5 reasons to watch Bellator 191 with debuts of ex-UFC title challengers McDonald, Letourneau

Two high-profile signings make their promotional debuts Friday at Bellator 191.

In the main event, former UFC interim bantamweight title challenger Michael McDonald fights for the first time in 2017 when he meets Peter Ligier in a 135-pound contest.

In the co-headliner, former UFC women’s strawweight title challenger Valerie Letourneau also makes her 2017 debut in a flyweight bout against Kate Jackson.

McDonald and Letourneau could insert themselves in the title pictures of their divisions with dominant victories.

Bellator 191 airs Friday on Spike (via same-day tape delay) from Metro Radio Arena in Newcastle, England.

Here are five reasons to watch the event.

1. New deal, new life

It might be hard to wrap your head around the fact McDonald is only 26. With 21 fights to his name and a two-year break to heal from injuries between 2014-16, the Californian has put in a lot of work during a career that began more than 10 years ago with seven first-round stoppage victories.

McDonald’s Bellator debut comes after 17 months on the sidelines. He spent some of that time extricating himself from his UFC deal after he soured on the way the promotion handled his contract negotiations.

McDonald has slid down the rankings due to inactivity. Following his most recent fight, a July 2016 knockout loss to John Lineker, he was ranked No. 10 in the 135-pound division. In the current USA TODAY Sports/MMAjunkie MMA bantamweight rankings he is clinging to an honorable mention spot.

Bellator’s bantamweight division has been in need of some new blood. It gets that in McDonald (17-4 MMA, 0-0 BMMA), who has the opportunity to become a title contender with a win over Ligier (8-1-1 MMA, 0-0 BMMA). Ligier, a 31-year-old Frenchman, makes his Bellator debut. He enters the bout on a five-fight unbeaten streak.

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2. No longer a reluctant strawweight

Another former UFC title challenger coming off a long break, Letourneau fights for the first time in over a year at Bellator 191. Letourneau left the UFC on a three-fight losing skid. During her time with the UFC, Letourneau was a reluctant strawweight. In June 2016, ahead of her only flyweight fight with her former promotion, Letourneau spoke about her tough weight cut to 115 pounds for her title fight against then-champion Joanna Jedrzejczyk.

“I thought I was going to die that day,” Letourneau told MMAjunkie. “My body was shutting down. I could barely walk. I was shaking from my inside. I just tried to focus to get on my seat and not pass out. It was horrible. Then you’re going to fight the day after and it feels like the worst day of your life.”

Letourneau lost a five-round decision to Jedrzejczyk after that weight cut. She also dropped her flyweight fight to Joanne Calderwood by TKO.

Letourneau (8-6 MMA, 0-0 BMMA) faces Jackson (9-2-1 MMA, 1-0 BMMA) at 125 pounds. Jackson is unbeaten in her past six fights. Her most recent defeat was a 2013 TKO loss to Jedrzejczyk on a PLMMA card.

It would not be a surprise to see the winner of this fight booked to face flyweight champion Ilima Macfarlane.

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3. Two big Englishmen

James Thompson

Former UFC fighter Philip De Fries (13-6 MMA, 0-0 BMMA) meets James Thompson (20-16 MMA, 1-1 BMMA) in a battle of English heavyweights.

De Fries was 7-0 when he joined the UFC in 2011. He won his promotional debut, but he’s been unable to gain any traction since that decision victory over Rob Broughton. De Fries is 5-6 since he defeated Broughton. After a majority decision win over Anton Vyazigin in October at M-1 Challenge 84, De Fries hopes to put together his first winning streak since his UFC debut.

Thompson has not fought since December 2015 when he lost to Tsuyoshi Kohsaka on the Rizin Fighting Federation 1 card. He was booked to face Kevin “Kimbo Slice” Ferguson at Bellator 158 before Slice’s untimely death in June 2016.

Combined, these two competitors have only been the distance a total of six times.

