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Bellator 278 results, highlights: Liz Carmouche wins flyweight title with debatable TKO of Juliana Velasquez

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Liz Carmouche has established herself as one of the foundations of American women’s mixed martial arts, having competed across major promotions and even participating in the first women’s bout in UFC history. What she had never done, however, was hold a major championship in the sport. That all changed on Friday night when Carmouche stopped Juliana Velasquez in the fourth round of their Bellator 278 main event to capture the Bellator flyweight championship.

The fight was not without controversy, with Velasquez having taken over the fight after the first round only for Carmouche to score a takedown in Round 4 and trap Velasquez in a crucifix position. As Carmouche dropped elbows, referee Mike Beltran jumped in to call off the fight in a moment that many observers felt was premature.

Still, Beltran’s decision stood, and Carmouche, more than 12 years into her professional career, captured a championship for the first time in her career.

“I knew if she squirmed a little bit more I had some other answers and it would have been really bad for her,” Carmouche said of the stoppage after the fight. “So, I’m glad he did [stop the fight].”  

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Carmouche had success in the opening round with constant forward pressure and a steady barrage of leg kicks.

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Velasquez would turn the fight around as she began to land a straight left hand from her southpaw stance. That punch would drop Carmouche to the canvas in the second round and became a constant problem Carmouche was not able to solve.

The Velasquez jab-left hand combination forced Carmouche to pivot from striking to looking to engage more frequently with clinches and takedowns. That would ultimately pay off with the takedown and crucifix that won her the fight. Carmouche was desperately in need of that turnaround because the official scorecards had her down after the opening three rounds.

Velasquez and her corner were disgusted with the stoppage, looking to exit the cage as quickly as possible. The defeat was the first of Velasquez’s career after 12 consecutive victories to kick off her career.

It’s likely this fight will result in a rematch to settle any lingering controversy. But Carmouche finally reached the goal of holding gold and there’s no taking that away. And the former member of the United States Marine Corps did it at an event with a crowd made up of first responders and military members.

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