Yancy Medeiros and Emmanuel Sanchez Throw Down in Thriller to Kick Off Bellator 279 Main Card

Emmanuel Sanchez and Yancy Medeiros, Bellator 279
Emmanuel Sanchez and Yancy Medeiros, Bellator 279 Credit: Bellator MMA

The first thing that stood out as the Bellator 279 main card opened up Saturday in Honolulu: the hero’s welcome received by Hawaii’s own Yancy Medeiros.

Medeiros, who left the UFC on four-fight skid, was fighting at home for the first time in over a decade. He’d campaigned to get on Saturday’s card, Bellator’s first show in the island state since 2019, and was granted a one-fight deal by the promotion as a result. The fans loved him for it.

Paired up in a lightweight scrap with ex-featherweight title challenger Emmanuel Sanchez, the crowd was in his corner from the outset. When Medeiros wrapped up a choke two minutes into the opening round, they exploded. The submission wasn’t actually there, but that didn’t seem to matter much. The crowd was equally boisterous when he took Sanchez’s back moments later, hunting for a rear-naked choke.

Those who had done their homework, however, were aware that Sanchez was well-versed on the ground. He simply wasn’t going out that easily. Instead, “El Matador” made it back to his feet, reversed, and soon enough, they’d move back to center.

From there, the countdown was on: how long before the crowd at the Neal S. Blaisdell Arena would have cause to explode again?

It wouldn’t come in the opening round. While Medeiros landed a few good shots as the pair traded in the final minute, he was actually under fire towards the end of the round. Sanchez turned up the volume, and just sailed wide on a spinning kick. A bloodied Yancy Medeiros was forced to retreat, and regroup between rounds.

The second round started out at a more measured pace. The first real damage came via a Medeiros body shot. That got the crowd going. Sanchez pressed forward, answering back with a left hand; soon the two were exchanging. Medeiros was also forced to switch stances, a result of eating a few too many Sanchez low kicks. With about a minute remaining, Sanchez would hurt Medeiros, or at least put him off-balance, and hunt for a finish, but Yancy recovered. This time, it was Medeiros turning up the heat at the end of the round, clipping Sanchez with a punch then ripping the body.

A high kick by Emmanuel Sanchez just grazed the head of his opponent about 90 seconds into round thee of Medeiros vs. Sanchez. Moments later, Sanchez would mix things up, shooting for a single-leg takedown, only to have Medeiros stuff the attempt. In a fight that was still up for grabs, however, mixing in some wrestling wasn’t a bad idea. With just over two minutes remaining in the fight, the crowd got a “Yancy” chant going. And when Sanchez changed levels for another takedown, Medeiros turned the corner and took the back.

That got the crowd going again, but their excitement was short-lived. Sanchez escaped out, and tied Medeiros up against the fence. The final thirty seconds found Medeiros pointing to the ground and waving Sanchez on; Sanchez didn’t exactly throw caution to the win, but the pair did trade until the final bell, including spinning kicks from both parties.

The initial reaction after three rounds: there were no losers in a fun fight between Yancy Medeiros and Emmanuel Sanchez. Bellator would be well-served to at least keep him around for another fight or two. That decision, at least, should be an easy one, with Medeiros coming away with the unanimous decision win.

Official Result: Yancy Medeiros def. Emmanuel Sanchez by unanimous decision (29-28, 30-27, 30-27)