Reigning featherweight world champion Cris Cyborg claimed the 11th first-round knockout of her career as she flattened Ireland’s Sinead Kavanagh in the main event of Bellator 271.
Brazil’s Cyborg, 36, went toe to toe with Irish striker Kavanagh, 35, in a wild encounter as the pair traded leather in a high-octane clash in Hollywood, Florida.
Cyborg and Kavanagh wasted no time as they threw heavy punches from the opening bell, before the champion initiated the clinch against the fence.
But, when the action returned to boxing range, the fists flew once again, and it was Cyborg whose power prevailed as she knocked out Kavanagh with a vicious combination after one minute, 32 seconds.
Cyborg’s win was the 11th first-round knockout of her career, and her 20th knockout win overall.
After the fight, Cyborg admitted she deviated from her team’s gameplan as she stood and traded instead of mixing up her game with wrestling.
“I trained really hard for this fight. I’m sorry to my team, I didn’t do anything we planned!” she laughed.
“I knew she was more of a striker, so I had the opportunity to go to my takedowns and go to my ground game. But I said I want to feel her a bit in the stand-up. I’m very excited [to get] the knockout.
“I asked for Cat Zingano next, but I’ll leave it in the hands of [Bellator president] Scott Coker. I don’t choose any opponents.”
Cyborg’s win was watched from cageside by two-time Olympic judo gold medallist and two-time PFL women’s lightweight champion Kayla Harrison, who is currently a free agent.
Cyborg said she would be happy to welcome her to the Bellator cage.
“Kayla, thanks for coming to the fights. You know I really appreciate you [being] here,” she said.
“I’m here, and if you want to fight with me one day, that would be a great fight. But Ali [Abdelaziz, Harrison’s manager] will have to talk to the promotion to make this happen.”
Grappling smarts help Vassell to huge win
In the co-main event of the evening, England’s former light heavyweight title challenger Linton Vassell moved one step closer to title contention at heavyweight with a split-decision victory over American contender Tyrell Fortune.
In a gruelling three-round encounter that saw both men suffer illegal knees to the groin, Vassell’s grappling skills proved decisive as he dominated the scrambles on the canvas against the former collegiate wrestling champion.
Vassell, 38, repeatedly took his opponent’s back and punished Fortune, 31, with heavy ground strikes as he looked for an opening for a rear-naked choke finish.
Fortune battled gamely off his back to ensure the bout went to the scorecards, but he was unable to prevent ‘Big Swarm’ from securing his third straight win in the Bellator heavyweight division with scores of 28-29, 29-28, 29-28.
Pico claims first decision win
Rising featherweight contender Aaron Pico continued his impressive form as he handed former LFA featherweight champion Justin Gonzales the first defeat of his career.
Pico, 25, dominated all aspects of the matchup as he punished Gonzales, 30, in the striking exchanges, then dominated matters on the mat after repeatedly taking his man to the canvas during their 145-pound bout.
Gonzales gamely stayed in the bout and forced Pico to go the distance for the first time in his career, but he was ultimately unable to prevent Pico from earning a shutout win on the scorecards, with scores of 30-27, 30-27, 30-26.
“I knew that was a dominant performance, but I’ve got to get better,” said Pico after his victory.
“I’m just so hard on myself. I knew I got the decision, but I want to finish guys, I want hard ground and pound. I’m happy I got the win.
“Let’s go back to the drawing board, because once I step out of this cage I know it’s going to be a whole different ball game. I’ve got to get prepared for the next opponent, so let’s get to work.”
Blencowe too strong for Sorenson
In the opening bout of the main card, number-one-ranked women’s featherweight contender Arlene Blencowe claimed a dominant decision win over former Invicta FC featherweight champion Pam Sorenson.
Two-time title challenger Blencowe, 38, enjoyed a clear advantage in the striking exchanges as she comprehensively outboxed Sorenson, 35, throughout their 145-pound matchup.
The Australian repeatedly found a home for her right hand, with desperate takedown attempts from Sorenson offering the only opportunity for respite for the American.
However, Blencowe’s takedown defence ensured she was never in serious danger as she cruised to a unanimous decision victory with scores of 29-28, 30-27, 30-27.