Juliana Velasquez (pic: Primeiro Round Combat/Divulgação)

Bellator 197 Prelims: Undefeated Juliana Velasquez TKOs Rebecca Ruth in a Slugfest, Derek Anderson Grinds Out a Win

St. Charles, Missouri – The featured contest of the Bellator 197 prelims stream was a barnburner at women’s flyweight that saw undefeated Brazilian prospect Juliana Velasquez (7-0) pass a stiff test from Missouri local Rebecca Ruth (6-3). After a one-round feeling out process, these two hard-hitting women opened up the big guns in round 2. Ruth scored the first knockdown of the round when she caught Velasquez with a stiff left to the jaw as the Brazilian was backing straight up. But when Ruth swarmed for the finish, Velasquez dropped her with a left-hand receipt that spun the American around in place. Both women were rocked but persisted to round 3, where Velasquez landed an awesome liver kick that instantly rendered Ruth defenseless 19 seconds into the frame! Great work from the prospect Juliana Velasquez, who proved that she’s more than just a grappler against the battle-tested Ruth.

 

165 lb Catchweight: Derek Anderson (15-3) UD3 Zak Bucia (18-10)

Bellator lightweight stalwart Derek “The Barbaric” Anderson employed a round 1 gameplan fit for a caveman as he charged straight into the guard of submission specialist Zak Bucia. Before long Anderson found himself in armbar trouble against the heavy underedog but managed to prop his man against the cage and power out of the attempt. Anderson went right back to the well, diving into Bucia’s guard and rattling off a few punches before being briefly trapped in a combo triangle-with-armbar. The Californian ended round 1 with a pair of thudding elbows that probably overruled Bucia’s grappling attack to seal the round in his favor.

Anderson returned to sanity in the second frame as he kept the fight on the feet and battered Bucia with prolific hands and high kicks. Two minutes into the round Anderson nailed Bucia with an uppercut that left him crumpled against the cage, but he couldn’t quite find the finish and once again found himself fighting off submissions from the leather-tough journeyman with 90 seconds to go. Back on the feet, Bucia ate a dizzying salvo of shots in the last minute that had ref Jason Herzog peering in closely at times, but he managed to navigate his way to the 10 minute mark intact. Nonetheless, Anderson was clearly up 20-18 or better heading into round 3.

Headkicks and uppercuts were clearly on Anderson’s mind in round 3 as he pursued the knockout – meanwhile, the bloodied Bucia primarily focused on survival. The zip seemed to be gone from Anderson’s attacks as he continued landing over the second half of the round, and Bucia nearly took advantage with a nasty left headkick that put the favorite on wobbly legs with 30 seconds left. Bucia desperately rolled for an armbar as this surprisingly competitive fight ticked down to the final bell, but he couldn’t secure the finish and the bout went to the judges’ scorecards. It may have been tougher than expected, but Derek Anderson walked away with the unanimous decision by straight 30-27 scores to advance to 6-3 inside the confines of the Bellator cage.

 

Bantamweight: Dominic Mazzotta (14-2) UD3 Josh Sampo (11-6)

Nearly three years after his final UFC bout, former top 15 flyweight Josh Sampo returned to the cage in his hometown of St. Charles, Missouri to take on rising bantamweight talent Dominic Mazzotta. Perhaps the moonlighting science teacher should stick to 125 in the future, as Mazzotta bullied him to the mat and battered Sampo with ground strikes throughout the first two rounds. Sampo’s scrambling skill, will, and submission defense were on display against the bigger man, who threatened with armbar and triangle submissions in round 2. Sampo pressed for the finish as Mazzotta faded in round 3, briefly threatening with omoplata and Von Flue attacks before advancing to mount with 20 seconds left. But there was no hometown comeback in store as Dominic “The Honey Badger” Mazzotta held on for the unanimous decision via straight 30-27 scorecards.

Bantamweight: Eric Ellington (5-0) SD3 Jordan Howard (10-5)

After four minutes of tentative stand up, St. Louis bantamweight Eric Ellington used a counter double-leg takedown to take this contest to the ground with about one minute left in round 1. Ellington clearly liked what he saw from Jordan Howard on the ground, as he brought it right back down to the mat for the first few minutes of round 2. Howard landed a big right hand after the ref awarded him a generous standup, but Ellington simply shot another double leg and rode out the rest of the frame on top. Round 3 saw Howard press for a killshot on the feet, but Ellington scored takedowns at will and walked away with the 29-28, 29-28, 28-29 split decision victory. The fact that the judges were split should serve as a wake up call for Ellington, who would be well-served to throw more offense after he achieves strong positions on the ground.

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