’s left eye started to swell shut from the repeated precision strikes that targeted the same spot. At the end she was pointing to her left bicep and kissing it with good reason — that’s where all the power strikes came from. The judges gave her a unanimous decision with two 30-27 scores and one 30-26. Strangely given Velasquez is the consensus No. 1 contender in the division no interview followed.
Also on the main card was a Bantamweight affair between Raufeon Stots (12-1) and Cheyden Leialoha (7-1). Stots was the takedown master in round one and there really isn’t much else to say. Neither man landed any significant strikes standing or on the ground so Stots wins the first round by default for having done more than his opponent.
No excitement was to be had in round two save for one takedown by Leialoha where he tried to take Stots’ back and in the process Stots was able to transition to the top, and the top was where he stayed for over half the frame. Leialoha had one more opportunity in the third round when he tried to turn Stots’ takedown into a kimura, but Stots escaped and stayed on top for the majority of the round. 29-28, 30-27 and 29-28 all went to Stots.
Local flavor was completed with a Lightweight bout between Nainoa Dung (3-0) and Zachary Zane (10-7). Zane controlled the first round by taking Dung down 20 seconds in and taking him down repeatedly any time he wanted after that. Dung landed almost no effective strikes and received slashing elbows on top in return. 10-9 Zane.
Dung was taken down again early in round two. He had a nice attempt to scramble and sweep at the halfway mark, but when all was said and done Zane was right back on top, and there he remained until he went for a guillotine late. 10-9 for Zane.
The momentum finally swung to Dung with two brutal kicks to the body that had Zane going for defensive takedowns, both of which Dung came close to turning into submissions, but Zane would sweep his way out of trouble each time. A knee to the chin also made Zane rethink his life choices, but he had to believe he was up two rounds as it went to the judges. They scored it 29-28 X3 in his favor and he spoke to John McCarthy.
“Two weeks ago I got my brown belt in jiu-jitsu. I just told Dung he’s got a bright future and he’s a good opponent. Keep believing in him. Man I’ve been working my body, he’s got hard kicks, he’s got so much talent. Who knows how long I’m going to be here. Bellator please sign me next year. I will fight anybody respectfully and humbly.”
For complete Bellator 236 results and coverage click here.