Bellator 224 goes down this Friday night from the WinStar World Casino in Thackerville, Oklahoma. The night will be capped off with a women’s featherweight title fight between the the 12-2 champion Julia Budd and the 6-0 challenger Olga Rubin.
Since losing to Ronda Rousey back at Strikeforce Challengers 20 in 2011, Julia Budd has bested ten-straight opponents, six inside of the Bellator cage. After winning Bellator’s inaugural featherweight belt by stopping MMA pioneer Marloes Coenen, she has successfully defended twice. She possess an array of the tools that one would expect from a champion, from technique to athleticism, with the only chink in the armor maybe being her mindset. In the past, Budd has seemed a bit zoned out during her fights. There is even that instance where her husband/coach Lance Gibson slapped her rather hard in the face between rounds in an attempt to wake her up. With that being said, if Budd comes in focused and driven, she is quite the problem for anyone.
Challenging for Bellator’s 145-pound strap, Olga Rubin debuted in Bellator with a second round TKO stoppage of Joana Filipa. She then followed up that performance by taking a unanimous decision over MMA veteran Cindy Dandois. She really made Dandois look extra-sloppy on her feet, and maybe more impressively was able to navigate the grappling exchanges without much issue. Her biggest knock thus far might be her habit of giving up the takedown, even if she typically scrambles back to her feet. Training under UFC veteran Brad Pickett, Rubin also won her third Bellator bout by way of unanimous decision, which set her up for a chance at gold. Giving up a bit of a deficit in the experience department, can Rubin dethrone Budd to become the promotion’s second ever women’s featherweight champ?
In the co-main event slot for Bellator 224 will be a 190-pound catchweight between 15-3 former middleweight champ Rafael Carvalho and the 18-6 Chidi Njokuani.
Carvalho got off to a great start with the Bellator promotion. He took gold in his third promotional match, and then defended his 185-pound title three times. Since then, Bellator has acquired some free agents and Carvalho is now looking to bounce back after a rough 0-2 skid. He first lost his belt to Gegard Mousasi by way of first round TKO, and then lost a split decision to former UFC light heavyweight champion Lyoto Machida. Carvalho is beyond capable of spectacular knockouts, just check his list of victims, but he’s also just as capable of producing a dud.
Njokuani came into Bellator riding a three-fight winning streak, and then reeled off four more victories on top of that. The younger brother of UFC veteran Anthony Njokuani suffered a few hiccups when he took steps up in competition. Bellator’s former welterweight champ Andrey Koreshkov knocked him out in the first round, and John Salter choked him out in opening act in his last fight. Is this the time that Njokuani gets over the hump and gets past a Bellator elite?
Also on the main card, the 3-1 Kristina Williams will be taking on the 8-0 Juliana Velasquez at 125-pounds. Before that, the main card will begin with 6-1 collegiate wrestling great Ed Ruth taking on the 20-7-2 UFC veteran Kiichi Kunimoto.
Bellator 224 takes place this Friday, July 12, and will air live on the Paramount Network at 9:00 P.M. ET. The prelims will begin at 6:45 P.M. ET.
Bellator 224: Budd vs. Rubin Main Card:
Women’s Featherweight World Title Main Event: Julia Budd (12-2) vs. Olga Rubin (6-0)
Middleweight Co-Main Event: Rafael Carvalho (15-3) vs. Chidi Njokuani (18-6, 1 NC)
Women’s Flyweight Main Card Bout: Juliana Velasquez (8-0) vs. Kristina Williams (3-1)
Welterweight Main Card Bout: Ed Ruth (6-1) vs. Kiichi Kunimoto (20-7-2, 1 NC)
Light Heavyweight Preliminary Bout: Christian Edwards (Pro Debut) vs. Justin Vargas (3-1)
Lightweight Preliminary Bout: AJ Agazarm (0-1) vs. Jacob Landin (0-1)
190-Pound Catchweight Preliminary Bout: Will Fleury (5-1) vs. Antonio Jones (7-2)
Lightweight Preliminary Bout: Nainoa Dung (2-0) vs. Brad Robison (3-0)
Light Heavyweight Preliminary Bout: Jordan Young (10-0) vs. Joel Bauman (3-0)
Women’s Featherweight Preliminary Bout: Leslie Smith (10-7-1) vs. Sinead Kavanagh (5-3)
Featherweight Preliminary Bout: Gabriel Varga (Pro Debut) vs. Jamese Taylor (Pro Debut)
165-Pound Catchweight Preliminary Bout: Kiefer Crosbie (6-0) vs. Mike Jackson (12-12)
Welterweight Preliminary Bout: Kona Oliveira (1-1) vs. Joseph Holmes (0-1)
Women’s Flyweight Preliminary Bout: Bruna Ellen (4-2) vs. Elina Kallionidou (7-2)
Women’s Featherweight Preliminary Bout: Arlene Blencowe (11-7) vs. Amanda Bell (6-5)
Featherweight Preliminary Bout: Lucas Brennan (Pro Debut) vs. Thomas Lopez (1-4)