Bellator 279 is set to go down TONIGHT (Sat., April 23, 2022) from inside Neal S. Blaisdell Arena in Honolulu, Hawaii featuring a women’s Featherweight championship rematch between Cris Cyborg and Arlene Blencowe. Also, Juan Archualte takes on Raufeon Stots in the opening round of the Bantamweight Grand Prix for the interim belt.
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Cris Cyborg vs Arlene Blencowe
In their first fight back in Oct. 2020 (see it here), the two ladies got after it from the opening bell, with Blencowe standing toe-to-toe with the dominant champion, which usually doesn’t bode well for most people. But, to her credit, Blencowe hung in before the action ultimately hit the ground. Once there, Blencowe showed off her jiu-jitsu defense, shaking off multiple rear-naked choke attempts to survive the opening frame. In the opening minute of round two, Blencowe found herself on the receiving end of a flurry of punches from Cyborg which busted her nose wide open. Bloodied and rocked, Blencowe stood her ground for as long as she could before she was taken down again and eventually submitted via rear-naked choke. So what can we expect differently in the rematch? Not much. Cyborg will once again bring the pressure, it’s no secret, and the punches in bunches will come. All Blencowe can hope to do is to be able to land a sneaky one of her own during the exchanges, something no one other than Amanda Nunes has been able to do. But the chances of that happening are pretty slim against Cyborg, who is more than willing to eat a punch or three (which she does very well) in order to terminate the opposition.
Final prediction: Cyborg via first-round knockout
Raufeon Stots vs Juan Archuleta
After current bantamweight champion Sergio Pettis bowed out of the event with an injury, Juan Archuleta — who lost the belt to Pettis — was pegged as his replacement in the Grand Prix. As a result, his matchup against Stots was pegged as an interim championship fight. Ranked No. 1, Archuleta’s only two losses inside the Bellator cage came against current Featherweight king, Patricio Freire, and Pettis, which is why he holds the top spot. While he may not get that PR love as “Pitbull” and “The Phenom,” he is every bit as dangerous as those two men. He has a great gas tank and he is always bringing the pressure, making it hard for most of his foes to pop off their offense and set the gameplan in motion. Stots — No. 3 — is on a nine-fight win streak and is 5-0 inside the Bellator cage and is coming off a huge win over Magomed Magomedov, which was an absolute war. The thing with Stots is, if Archuleta wants an all-out brawl, he will get just that. Stots is very smooth and relaxed with his technique and will throw any and all combinations known to man (and some that are not). He does have four submissions on his record, so he can take care of business once it hits the ground. Archuleta, meanwhile, has only submitted one man in his pro MMA career — training excluded — so the slight advantage, it seems, goes to Stots. But I don’t expect much of a ground fight here, no sir. These two men make their bread in the striking department so it will come down to who can execute that gameplan better. With Archuleta, trying to knock him out is going to be hard — all 28 men he’s faced have failed. As for Stot’s he’s only been knocked out once by Merab Dvalishvilli, so this fight has a very high probability of going the distance.
Final prediction: Stots via split decision
Patchy Mix vs Kyoji Horiguchi
In one of the more intriguing opening-round matchups of the Bantamweight Grand Prix, Mix and Horiguchi will collide in what is sure-to-be a fan-favorite fight. Horiguchi is looking to bounce back from his stunning knockout defeat at the hands of Sergio Pettis at Bellator 272 in the fifth and final round. It’s a fight Horiguchi was thoroughly dominating before he was tagged with a spinning back fist which ultimately lead to the end of the fight. Despite being one of the top 135-pound fighters on the planet, Horiguchi is just 1-2 in his last three with two knockout losses, so he needs a win in the worst way if he wants to get back to the championship picture. His arsenal is one of the most versatile in the game; he can submit his foes and clean their clocks with precision striking. For Mix, taking out a longtime veteran like Horiguchi would be a huge feather in his cap. But how can he get it done? It will likely have to come via his jiu-jitsu skills, winning 11 of his 15 fights via submission, which includes his last two fights under the Bellator banner. Mix has quickly cemented himself as a legit threat to the crown, with his lone loss coming at the hands of former division champion, Juan Archuleta. Of course, taking Hogicuhi down has proven troublesome for many, so Mix will have to be on his “A” game in order to accomplish that feat. Once there, locking in a submission won’t be easy, either. Horiguchi is well-versed in all aspects of the fight game and has shown barely any glaring weaknesses. His experience edge over Mix will have him prepared for anything and everything, ultimately giving him what he needs to pull out the win and move on to the next round.
Final prediction: Horiguchi via unanimous decision
Ilima-Lei Macfarlane vs. Justine Kish
After losing her belt to Juliana Velasquez, Macfarlane admitted she considered retirement from the fight game. This was odd to many seeing as how she was only five years into her pro MMA career with 12 fights, and it was and still is the only loss of her career. Now that she’s back after a two-year hiatus, the Hawaiian-born scrapper is out to get what she feels belongs to her, the 125-pound title. First, she has a challenge in front of her in the form of Justine Kish. To be honest, the matchup was a bit puzzling to me. Macfarlane is the No. 1 ranked fighter at 125 pounds, while Kish is nowhere near the Top 10 and has lost five of her last six fights, and is currently on a three-fight losing streak. Four of her most recent losses came inside UFC’s Octagon, and then she lost her Bellator debut against DeAnna Bennett. For my money, I would have loved to see Macfarlane taking on someone ranked, someone in the Top 5....or at least Top 10. This feels like a softball is being thrown up to Macfarlane to get her back on track in front of her hometown crowd. That said, Kish has the chance to pull off a huge upset here and put herself back on track. But Macfarlane will prevail here. She simply has Kish covered in all areas of the fight game and I don’t expect the Hawaain to have much resistance.
Final prediction: Macfarlane via second-round TKO
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