Bellator MMA is adding another championship belt to its promotional arsenal before the end of 2017. On November 3 at Bellator 186, Ilima-Lei Macfarlane and Emily Ducote meet in the organization’s inaugural women’s flyweight title fight.
The event takes place at the Bryce Jordan Center in University Park, Pennsylvania, and is headlined by a light-heavyweight championship bout between Ryan Bader and Linton Vassell. The news was first reported by ESPN on Tuesday.
Since Bellator began investing in its flyweight division in 2015, Macfarlane and Ducote have been far and away the company’s standout performers. The pair of fast-developing prospects hold a combined 9-1 record inside the Bellator cage.
The lone defeat in that joint ten-fight scrapbook is Ducote’s unanimous decision loss to Macfarlane at Bellator 167 in 2016. The fight was the biggest test either had faced to that point in their young careers. The result was a fast paced, back and forth three round encounter that yelped loudly for additional rounds.
Now fans will get exactly that, with Bellator’s best flyweights meeting over five championship frames for the newly created title belt.
Ducote rebounded from her prior defeat to Macfarlane with a first round submission of Katy Collins in March. The Oklahoma native followed that up with a decision victory against Jessica Middleton in July.
Macfarlane’s sole outing since the win over Ducote was also against Middleton, submitting her in the first round at Bellator 178 in April.
Now the two rekindle a respectful rivalry that has seen both women rise to the top of Bellator’s growing flyweight ranks.
The bout is part of a telling few months for the women’s flyweight division. With Bellator and the UFC crowning champions and aiming to become the major player at 125 pounds.
The UFC’s title is being introduced through their reality show The Ultimate Fighter. An underwhelming cast of 16 — currently whittled down to 13 — are competing for a spot in the promotion’s inaugural 125 pound championship bout on December 1.
Meanwhile outstanding Brazilian Jennifer Maia holds Invicta FC’s flyweight title. That belt has long been considered the top flyweight title in MMA. Andrea “KGB” Lee also has notable honours as Legacy Fighting Alliance’s flyweight champion. Lee defends that title against Jamie Thorton in Louisiana on Friday. It is expected that both Maia and Lee will wind up in either the UFC or Bellator before too long.
The division remains a complex puzzle, with pieces scattered across multiple promotions. It will take time for them to come together, and for fans to have a real understanding of who the number one flyweight in the world is.
Already many of the UFC’s strawweights and bantamweights — Paige VanZant, Jessica Eye and Valentina Shevchenko to name but three — are making the move to 125 pounds.
The bout between Macfarlane and Ducote on November 3 is an important piece of that puzzle. The winner will have staked their claim to be the best flyweight in the world and pushed the rest to try and prove them wrong.
Given the impressive Bellator careers of both fighters to date, expect the bar to be set high on November 3.