An intriguing matchup will take place on Friday night at Bellator 224 as Juliana Velasquez will take on Kristina Williams. While it hasn’t been specifically advertised as such, one would assume that the winner of this fight will be right at the top of the list to challenge Ilima-Lei Macfarlane for the Bellator women’s flyweight title.
The women’s flyweight matchup will be part of the main card at WinStar World Casino in Thackerville, Oklahoma. Bellator 224 will air on the Paramount Network.
Velasquez will bring a perfect 8-0 professional record into the matchup with Williams and looks to make it four straight wins under the Bellator MMA banner. After picking up wins in 2018 over Rebecca Ruth and Alejandra Lara, Velasquez is ready to make 2019 her biggest year to date.
“I feel great, my training has been really good heading into this fight,” Velasquez told MyMMANews.com.
Following the win over Lara, many believed that Velasquez was already in line for a shot at Macfarlane and the women’s 125-pound title. The 32-year-old wasn’t disappointed in getting the matchup with Williams as she believes her time to fight for a Bellator world title will be coming.
“I’m an athlete,” Velasquez said. “I am a fighter competing for Bellator and I’m going to take the fights that they give to me. My job is to get prepared and focus on the opponent in front of me. That’s what I’m doing.”
Williams burst on the scene in October 2017, making her professional MMA debut at Bellator 185 taking on Heather Hardy. “Warhorse” lived up to her name with a ferocious standup display, bloodying up Hardy badly en route to a second-round doctor’s stoppage TKO victory. Since then Williams has defeated Emily Ducote and Bruna Ellen, with her lone setback being a gritty decision loss to former UFC and Bellator title challenger Valerie Letorneau at Bellator 201 in August 2018. Velasquez has more experience in the cage, but she certainly sees the danger Williams can bring to the table in regards to her boxing and Muai Thai background.
“I know she had a career (in combat sports) before MMA,” Velasquez said. “I have a lot of respect for Kristina and what she’s been able to do. She is a very tough girl. The way she fights, her standup is really good. My goal is to take this fight to the ground and do what I do best.”
Velasquez brings an incredible background in Judo into her undefeated MMA career. Prior to making the transition in 2014, the Team Nogueira trained Velasquez was a member of the Brazilian judo team. The plan of attack on Friday night looks to be a simple one: be in Williams’ face from start to finish.
“I’m going to bring the fight to her,” Velasquez said. “I want to put the pressure on her all the time and that’s exactly what I’m going to do.”
The fight, on paper, between Velasquez and Williams has all of the makings to be a No. 1 contender fight for the women’s flyweight title. Although, according to Velasquez, she hasn’t been outright told that her next fight will be for the title with a win on Friday night, she is mentally preparing for that to be the case.
“Nobody (from Bellator) has told me that, “Velasquez explained. “I’m preparing to fight for the belt after this. That’s what I want. So I am very confident that with a win, I’ll fight for the belt next.”
The matchup will be one of five women’s fights that will take place at Bellator 224, including the headliner between Julia Budd and Olga Rubin for the Bellator women’s featherweight title, and the organizational debut of Leslie Smith — who will take on Sinead Kavenaugh on the preliminary card. Velasquez feels like Bellator has been a strong advocate for women’s MMA and she is beyond thrilled to be along for the ride.
“I’m very happy and honored to be a part of this organization,” Velasquez said. “Every day, I work hard in MMA to grow the sport and try to grow women’s MMA in Bellator. I’m going to continue to work as hard as I can.”