Ilima-Lei Macfarlane topped Bellator’s weekend stint in Hawaii in storybook fashion, submitting Valerie Letourneau to defend her flyweight title at Bellator 213.
If there was any question about the legitimacy of Ilima-Lei Macfarlane’s title reign in Bellator’s women’s flyweight division, it was set to be answered on Saturday night. At Bellator 213, Macfarlane faced the toughest test of her career in former UFC title challenger Valerie Letourneau. To date, the ‘Iliminator’ had been perfect through eight fights, so successful that she compelled Bellator to beat the UFC to the punch in bringing a major MMA production to her native Hawaii. Against Letourneau, however, she was facing a veteran who had been competing against the best for years. This, with Macfarlane having been active in the sport just under four years.
A lot of questions were about to be answered in Honolulu, perhaps the most scenic locale for any MMA event in recent memory. The Hawaiian certainly had the crowd behind her on Saturday. And in the end, she delivered.
Macfarlane held the center of the cage early, with Letourneau circling on the outside. The champ fired off a leg kick, and looked comfortable in the early going, changing levels and firing at Letourneau’s body. Macfarlane did not appear reluctant to stand and trade with the Canadian, but soon shot in for a leg, only to come up short. Still, as they moved back up, it was Macfarlane landing a right. Letourneau’s strong suit, early, was her movement, constantly in motion, making her a hard target for Macfarlane to find. But the champ did land, at least a couple more times in the round.
In the second, Macfarlane converted an early takedown, taking the fight just where she wanted it. Letourneau, however, would do an excellent job controlling posture, and was able to fight Macfarlane off. Macfarlane re-engaged, trying in vain to move to mount. With Macfarlane essentially sitting on Letourneau, who was on her side, the champ dropped some elbows, which led to a scramble that saw them back on the feet. That allowed Letourneau to land several right hands. Macfarlane would fight her way free, and they’d reset in the middle. The battle would continue in back-and-forth fashion, and they’d go to the third.
Letourneau would stuff a takedown early in the third as the pair battled along the fence. Macfarlane would press for the takedown, land some left hands to the challenger’s face, and eventually complete a takedown, taking Letourneau’s back! Hooks in, she had lots of time to work for a rear-naked choke. Letourneau would try to fight off the champ’s hands, but Macfarlane transitioned to an arm-bar. Then a transition to a triangle! Macfarlane added knees from the bottom! Macfarlane refused to let go, as Letourneau tried to roll, scramble, do anything to break free! In the end, she was forced to tap, and Ilima-Lei Macfarlane had the win on home soil!
— Bellator MMA (@BellatorMMA) December 16, 2018
Perhaps most impressive was how good Macfarlane looked securing the submission. Especially against a challenger who had never before been submitted. What a homecoming for Ilima-Lei Macfarlane.
Ilima-Lei Macfarlane def. Valerie Letourneau by submission (triangle choke), Round 3, 3:19