Ahead of their Bellator 293 co-main event, one of the biggest questions heading into Cat Zigano vs. Leah McCourt was whether the Northern Ireland-born McCourt could hang with Zingano on the ground.
That presumed weakness was tested early in the opening round of the women’s featherweight fight, as Zingano drove into a takedown and briefly had McCourt down — though she would pop right back up.
Much of the round was fought in the clinch, along the fence, with Zingano landing a nasty back elbow to build a mouse under one of McCourt’s eyes. But Leah McCourt was able to escape the round, even getting some control time on top in the opening round before Zingano reversed.
Zingano would finish the frame in control. Early in the second, however, it was McCourt sweeping the feet of Zingano, taking the fight down and taking the back.
There was no submission to be had, but Zingano found herself under heavy fire. Lefts and rights rained down as Zingano gave up her back— and it looked like a finish might be nigh. Yet “Alpha” Cat reversed, getting on top, putting on heavy top pressure, and sneaking in an elbow. Tragedy averted, for Zingano anyway, at least for the time being.
Zingano would eventually get hooks in, working from the back and looking for a rear-naked choke. McCourt flailed, and Zingano transitioned to top; McCourt rolled, and tried to shake Zingano off over the top, but Cat adjusted and regained her position. Another roll, with McCourt giving up her back, took them to the end of the round.
To start off the third, the pair went right back to the ground, with McCourt getting in a dominant position only to land several elbows to the back of the head. Ref Frank Trigg halted the action, taking away the position and giving McCourt a warning for the foul.
After a bit of dancing on the feet, it was McCourt landing a slick judo toss to get the fight down. McCourt worked from half-guard, as Zingano worked to the fence. Just as it seemed Zingano was going to escape up, she gave up her back, and McCourt looked to take advantage — but Zingano almost immediately reversed, ending up in McCourt’s guard. That gave the American just inside two minutes to work, in a fight that featured a number of entertaining grappling transitions.
McCourt would make it back up to her feet, giving up her back to do so, and eating a well-timed knee as they came up. Bloodied after that knee, she was able to take Zingano down, locking on a body triangle with less than a minute remaining. Then, in the final ten seconds, it was Zingano reversing to finish the fight on top!
The pair fought like the title was on the line — there had been rumors that an interim belt might have been, until the promotion opted to go in another direction — and the end result was a very entertaining 15 minutes. Zingano would take it on the scorecards, with an outlier 30-27 being a bit of a question mark in a very close fight.
Official Result: Cat Zingano def. Leah McCourt by unanimous decision (29-28, 30-27, 29-28)