When Bellator booked Juliana Velasquez to fight a day before Ilima-Lei Macfarlane’s title defense in Hawaii, the Brazilian thought it was a no-brainer that she would be the next in line for the flyweight gold with a win.
She was victorious against Alejandra Lara. And 24 hours later, Macfarlane choked out Valerie Letourneau. The expectations never came to fruition, though, as the 125-pound champion returned four months later to defend her throne against Veta Arteaga.
Now booked to face Kristina Williams in the main card portion of Friday night’s Bellator 224 in Thackerville, Okla., Velasquez once again sees herself a win away from a championship fight.
“I thought the same before and after my last fight, they told me (I would be next) last time, but okay,” Velasquez told MMA Fighting. “I’ll continue doing my job regardless of a title shot. This is my job and I believe that this win means I’m the next contender. I thought that would happen last time because we’re both undefeated and it would be an incredible fight. It was a surprise for me to see Arteaga getting the fight.”
Macfarlane was victorious against Arteaga in April, but wasn’t happy with the way the contest ended — she landed an elbow that opened a big cut on Arteaga’s forehead, forcing referee Jason Herzog to end the title bout upon the doctor’s advice.
Macfarlane said at the post-fight interview that she would give Arteaga an immediate rematch, but Velasquez doesn’t buy that promise.
“I don’t believe that will happen,” Velasquez said. “I think she had some trouble in the fight, got frustrated, and was afraid to fight me next. I couldn’t believe when she said that. That made no sense. I think she said that in the heat of the moment because the fight didn’t end the way she wanted. But I don’t think (the immediate rematch) will happen. I’m next.”
If Velasquez and Macfarlane do meet next for the Bellator gold, the Brazilian judoka foresees a “very exciting” contest.
“We’re two undefeated fighters, nobody wants to lose for the first time,” Velasquez said. “She has a very precise ground game and I’m not an easy fight. I have a better game on the feet, so I think it’s going to be a good fight.”
The Team Nogueira talent has to get past Williams first, and doesn’t expect that to be an easy task. “Warhorse” is 3-1 as a professional with wins over Heather Hardy, Emily Ducote and Bruna Ellen, but Velasquez gets confidence from the fact that she’s 100 percent healthy going into Bellator 224.
Last time we saw her compete, back in November in Hawaii, Velasquez says she had a lower back injury that would give her trouble walking, and that’s the reason why she went the distance against Lara instead of finishing her like in her first couple of Bellator appearances.
“I don’t like to win fights by decision, I like to finish my fights with a submission or a knockout,” Velasquez said. “I never like leaving it in the judges’ hands. (Williams) is very aggressive and versatile on the feet, has quick, heavy kicks, but I believe in my boxing skills. My boxing game will prevail when the time comes.
“I couldn’t see much of her ground game. I saw that Ducote gave her a lot of trouble on the ground, but didn’t take her down anymore. Bruna Ellen also gave her trouble on the ground.”