4. A prospect debuts

In June, Bellator signed its first fighter from the United Arab Emirates, Mohammad Yahya. The 23-year earned the Dubai Fight Night lightweight title in May with a first-round submission win. Yahya trains out of TKMMA where he works with Gokhan Saki and Benjey Zimmerman, who is Alistair Overeem’s striking coach.

Yahya’s signing has flown under the radar, but with four stoppage wins on his record, he looks like he could be a fighter to watch in Bellator’s lightweight division. However, any enthusiasm for Yahya must be tempered by the fact he hasn’t faced top-level competition.

Yahya (4-1 MMA, 0-0 BMMA) faces Ash Griffiths in this contest. Griffiths (4-4 MMA, 0-0 BMMA) also makes his Bellator debut at Bellator 191. The English fighter enters this bout on a two-fight losing skid. He dropped both those fights by first-round submission.

5. From reality TV to MMA

Aaron Chalmers made a name for himself on the reality TV show “Geordie Shore,” which is the British version of “Jersey Shore.” He signed with BAMMA in May of this year with some experience in muay Thai, but zero MMA experience. Since then he has fought on two BAMMA cards, winning each of those fights by first-round stoppage. Neither of his Chalmers’ (2-0 MMA, 0-0 BMMA) opponents had pro MMA experience, nor does the man he meets on the BAMMA portion of the Bellator 191 fight card, Karl Donaldson. Donaldson (0-0 MMA, 0-0 BMMA) has been a boxer for several years and does have amateur and semi-pro experience as a boxer.

Chalmers seems to be taking his foray into MMA seriously, training with UFC fighter Leon Edwards.

It’s hard to tell what type of upside Chalmers has, but BAMMA is giving him a significant promotional push. The welterweight bout between Chalmers and Donaldson serves as the co-main event of the BAMMA 33 card.

For more on Bellator 191, check out the MMA Rumors section of the site.

Filed under: Bellator, Featured, News
Source: MMA Junkie

UFC defectors Michael McDonald, Valerie Letourneau to debut at Bellator 191

Top-ranked bantamweight Michael McDonald and onetime UFC title challenger Valerie Letourneau are set for their Bellator debuts.

The free agent acquisitions will appear at Bellator 191, which takes place Dec. 15 at Metro Radio Arena in Newcastle, England, the promotion announced today. The event airs via same-day delay on Spike.

McDonald (17-4 MMA, 0-0 BMMA), the No. 15 fighter in the USA TODAY Sports/MMAjunkie MMA bantamweight rankings, takes on Peter Ligier (8-1-1 MMA, 0-0 BMMA) in the event’s headliner. Letourneau (8-6 MMA, 0-0 BMMA), whose debut at Bellator 181 was scratched due to injury, will take on Kate Jackson (9-2-1 MMA, 1-0 BMMA) in the co-headliner.

McDonald signed with Bellator in March after being granted his release from the UFC. A behind-the-scenes fight over the promotion’s business practices led to the souring of the relationship, McDonald said, leading to his decision to look elsewhere.

It’s been 16 months since McDonald has been seen in the cage, with a knockout loss to John Lineker bringing him to 1-1 in the octagon following a long injury layoff.

Ligier, a native of Paris, is a veteran of the European MMA scene and currently is on a three-fight win streak.

Letourneau, meanwhile, looks for better outcomes in the women’s flyweight division. After three straight wins at strawweight, she was unanimously outpointed by now-former UFC champ Joanna Jedrzejczyk and then suffered two additional defeats. At the time, the UFC did not promote a flyweight division, making Bellator a logical choice for a move.

Her opponent, Jackson, recently bested veteran Colleen Schneider via injury TKO at Bellator 182, upping her current win streak to five.

The latest Bellator 191 card includes:

For more on Bellator 191, check out the MMA Rumors section of the site.

Filed under: Bellator, News
Source: MMA Junkie