Things may not have gone exactly as they drew it up, but Bellator had another successful night as two former UFC title challengers made successful Bellator debuts at Bellator 191 on Saturday night in the Metro Radio Arena in Newcastle, England.
In the main event, former UFC bantamweight title challenger Michael McDonald secured his first win under the Bellator banner, taking a unanimous decision over fellow Bellator debutant, Peter Ligier. McDonald came in over the bantamweight limit at 137.6 pounds, causing the bout to be contested at a 138-pound catchweight but “Mayday” didn’t show any ill effects of the tough weight cut, controlling the range on the feet and securing enough takedowns to cruise to a decision despite apparently breaking his right hand in the second round. The win immediately thrusts McDonald into the thick of the title hunt in Bellator’s exciting bantamweight division.
In the co-main event, former UFC women’s strawweight title challenger Valerie Letourneau also hit the ground running in Bellator, taking a unanimous decision over The Ultimate Fighter 23 contestant Kate Jackson in a flyweight contest. Letourneau, who was supposed to make her promotional debut against Emily Ducote in July, had been away from the cage for almost a year battling injury, but ring rust didn’t play a factor as she used her superior striking and a dangerous guard to take all three rounds on every scorecard. In a developing division, the win potentially puts Letourneau in line for a shot at Ilima-Lei Macfarlane’s flyweight title next year.
Elsewhere on the main card, a bit of history was made as Mohammad Yahya became the first fighter from the United Arab Emirates to win a fight in a major MMA organization when he stopped Ash Griffiths with a first-round TKO. The 23-year-old Emirati said before the fight that he would stop Griffiths in the first round and his prediction proved prescient as Griffiths was unable to deal with Yahya’s ground-and-pound once the fight hit the floor. With Bellator’s ever-expanding international presence, and his determination to put UAE MMA on the map, Yahya could be a major factor in Bellator’s lightweight division going forward.
In the main card opener, Phil De Fries locked up a quick submission against MMA veteran James Thompson, wrapping up a guillotine choke in just 93 seconds. De Fries’ successful Bellator debut now inserts him into a busy heavyweight division and could earn him an alternate spot in Bellator’s upcoming heavyweight grand prix.