Rest assured that Bellator’s women’s featherweight division was not supposed to go like this. When the promotion first got into the 145lb weight class for women, it was assumed that Marloes Coenen would rule the roost. Yet the MMA Gods have a tendency to throw the best laid plans to the wind. That’s what happened here — and it set the stage for Julia Budd to headline Bellator 189.
Instead of women’s fighting pioneer Coenen running through the division, she was upset in the inaugural Bellator 145lb title fight by Julia Budd. The Canadian, a regular in Strikeforce and later Invicta, had fought some of the best in the business, including future UFC champions Ronda Rousey, Amanda Nunes, and Germaine de Randamie. She upset Coenen in March; at Bellator 189, she returned to make her first title defense against Arlene Blencowe.
Budd and Blencowe had met before, at Bellator 162, where Budd won a majority decision. Since then, Blencowe had been spotless, winning two fights outside Bellator, then picking up a split decision win at Bellator 182 against Sinead Kavanagh.
Early on in the main event at Bellator 189, Budd’s strength advantage was on full display. Pinning her opponent to the fence, she’d work for a takedown, and even when she wouldn’t get it, she was winning the battle for position. Blencowe worked a whizzer to keep the bout standing, but even breaking free, Budd would hold on to a Thai clinch and look to land knees. Blencowe would try to reverse, but couldn’t stay there long. Round one was all about Budd grinding it out along the fence.
The second started with Budd staying light on her feet, using feints and good movement to keep her opponent guessing. Blencowe attacked with a right hand, then a left hook, but Budd ate both without issue. Off the fence, it appeared Blencowe might have the edge. Arlene Blencowe was determined to stay out of the clinch and off the fence, but that also limited her attack. Budd would try to open the action up with a body kick, but Blencowe stayed back, picking her shots cautiously.
Budd would return to the body kick later in the round, while Blencowe continued picking her spots; ultimately, there wasn’t much action in the second half of the frame until Budd got the fight down in the dying seconds.
Round three saw Blencowe holding the middle of the cage, pushing the action. Budd allowed herself to be backed up and opted to try and circle away from Blencowe’s attacks. Blencowe would begin mixing in high kicks; Budd flashed some front push kicks and leg kicks to create space.
Heading into the championship rounds, Budd vs. Blencowe was still very much anyone’s fight. Going back to what worked in the first, Budd pressed the action up against the fence early. Blencowe looked to get her overhooks in to fend her off, but she was still losing the battle for control. They traded knees, and broke with a full three minutes left in the round. From there, a lot of feeling out and circling followed, with very little action. Budd would go upstairs in the final minute, then look to chop at her opponent’s legs, Blencowe would answer with a body shot.
Round five was more of the same, a very safe round with a lack of activity. At times a shadow-boxing affair, Blencowe managed to push the action, while Budd couldn’t seem to get her offense going. However in the end, the judges felt she did enough to retain the title, mostly. When it came time for the scorecards, Budd won via split decision.
Julia Bedd def. Arlene Blencowe by split decision (49-46, 47-48, 49-46)