Former UFC title challenger and Olympic silver medallist Sara McMann made her promotional debut at Bellator 294 in Honolulu on Friday, paired up with three-time Bellator title challenger Arlene Blencowe.
For Blencowe, it was her first action in over a year, after a failed title shot against Cris Cyborg in the very same venue last April.
It was barely a minute in what the Olympian McMann landed her first takedown of the fight. She would settle in on top, with Blencowe at times closing her guard. Blencowe made her way back to the fence, looking to wall walk up. But when she couldn’t, McMann was able to trap a leg, and unload a flurry of punches on the Australian.
Blencowe survived that onslaught, but gave up her back in the process. McMann would get both hooks in, and look for a rear-naked choke while back-packing Blencowe in a seated position along the fence. McMann was just a little out of position, before pulling Blencowe back on top of her, stretching her out in the dying seconds of the round — but Blencowe fought the wrists, and they headed to the second frame.
Round two saw McMann again getting the fight down early, this time chasing an arm-triangle choke up against the cage. McMann was heavy with the shoulder pressure, but the tight angle along the cage worked to Blencowe’s advantage. McMann then moved to side control, dropping some heavy elbows, while Blencowe simply locked down her opponent, rather than creating room to scramble out. Or tried to, as McMann soon passed to mount.
From there, Blencowe gave up her back, which nearly worked out as McMann was too far up it. But when they went back down, McMann managed to get her hooks in, giving her control of the back with two minutes left in the round. That wouldn’t pay off for McMann, but she’d transition to the top, hunting an arm-triangle choke while Blencowe answered the phone to defend. McMann would finish the round in mount, while Blencowe’s only bright spot was that she survived the round.
Round three was very much more of the same, with Blencowe planted on her back early. This time around, she was nowhere near the fence. It took a good chunk of the round for the Australian to get within an arm’s (or leg’s) length of it, and she appeared to have no answer for the stifling wrestling of Sara McMann. Who, for her part, was constantly working to either inflict damage, improve position, or lock up a submission. Not the most high-paced fight, but a workmanlike, dominant showing from McMann, who would take home the unanimous decision, with at least one round scored a 10-8.
Official Result: Sara McMann def. Arlene Blencowe by unanimous decision (29-27, 30-27, 30-26)