Bellator MMA may have its first women’s flyweight champion - or at least the first fighter who could compete in the promotion’s inaugural women’s 125-pound title bout.
At last night’s Bellator 177, the “Iliminator” Ilima-Lei Macfarlane defeated Jessica Middleton in the co-main event.
Early in the first round, Macfarlane took Middleton down and worked her way to securing the armbar. Middleton tried to wiggle her way out of it, but she eventually tapped, suffering her first career loss in the process. The win boosts Macfarlane’s professional MMA record to 5-0 in the Bellator cage, 6-0 overall.
As for her next Bellator fight, the "Iliminator" made her intentions clear as far as championships are concerned.
Since Macfarlane made her promotional debut in August 2015, she’s continued to impress fans and pundits, as well as evolve her MMA game. She’s submitted three of her last four opponents - snapping the four-fight winning streaks of both Rebecca Ruth, who came into their fight hot off her win against Lena Ovchynnikova, and Emily Decote, as well as spoiling the Bellator debut of Amber Tackett.
Bellator’s flyweight division already has a lot of talent. If Macfarlane is going to fight for the title, many fans are wondering, "who will stand across from her in the cage?"
One answer could be Russian prospect Anastasia Yankova, who is 3-0 in her current Bellator run. I say “could be” because while Macfarlane would welcome a match against Yankova, it wouldn’t be for the Bellator women’s flyweight title.
In an interview with MMA Junkie, Macfarlane noted two reasons why she wouldn’t necessarily fight Yankova in a title match - weight cutting and skill level.
“No. 1, can she even make the weight?” Macfarlane said during the interview. “That would be the biggest issue. And then No. 2, I don’t think honestly she’s on the same level as me as a fighter. I really haven’t been impressed by any of her fights so far. I think she has a lot of growing to do as a fighter. I just think that, honestly, I would run through her.”
All of Yankova’s Bellator matches have been at 130 pounds.
Another potential opponent for Macfarlane in a Bellator title fight could be former Invicta title challenger and Super Fight League champion Colleen Schneider.
Schneider may not have as many fights on her Bellator record as Macfarlane or Yankova, but she has the name value and experience to carry a card with the "Iliminator." She has won five of her last six fights, including a 90-second submission win against Chrissie Daniels via an anaconda choke.
From a promoter's standpoint, I’d probably book Schneider over Yankova to face Macfarlane - or have a bout between the Russian prospect and the world warrior to determine who faces the Iliminator.