Keri Melendez showcased a versatile skillset at Bellator 229, soundly defeating Mandy Polk by unanimous decision. It was her fourth consecutive victory.
Keri Melendez has utilized her muay thai background well during her run in professional MMA, all of which has come under the Bellator MMA banner. The 35-year-old made her promotional debut as a kickboxer, winning a unanimous decision in 2015. Melendez then made the move to MMA in 2016, and had gone 3-0 with two first-round finishes ahead of Bellator 229.
Mandy Polk, on the other hand, was making her promotional debut on Friday night. The 34-year-old had tallied a 6-4 record, winning her three most recent bouts ahead of her matchup with Melendez. Polk’s most recent loss came in LFA, where she was submitted in the first-round by undefeated jiu-jitsu specialist Mackenzie Dern in 2017.
The bout also took place at 118-pounds. Each of Melendez’s three MMA fights came at strawweight, while Polk had competed at both flyweight and strawweight in her career.
The fight started quick, with Polk immediately rushing for a takedown, and eating a right hand from Melendez. The strategy worked though, as Polk was in Melendez’s guard seconds later. Melendez had some solid ground defense, staying active and not allowing Polk to advance. Melendez was then latched on a triangle choke, and worked for position, eventually landing some solid strikes. Polk was able to avoid the submission, but Melendez kept the strong position as the duo tangled on the mat.
Melendez gave up the position, and after the fight stalled for a bit, Polk was once again in Melendez’s guard. Polk stayed aggressive, making sure to keep the fight on the ground, even if she wasn’t landing strikes or advancing position. Although Polk was on top for the majority of the round, Melendez’s activity and aggression might have won her the round.
Polk had Melendez pushed against the cage in the opening seconds of the second round. Melendez defended well, getting both underhooks and changing position to push Polk against the cage. Melendez held that position, throwing and landing a variety of knees and elbows in the clinch. Polk eventually escaped the clinch, but not after absorbing more than a few body strikes.
On the feet, Melendez landed some solid strikes from range, before Polk once again rushed the talented striker and pushed her against the cage. It didn’t last long though, as Melendez was able to force the tiring Polk off of her, get the fight back to the center of the cage, and land some strong right hands to the face of Polk.
Melendez landed a stong kick to open the third round, likely up on the scorecards. After a minute, Polk shot for a takedown, and eventually landed it after initially getting stopped. Melendez quickly snapped on another triangle, and was able to create some space. Polk escaped, and was on top of Melendez, but failed to do any damage or work for a submission. Polk worked to get the back of Melendez, and attempted a rear-naked choke that never put Melendez in any danger.
With a minute remaining, Polk was in Melendez’s guard, struggling to get the finish she likely needed. With 30 seconds remaining, the official stood both fighters up, and the bell sounded as both women threw a flurry of strikes, with Melendez getting the better of Polk.
— Bellator MMA (@BellatorMMA) October 5, 2019
Result: Keri Melendez def. Mandy Polk by unanimous decision (30-27×3)